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Has The Walking Dead Finally Started Listening to Its Fans?

According to showrunner Scott Gimple, Season 8 may be very different from Season 7.

This is a tense time for The Walking Dead diehards. A possible W.G.A. strike could mean a truncated or delayed Season 8. The bright side? Showrunner Scott Gimple just offered a tantalizing note about the upcoming season, one that might be able to boost the show’s languishing ratings.

“By virtue of the fact that the narrative has turned into one of pretty intense conflict, it’s going to affect the structure in ways that make it a bit more kinetic, a bit more breakneck—shifting away from entire stories in one episode, and sort of fractured over several episodes, with little pieces of each story coming together,” Gimple told Entertainment Weekly.

In other words: fans can say goodbye to those episode-long, self-contained stories, like Tara’s drawn-out solo trip to Oceanside. It’s impossible to say whether episodes like these are what drove ratings downward for The Walking Dead last season, but the way Gimple tells it, the change-up for Season 8 was a pre-planned shift rather than a reaction to fan frustration.

In fact, per Gimple, the change had been discussed as early as Season 7: “Because we knew the way that 7 was going to be structured, and we knew we wanted to mix it up in 8, and we knew what 8 was going to be and how that would dictate a very different kind of structure anyways. So, yeah, things are going to move, and possibly not have the kind of deep dives into characters in single episodes, but rather laying out the pieces as we go on.”

Coming off the Season 7 finale, it seemed the minds in control of the show didn’t actually understand how things had gone so awry—or even that they had gone awry. Granted, The Walking Dead still commands cable’s No. 1 audience—so it’s not in any danger of cancellation. But even so, the ratings drop seems to point to something amiss in this undead house. Whether the choice to abandon—or at least cut down on—standalone episodes was preplanned or not, we’re guessing a lot of fans will be relieved about the news.

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