We are The Walking Dead. “Days Gone Bye,” the Frank Darabont-directed first episode of the zombie drama inspired by creator Robert Kirkman’s comic book, spawned a franchise for network AMC when it premiered ten years ago on Halloween night 2010. When sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) emerges from a coma in a world overrun by the flesh-eating undead, he begins a desperate search for wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs). Rick learns the new rules of survival from Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and son Duane (Adrian Kali Turner) before riding into walkers-swarmed Atlanta, where a last-minute rescue from Glenn (Steven Yeun) ultimately leads Rick to his family.
Ten years later, celebrate a decade of the Dead with one second from all 147 episodes of The Walking Dead — from “Days Gone Bye” to season 10 finale “A Certain Doom” — in the official tribute video above.
“I first became involved with The Walking Dead way back in 2005. I worked for Frank Darabont, and he told me about this comic book that he found in a comic book store,” executive producer Denise Huth said during The Walking Dead Season 1: Beginnings marathon that aired on AMC over the summer. “And as he was telling me the story, I remember saying, ‘That’s a television show.’ It just had all the great elements of a serialized drama.”
The black-and-white comic book — launched by Kirkman and artist Tony Moore for Image Comics in 2003 and initially inspired by George A. Romero’s zombie classic Night of the Living Dead — “kicked around for about five years before AMC was finally brave enough to say ‘yes’ and actually put it on the air,” Huth recalled.
Television executives who passed on The Walking Dead feared the show, requiring multiple outdoor locations and large numbers of zombie extras covered in special effects makeup, would be “over-expensive.” Other prospective buyers fretted that an audience “wouldn’t be there.”
A six-episode first season eventually came together with Lincoln joining the Atlanta group of survivors, a cast that included Jon Bernthal, Norman Reedus, IronE Singleton, and Michael Rooker. Then-showrunner Darabont recruited regulars Melissa McBride, Laurie Holden, and Jeffrey DeMunn, who would each play comic book characters in the series from veteran producer Gale Anne Hurd.
The debut episode of the AMC original series scored the highest-rated series premiere for 2010 and made a killing in the coveted 18-49 demo. By the time of its third season in 2012, The Walking Dead became the first cable series in television history to top every show of the fall broadcast season in the demographic.
Ten seasons later, the zombie-show-that-could spawned two spinoffs — Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond — with more television series on the way, including anthology spinoff Tales of the Walking Dead and an untitled continuation starring the Daryl and Carol characters. Lincoln, who exited the mothership show in its ninth season, returns as Rick Grimes in the undated Walking Dead feature film from Kirkman and franchise chief content officer Scott Gimple.
In 2022, The Walking Dead will end after 177 episodes spanning 11 seasons and 12 years. There are 30 more episodes left to air, including the six-episode extended season 10 — now in production amid the COVID-19 pandemic — and an expanded 24-episode final season spanning two years.