We were all surprised when Frank Darabont stepped down as showrunner on The Walking Dead last month, only days after he’d appeared at Comic-Con on behalf of the series. But if a theory put forth by the LA Times is true, then the reason behind his departure is even more shocking — budget cuts that are believed to be the direct result of Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s recent gigantic raise to about $10 million per season.
“In the case of the zombie smash The Walking Dead, AMC will be slashing about $250,000 per episode for its second season,” reports Joe Flint. “AMC owns The Walking Dead, which is why it could enforce such a dramatic budget cut, though it came with the loss of the show’s creative force.” While Darabont has yet to confirm that this is why he left, Slashfilm points out that he was already worried about how finances would affect the show creatively even before these recent cuts were made — which suggests the LAT is on to something. As to whether or not this ultimately signals the beginning of the end for the zombie drama (which averaged 6 million viewers per episode, compared to Mad Men‘s 4.3 million), we’ll have to wait until the second season premieres on October 16 to find out.