In order to kill a zombie, the best strategy is to cut off its head. The AMC hit zombie show The Walking Dead has been served a heavy blow. Deadline broke the story that Frank Darabont, the showrunner, has stepped down from his duties. Wednesday is the beginning on the official Television Critics Association press tour. HitFix's Alan Sepinwall confirmed the story, and explained that the surprise resignation on the eve of the TCA press tour is becoming an annual tradition: Ben Silverman left NBC in 2009, and Steve McPherson left ABC in 2010. Darabont's desertion comes as a real surprise. The photo above was taken last Friday when Darabont sat on the show's Comic Con panel with the executive producer, Gale Anne Hurd, and with original graphic novel author Robert Kirkman.
Drama in the writing room is nothing new to the show. At the end of season one, it was reported that Darabont wanted to fire the writing staff and employ freelancers to write each episode. In theory Darabont would then rewrite everything, but that plan was nixed in favor of keeping the traditional writing staff. The show debuted strong, but critical reception as the season went on began to wane. Sepinwall attempted to estimate how Darabont's decision could affect the show:
On the one hand, Darabont's pilot episode was far and away the best episode of that abbreviated first season. On the other, his name was on some episodes that were much less interesting, and I have no idea how heavy an editorial hand he had on the scripts where he didn't receive a credit. Some showrunners rewrite nearly every word, even if their name isn't on the script; others leave their staffers' drafts alone.
Kirkman is staying on to help with the show, which is doubling its season order from six episodes to 13. Sepinwall theorized that the extended season could give the writer's an opportunity to flesh out the characters more, or it could drag itself into a bigger mess.