It's well-known that on long-running successful shows, the salaries of key actors can cause an ultimately self-defeating situation (i.e. eventually even the most successful shows have to pay their cast so much money it becomes uneconomical -- cf. TNG and Friends).
In season 6 of The Walking Dead, we have a number of simultaneous plotlines playing out in separate episodes. This means that many key characters do not appear in several episodes:
For example, the following main characters appear:
- episode 1 - all
- episode 2 - Maggie, Eugene, Carl, Carol, Morgan, Gabriel
- episode 3 - Rick, Michonne, Glenn, Daryl, Sasha, Abraham
- episode 4 - Morgan (and Eastman) only, well plus Tabitha
- episode 5 - Rick, Maggie, Carl
- episode 6 - Daryl, Sasha, Abraham
- episode 7 - everyone except Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham
- episode 8 - everyone except Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham
The difference is that we have a series of episodes rotating among different cast, some of them overlapping in time, in which the other characters do not appear at all. In particular, Rick did not appear in three episodes, which seemed unusual to me personally.
So, how much of this style was motivated by cost savings?
This is significantly different from the previous five seasons, where, even with just as many cast members, the episode would jump around among the cast even when they were separated, except for pehaps an episode here or there. Here we have at leave five episodes in a row focusing on only a small subset of the cast. Actors generally are paid by the episode, and only for the episodes in which they appear.