Walking DeadWow, a MAJOR announcement about The Walking Dead just hit the wires today -- and it's more than a little worrisome for fans for the show. I'll give you the good news first: AMC has renewed The Walking Dead for a fourth season, so we can rest assured that after the remaining half of season three (which starts back up in February), there's more zombie-related mayhem to look forward to.

The bad news -- no, the mystifying, makes-no-goddamned-sense-whatsoever news -- is that showrunner Glen Mazzara is leaving after season 3. As in, Glenn Mazzara, the guy who's largely credited for picking up the pace and improving the storytelling after the original showrunner, Frank Darabont, exited during season 2.

According to the joint statement from AMC and Mazzara, the decision is amicable ... but this major switch-up in leadership right at the peak of the show's success is certainly a strange move. Especially when you consider there appear to be "creative differences" at play.

Here's the statement that AMC and Mazzara released:

Today, AMC announces the season 4 pick-up of 'The Walking Dead.'

AMC also jointly announces with Glen Mazzara today that for future seasons, the two parties have mutually decided to part ways. Glen guided the series creatively for seasons 2 and 3. AMC is grateful for his hard work. We are both proud of our shared success.

Both parties acknowledge that there is a difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward, and conclude that it is best to part ways. This decision is amicable and Glen will remain on for post-production on season 3B as showrunner and executive producer.

Um, wow. "A difference of opinion about where the show should go moving forward"? That's ... intriguing, to say the least, especially when you consider that Walking Dead pulled in series-high ratings this season, and has generally received lots of critical praise for the increased drama, action, and character development.

Remember when the original showrunner Frank Darabont was fired during season 2? There were rumors that he got the axe because of his refusal to accept massive budget cuts and various network cost-saving measures, but I think plenty of viewers would agree that the series improved since he left. The show picked up speed, and finally seemed to realize its potential, given the undeniably compelling premise and great source material.

With Glenn Mazzara at the helm, The Walking Dead's midseason finale earlier this month scored an amazing 10.5 million viewers. What on EARTH could have caused so much friction between AMC and Mazzara that he's leaving the show?

Mazzara's own statement doesn't really clear things up:

My time as showrunner on 'The Walking Dead' has been an amazing experience, but after I finish season 3, it's time to move on. I have told the stories I wanted to tell and connected with our fans on a level that I never imagined. It doesn't get much better than that. Thank you to everyone who has been a part of this journey.

If you've read the comics, you know there are plenty more stories to tell, so I can't imagine that he truly feels like he's done everything he wanted to. There's definitely more going on here than meets the eye, and I hope it doesn't mean bad things for season 4.

Are you surprised by this decision?


Image via AMC