The most recent episode of AMC's (NASDAQ:AMCX) The Walking Dead, "Claimed," properly introduced three new characters to the show -- Abraham Ford, Rosita Espinosa, and Dr. Eugene Porter. All three characters notably come from the comics, unlike the Dixon brothers, who were specifically created for the TV series.
The Walking Dead has drastically deviated from the comic in the past, and has produced an alternate version of the comic book world where living characters have died (Andrea), or dead characters continue living (Tyreese).
Some of the changes the showrunners made were clever, such as extending Shane's life, retooling the romantic relationships, and adding the Dixon brothers. Other changes -- such as the trip to the CDC, the Governor's extended life, and Judith's survival -- weren't.
Therefore, it's worth examining the arrival of Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene, and take what we know from the comic book to see where the show could be headed in the remaining five episodes of the season.
Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz)
In the comics, Abraham is best known as Tyreese's replacement, after Tyreese is beheaded by the Governor. Yet Tyreese is alive and well in the show, and it was Hershel who lost his head instead. In the comic book, Abraham eventually joins Rick and becomes his right hand man.
The introduction of Abraham is a hint that Tyreese's days might be numbered, since the writers sometimes avoid the characters' comic book deaths only to kill them off later.
That would be unfortunate, considering Tyreese has been one of the most underused characters in the show since his first appearance in the middle of Season 3. It would also be a disservice to the comic book character, considering that he first appeared in the 7th issue of the comic book and survived for over 40 more issues. Then again, if the showrunners are intent on keeping baby Judith alive, then Tyreese could survive after all.
Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos)
Rosita is portrayed in the comics as Abraham's eventual love interest. Her background isn't fully elaborated upon in the comics, and she is generally considered a supporting character defined by her relationship with Abraham.
However, that doesn't mean that the showrunners will just write her into a supporting role. With Andrea prematurely taken out, Rosita could take her place among Rick's survivors later on.
Dr. Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt)
Eugene is the most interesting addition to the cast, since he claims to know how the zombies can be stopped. In the comics, he is a high school science teacher who pretends to be a government researcher who knows the "classified" origins of the zombie apocalypse.
Anyone who is familiar with creator Robert Kirkman's view of the apocalyptic world he created knows that there is no cure. The only constant theme is death, and no one ever gets a happy ending. However, introducing Eugene opens up the possibility that the survivors in the show will once again believe that a cure can be found.
In my opinion, that would be a horrible idea, and lead viewers down the same path that led to the silly CDC episodes at the end of the first season. On the other hand, Porter could lead the survivors to the Alexandria Safe-Zone near Washington, D.C., known in the comic book as the next long-term home for the survivors.
Is there a game-changing surprise ahead?
On a side note, the survivors in the show have been directed toward a place called "Terminus," which is advertised as "Sanctuary for all. Community for everyone. Those who arrive survive."
This interesting twist is that "Terminus" didn't exist in the comic books. Since viewers who read the comic and watch the show often notice the differences between the two, could it be that the writers are deviating from the comic book to introduce an original story arc to surprise both audiences?
Can The Walking Dead keep up its momentum?
In a previous article, I mentioned that The Walking Dead beat the Winter Olympics among 18 to 49 year olds, a rare accomplishment when other shows lost viewers during the Games.
It repeated that feat again for the third consecutive time on Feb. 24, drawing in 8.4 million viewers and earning a rating of 6.6 among 18-49 year olds. By comparison, the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics attracted 4.09 million viewers and scored a 3.2 in the same demographic. The Winter Olympics still beat The Walking Dead in terms of total overall viewers -- 15.2 million to 13.1 million viewers -- but it was a narrow victory.
The Walking Dead is notably AMC's only primetime drama that doesn't have a definitive end date in sight. Breaking Bad concluded last year, Mad Men is scheduled to end in 2015, Hell on Wheels was barely renewed for a fourth season, The Killing will wrap up on Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), and Low Winter Sun was canceled. Looking ahead, AMC plans to revive Breaking Bad with the spin-off Better Call Saul in November, and a Walking Dead spin-off will arrive next year.
It's not hard to see how desperately AMC needs to keep its hit franchises alive. Last quarter AMC attributed most of its impressive 25% year-over-year growth in advertising revenue to the success of The Walking Dead.
The bottom line
Fans of The Walking Dead are probably now wondering if the story arcs for Abraham, Rosita, and Eugene will pan out the same way as they did in the comics. I believe the show's writers have something different in mind, which could considerably further widen the gap between the comic and the show.
What do you think of the new characters on The Walking Dead? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!