Yes, this is a shameless ploy to attract web traffic, but it’s a genuine ploy, in that I really am a big fan. I got hooked on the books years ago when my buddy Chris dumped them in my lap and was excited when I learned there would be a TV show. I’ve followed it ever since. It’s the only thing I still catch in real time, watching the episodes as they air. This will spoil scenes from the show, so if you’re not caught up through season 5, stop reading here.
You were warned. Here’s my rundown of why I like the Walking Dead.
- It’s different than the books. While they’ve kept mostly true to the core characters and plot arcs, they’ve mixed it up with who dies and when. All the dramatic scenes are there – the beheading, the cannibals, the betrayals, but often with different players.
- Andrea doesn’t become the badass sniper like the books, she shoots Daryl in the head by accident and then becomes walker food in season 3 after failing to broker a deal between the groups.
- Hershel loses the leg instead of Dale.
- Bob (not in the books) spits the “tainted meat” line instead of Dale.
- Dale instead dies by random walker in season 2.
- While Lori still dies in prison, the show definitely pulled more drama with Carl delivering the baby and having to finish Lori himself.
- And they didn’t kill the baby on the show (I suspect the bloody car seat didn’t sit well with test audiences). All this difference is good – I remain on the edge of my seat every episode, because no one is safe. It’s like watching a chess game played twice, but different and just as exciting.
- Split second calls have consequences. I’ve heard many people second guess the group’s tactics, choices, priorities, equipment, whatever. It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback their decisions. But remember: these characters are sleep deprived, often starved, and running on adrenalin. They are living moment to moment. Anyone who’s larped past 2 am probably gets this – you don’t make the best on-the-spot decisions. You don’t ask the right questions. You jump to the wrong conclusions. You’re fighting the fog of your own head as much as the fog of war. And sometimes you hit an epiphany just in time to save the day. In short, sometimes the characters roll a 1. Sometimes they roll a 20.
- Characters change and grow. Early on, they didn’t fight well, or cleverly, or use their environment. By the time captive Glenn kills a walker with the chair to which he is tied (season 3), we see the characters learning to adapt quickly. By season 5, when Rick tears out Joe’s throat with his teeth, and then uses a sharpened zipper to cut a wooden shiv to use against the cannibals, we see how cunning the characters have become (set aside for now practical arguments about using a zipper as a saw). They’re weathered survivors at that point, a fact the Alexandria folks recognize. Along the way, Rick’s become less the do-gooder and more a hardened, merciless survivor who protects his family with fanatic zeal. He treads this razor edge between keeping his humanity and losing it altogether, kept in check by Hershel’s counsel from season 3, whether he realizes it or not. And while Daryl has remained a loner, he’s learned to trust Rick and the others, evolving from the lonely rogue to the loyal one. And CAROL. Holy shit! Her character was very differently developed from the books, and her metamorphosis from abused wife to ruthless survivor galvanized her badass status. She is tapping into a very dark side to ensure the group’s safety, treading the same razor that Rick is, and possibly slipping off it.
- It constantly makes me ask “what would I do?” Spoiler – I usually make the wrong choice and would probably get eaten. Yeah, there’s no way I’m surviving a zombie apocalypse.
- It’s all about the swansong. This is where I think viewers either get it or miss it completely. These characters are living moment to moment, dreading that any moment may be their last, and so they make the most of it. Hershel’s most-memed speech summed this up beautifully. It’s a theme that resonates with me, and one I strive to put in the Togahan stories. Yes, many of these deaths are tragic. Arguably, they were avoidable, and it sucks when a favorite character dies, but each death has affected different survivors and informed their choices going forward. I don’t think you can watch this series without accepting the fact that your favorite character may die at some point—possibly soon. But it’s important to have faith that the writers will do that character justice. While Beth’s death was tragic, her last action, and Dawn’s, were true to their characters. While it could have gone another way, this show is about gravitas, tragedy, and finding the strength to move on afterward. That scene embraced all three.
The series (both book and TV) is not a happy story, but rather one about surviving, redemption, trust, and faith. It is about living moment to moment, never knowing which moment is their last, and so the characters strive to make every moment matter. That philosophy is one I hope to capture in the Togahan stories, and so I find great inspiration and insight watching this story unfold. I anticipate the season and series finales will be endings I ponder for a long time to come.