Discovering The Walking Dead was my Enlightenment. Reading it felt like watching a prestige cable drama that had been infused with B-movie horror aesthetics. I watched it as it evolved from a little black-and-white zombie comic into a juggernaut franchise centered around a show that has its own talk show right after it airs, during which we get to hear who Marilyn Manson and the dog from Air Bud think will die next. From the start, I knew it would make for a fun TV show. And it did. For a few seasons.
As the series went on, I worried about how closely it was sticking to the comics. Loyalty to the source material is the Utopian dream unreasonable comic book fans want out of a screen adaptation. There's probably some screaming idiot in a forum buried deep in the ass of IMDb to this day complaining about how Hawkeye doesn't wear his mask from the comics that makes him look like Barney the Dinosaur exploded all over Wolverine. The last two words spoken before the whole Earth erupts in nuclear fire will be "ACTUALLY, Watchmen-."
Comic book adaptations work best when the source material isn't treated like Holy Scripture, when the comics are treated like a free set of ideas which filmmakers can mix and match to best fit their needs. The Walking Dead may be a case of a comic adaptation being too faithful to its source. It's translated nearly all of the comic book's strengths (unflinching depictions of humanity at its worst, powerful displays of raw human vulnerabilities, the occasional tiny drops of optimism that dangle in front of the survivors like carrots), and its weaknesses, with the prime one being a refusal to end the story.
Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has said for years that he knows how the comic book ends; it's just a matter of building toward that end. I have no doubt that's true. It's inconceivable to have been working on something for nearly 15 years and not have figured out where it's going by now. But even as a fan who holds the comic near and dear, I'm starting to tap my foot and look at my watch. Even in the comics, this impressive feat of longform storytelling is starting to hit a narrative plateau. The show is hitting that same wall, but faster.