I recently finished watching The Walking Dead. I have only seen the original series, and I have not watched the spin-offs. I may watch some of the new spin-offs and limited series coming out in 2023. Watching the final episodes inspired me to write this post.
On the surface, The Walking Dead appears to many to simply be a television show about zombies. Yes, it is a horror show, replete with gore and guts–it is about zombies after all. However, at its core, it’s about so much more than that.
The Walking Dead starts as a humans-against-the-dead show. Our heroes are fighting for their lives against flesh-eating zombies. But what happens when the dead aren’t the only threat? As civilization crumbles and a cure for the virus seems impossible, the biggest threat to people becomes not the zombies but other people. There is darkness everywhere and some must rise above the others to bear this burden.
“Darkness is heavy. Some of us carry more than others because we’re strong enough to hold the weight.”Ezekiel, S11E15
Given a cataclysmic, world-altering event, what happens to humanity? Do we band together to face the problem, or do we turn on each other? This is the set-up for The Walking Dead, and how the show moves from a horror show about zombies to a show about zombies that is also about what it means to be human.
Time and time again, we see our gang work towards building the world back up again. They strive to create families, communities, and a peaceful, safe place to live in a world filled increasingly with danger.
And time and time again, they come up against evil. Sometimes it’s lurking within their group, and other times it comes from the outside. Other people are jealous of what they have created and seek to steal or destroy it. Resources are a commodity, and food is often scarce.
They must choose how to live. They must make life-or-death decisions and often choose who lives and dies. Do they show mercy to those who have wronged them? Or do they seek vengeance?
“My mercy prevails over my wrath.”Rick, S8E16
How do you rebuild society with the ever present threat posed by the walking dead? How do you deal with the people who choose not to integrate into society, who choose only themselves?
The characters in The Walking Dead aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. And sometimes, people die because of those mistakes. I’d hate to be in their shoes. They live in a bleak world and have incredible burdens to bear. And yet they continue to push forth, to fight for their lives, and the lives of others. They continue to show us what it means to be human, and what it means to fight for our humanity.
“We can do more than just save ourselves.”Aaron, S11E24
I won’t go so far as to say this is the best show on TV. However, it touches on many very emotional topics and storylines. Some character arcs are disappointing, and some that are entirely unexpected. It’s about survival, love, mercy, revenge, and forgiveness, and as I’ve mentioned, above all, it’s about the humanity in all of us.
I came for the zombies, but I stayed for the people.
“Though we are not bonded by blood, we are family.”Ezekiel, S11E24