The Walking Dead is waiting until season 11 before diving into the Commonwealth story and we believe current filming restrictions are the reason why.
AMC's The Walking Dead is waiting until season 11 to dive into the Commonwealth story, and here's why. Though The Walking Dead season 10 was originally set to wrap earlier this year, the airing of the season 10 finale was postponed to the fall. The delay came about because post-production on the episode couldn't be completed on time due to shutdowns relating to COVID-19. The Walking Dead season 10 finale did eventually air in October, but its delay was only the start of the pandemic's impact on the AMC series.
With the release of The Walking Dead season 10 finale came the news that it was no longer actually the season 10 finale. Rather than moving on to season 11 (also announced as The Walking Dead's final season), AMC is instead extending season 10 by an additional six episodes. These episodes will air in early 2021 and are currently being filmed under the new COVID-19 safety guidelines. These include masks and face shields for all on set, no more sharing of make-up trailers, and frequent testing for cast and crew. The new filming guidelines also limit the number of crew members on set at any given time and the distance between actors while filming. Together, these precautions make it possible for production on The Walking Dead to continue, but they do complicate and in some cases hinder the show's storytelling.
For The Walking Dead, adhering to these new filming guidelines has meant getting creative with the kinds of episodes currently being filmed. As previewed by the recently released synopses, The Walking Dead is focusing on smaller, more intimate stories for the season 10 bonus episodes. These episodes are likely less effects-heavy and won't require as many extras, limiting the scope of their production. Most appear to only feature a few major characters, keeping the show's large cast from needing to gather for shoots. Opting to film these smaller episodes that better comply with COVID-19 guidelines means audiences won't have to wait long for new episodes, but it's also very likely the same reason why The Walking Dead is holding off on the Commonwealth until season 11.
In The Walking Dead comics, the Commonwealth is a massive community the survivors first become aware of through Eugene's communications over the radio with Stephanie. She's a resident of the Commonwealth, and similar to what viewers saw in the episode formerly known as the season 10 finale, "A Certain Doom", Eugene leads a group to rendezvous with Stephanie and learn more about her community. In both the comics and on TV, the rendezvous turns into an ambush, with armed Commonwealth guards capturing Eugene's group. When The Walking Dead season 10 returns, only one of the six episodes will check back in with Eugene's group, and by the very nature of the current filming climate, the episode is unlikely to introduce the Commonwealth, at least not fully.
The Commonwealth is among the largest community to be featured on The Walking Dead, only rivaled by the still mysterious Civic Republic being teased on The Walking Dead: World Beyond. To effectively create a community of this size, AMC will need to employ dozens of extras and hold shoots with large numbers of actors. The sets for the Commonwealth will also need to evoke the large scale of the community, and this too will require more crew members for both construction and filming. As the survivors' dealings with the Commonwealth develop, there will be tense standoffs, outbreaks of fighting, and more close contact interactions than the current safety guidelines are likely to allow.
It's for these reasons that The Walking Dead is likely waiting until season 11 to really start in on the Commonwealth story. Similar to the comics, the Commonwealth is the last major story arc before Walking Dead concludes, and as such, AMC will want to pull out all the stops. In order to give fans the screen depiction of the Commonwealth story it deserves, the pandemic needs to be well under control to allow for filming to return to how it was pre-COVID. Recent vaccine developments look promising, and that makes it very possible The Walking Dead can film its season 11 episodes as normal and make the Commonwealth as huge and impressive of a community as it's meant to be.