- AMC surprisingly announced “TWD” is ending after 11 seasons back in September.
- The show has 24 episodes left to wrap up many story arcs while also introducing new characters.
- Khary Payton tells Insider “TWD” can deliver a satisfying end, pointing to “Breaking Bad.”
If you’re concerned about “The Walking Dead” wrapping up its multitude of stories and character arcs in its final, 11th season, star Khary Payton has two words for you: “Breaking Bad.”
“I always think about the last season of ‘Breaking Bad,” Payton, who has played former zookeeper Ezekiel on AMC’s long-running zombie drama, said in response to Insider’s concerns about whether or not “TWD” could wrap up all of its remaining stories in a satisfying way during its extended 24-episode season.
“I watched the penultimate episode [of ‘Breaking Bad’] and I was just like, ‘There’s no way [they can wrap this up]. I got too many questions. I’m so upset,'” Payton said of his worries at the time that the former AMC hit starring Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul may gloss over some finer points in its finale.
“I could not have been more wrong in that moment,” Payton said. “I remember just being amazed at what they were able to do in the time they were able to do it. That’s always given me a little bit of confidence [about ‘TWD’s’ final season].”
There’s just one major difference there.
“Breaking Bad” ended after five seasons on creator Vince Gilligan’s terms (though many wanted it to go longer).
“I was very anxious about the idea of folks suddenly moving on, and saying, ‘Is that show still on the air? I used to watch it. It used to be good,'” Gilligan told press, according to Digital Spy in 2018. “I’d wanted folks rather to say, ‘Don’t end it now!'”
Last September, AMC announced “The Walking Dead” would end in an extended 11th season, much to the surprise of many of its cast and crew. Most of the original cast has either long departed or been killed off the show.
Payton told Insider he initially thought he was receiving a call to learn that his character was getting killed off the show.
Unlike “Breaking Bad,” “TWD” is a show which often warrants a slew of “Is that show still on?” any time it comes up in discussion.
Regardless, Payton compared AMC’s two shows saying that if “Breaking Bad” could wrap things up even when he thought there was no way they could do it, then he felt confident “TWD” could do the same, pointing to the show’s leadership in recent years.
“I know these writers so well. I know [showrunner] Angela [Kang] so well,” Payton said of why he feels good going into the show’s final season.
“I’ve seen [Kang] do so much with a relatively short amount of time,” he added. “It’s kind of exciting that we’ve diverged from the comics enough to be able to sit down with Angela and the writers and then to talk to me about how this is unfolding.”
Payton’s character, Ezekiel, has long outlived his comic character’s life. In Robert Kirkman’s “TWD” Ezekiel’s killed by the Whisperers, the last big villains on the show. Unlike his comic counterpart, Ezekiel is now living with thyroid cancer. It’s unclear whether his character will live or die. Payton is prepared for either scenario.
“I truly have secrets now because it hasn’t been in black and white, in graphic novel form,” Payton said of Ezekiel’s arc. “We’ve got a lot of interesting things that are literally new to the story line that we’re telling. I’m excited.”
Payton claimed to see an outline for how the show will progress, teasing that they’re still, “in an amazing way, telling a story that absolutely ties intrinsically to the very first episode” of “TWD.”
In early August, Kang told Insider she hopes to get the ending of the show right.
“Hopefully, we stick it,” Kang said. “We definitely don’t want to not stick it, but, you know, at a certain point that part is out of your control. We can just control what we can control.”
The first eight episodes of the final season of “TWD” currently air Sundays on AMC at 9 p.m. ET.
You can follow along with our coverage here.