In America, the NFL is king and no other programming should dare to challenge the crown. Once upon a time, in the year 2014, The Walking Dead overthrew the throne and subsequently pissed at the king’s dead skull. Last night’s premiere episode of Season 5 – “No Sanctuary” got its hooks into 17.3 million live viewers(and a lot more after DVR tallies come in). This not only beat Sunday Night Football by 2.5 million viewers, but it also officially made it the highest rated show in cable television history(including Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad). There is a clear reason for this unprecedented level of success : it’s a great fucking show.
I’ve heard some people argue that the show’s runaway popularity is due to the dumbing down of America(ala Idiocracy), combined with people seeking escapist entertainment in a shitty economy. Perhaps there is some grain of truth lurking in those theories, but I argue this show would hold its same magnetic appeal in whatever decade or economic backdrop you want to place it in. It has all the elements of a great show – characters with vast depth/complexity, top-notch writing/directing, solid special effects, and a soon to be superstar cast that gelled just right. The zombie genre in general has proved to be a long-lasting phenomenon because it taps into a deep primal fear of our own mortality(personified by the zombies) which scares the shit out of us. Also, our characters are not only surrounded by a constant, creeping danger of a gruesome death, but they are also capable of becoming a villain and turning on their loved ones within seconds. This premise provides a fertile ground to spout endless possibilities of plot twists and moral dilemmas, serving to keep the audience on the edge of their seats the whole time. Other zombie related films/shows have mostly fallen short in capitalizing on utilizing these powerful tools of emotional engagement at their disposal. The Walking Dead, from the very first season, has perfected the art of suspenseful, engaging storytelling. (Yes fanboys, I know the word “Zombie” doesn’t exist within TWD world)
One of the best things about this show is that you can actually identify with so many of the characters. Sure, there are morons on the show, but they are realistic morons. Characters panic under great stress and make tough decisions they sometimes regret, but they don’t go masturbating down in a windowless basement while leaving their gun upstairs. This show takes a hard-line, super specific approach as to what people might actually do if this world became a reality. The answer is that it would be a nightmarish existence that would show you what you’re really made of if you survived long enough. By the producers and writers taking the show so seriously(precise attention to timelines and details like the slow aging of zombies from season to season), we the audience can put more trust in the show to become completely immersed.
We the audience can also trust that we won’t ever be left hanging with a bunch of unanswered questions, or get some cop-out cliché writing for explanations. In other words, we can have faith that we won’t get seduced, then Rufied and buttfucked like we did after going on a few dates, and eventually getting engaged to Lost. Last nights episode was a testament to why we so patiently wait for the euphoric payoffs we so desperately pine for. We don’t need a prenup to jump into this marriage – this is true love.
Overall Rating : 10/10