When The Walking Dead returns for Season 9 on Oct. 7, the entire world of the show will have changed. Season 8 saw both the quasi-defeat of Negan and heartbreaking loss of Carl, but the new season will see the departure of long-term protagonist Rick. It makes the future of the series feel seriously uncertain, but perhaps the comics it was based on can give fans a little insight. Will The Walking Dead TV show end the same way as the comics?
Unfortunately, the answer to that question is a resounding no, and not just because The Walking Dead comics haven't ended yet. The print series is still ongoing, so without an end in sight it's hard to predict if the show will adhere as closely as it can when it finally finishes. But even if it tries to mimic the comics' ending in other ways, it won't truly be able to because the show has already diverged so far from its source material.
Perhaps the biggest change from page to screen is that Rick, Carl, and Maggie are still around in the comics. Rick and Maggie will be gone from the show soon (Carl already is), so it will be impossible for it to be entirely true to the comics without them around.
The TV series has deviated from the comics throughout its run. Though popular characters in the show, neither Daryl Dixon nor his brother Merle exist in the comics. Sasha Williams and Beth Greene were created for the show as well. Rick lost one of his hands in the comics, but not on the show. Lori survived Judith's birth on the page only for both to die fleeing the prison later; on the show, Judith is still alive but Lori died long ago. Several characters lived longer in the comics than on the show, like Dale Horvath, Andrea, and, of course, Carl Grimes. Other characters died quickly in the comics but survived onscreen, such as Bob Stookey and Shane Walsh.
Some scenes were rearranged so that certain comic deaths could be given to other characters; for example, Denise died on the show the way Abraham died in the comics. Romances have been shifted around for the show, too. The devoted love of Glenn and Maggie may not have changed, but Rick and Michonne's romance is show-specific. Michonne was involved with Tyreese and Ezekiel in the comics, but not on TV. Carol and Tyreese have different personalities depending on the medium.
With all these variables, the endings of the comics and the show couldn't help but be different. No matter how much inspiration the AMC series takes from the comics, it's impossible to replicate them entirely because the same characters aren't available to play out the same circumstances. It doesn't seem like the show is planning to completely ignore the comics, though, because much of Negan's storyline unfolded the same way. They might continue to alter things as they see fit, borrowing what works and discarding what doesn't. But for all their similarities, the comics and the show just can't be the same at the end.