OK, cards on the table here. I am a relative newcomer to The Walking Dead. I binged watched the entire thing in about 3 Months which was an achievement for me considering I also have a life that requires me to put on clothes and leave the house occasionally. I’ve also never read the graphic novels on which it’s based.
I never got into it from the start because “zombies aren’t my thing.” After some light intimidation/bullying from the bearded one (Keith) I decided to give it a go.
I think it’s fair to say that I was intrigued by the premise. You wake up in a hospital with no one around only to find the place crawling with the undead, who quite fancy devouring your innards. That’s exactly what happens to Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the hero of the show and main character.
The show follows him through season one, where he manages to make a new friend in Glenn, reunite with his wife Lorrie and annoying son Carl, who I have subsequently named “annoying Carl” and will be known as that henceforth! They have been in-bedded with a group of survivors of all shapes and sizes. You know who they are if you’ve watched the show!
After a series of unfortunate events, some grizzly deaths (more on that later) and the realisation of Rick’s ex partner, Shane (Jon Bernthal), that he can no longer play happy families with Lorrie and annoying Carl sets our group off on a quest to find a cure, survive this new hostile world and live a semi-normal life.
Throughout the seven and a half seasons we’ve had so far, my overriding feeling is “how much more can we take?” There is so much bleakness in this show it sometimes verges on unbearable. You get to the end of some episodes and rather than think “that was a cliffhanger, I can’t wait to see what happens next”, you think “fuck me, that was grim, I need to cleanse my soul by watching an episode of The Good Place!”
The wars that these guys have gone through, with eye patched psychos, cannibal BBQ enthusiasts and someone who has seriously misunderstood the rules of baseball, have left their scars and up until this point there seems no light at the end of the tunnel, no end game. I kind of struggle with that. It seems like they’re just plodding on from one disaster or one false dawn to the next.
After Game of Thrones set the tone with lopping off a main characters head just before season one finished, it seems fashionable now to dispatch characters you grow to love with relative ease. This seems to lessen the impact of the loss and no show can claim to have killed off more loved characters than TWD. It seems to make it harder to watch in some ways. Rather than fully investing in the story you just watch to see who dies next, or maybe that’s just me?
What keeps pulling me back in however, is the characters. They are very well developed and the changes that happen within the ones that have survived up to this point are well thought out and in keeping with the impact of what’s happened to each of them so far. In a bid to not give away any spoilers I’ll use Rick as my example since it’s in all the promo stuff that he’s still alive.
He starts off in season one as a “good guy”, still applying old world morals to the new apocalyptic world he wakes up in. We find him seven series later as a grizzled war veteran, weighed down by loss, burden of leadership and a sense of loyalty to his companions. He no longer sees the world through hopeful eyes and is now all about surviving. He still has a code but he no longer hesitates to do what is needed to protect those he loves. It’s quite a journey he’s been on.
So, back to the question I posed in the title, which I asked because people I know are actively giving up on this show. My answer would be yes, we should still care about The Walking Dead. It has been responsible for some outstanding moments in TV history. Sure, it can be a bit repetitive and the current story is more about big explosions rather than carefully focused and well thought out plot points but I have hope that we may start to see a change in dynamic and some interesting twists and turns coming in the concluding half of season 8. We may even see some light at the end of the tunnel, who knows.