We used to cover The Walking Dead extensively here at Nerds on Earth, right down to the weekly recaps and reviews we would do of the episodes. But like half of the viewership of TWD, we walked away from the show.
I mean, we looooved that show and a big portion of our Slack conversation would revolve around what Rick and company were up to on Sunday nights on AMC. So, why did we ditch it? Well, many reasons, including the fact that it got a bit too big for its britches with all that after show nonsense. It honestly felt as though the show was being written precisely to be able to apply easy marketing opportunities.
But the big reason was the gleeful gore that the show began to wallow in. Sure, it’s always been a violent show. But there came a point where a grisly death was teased and promoted simply as marketing gimmicks, rather than sincere and authentic opportunities to do what The Walking Dead used to do best, which is to wrestle with morality in the midst of a crumbling human society.
But, guess what? It is worth coming back to The Walking Dead. I just finished watching the mid-season finale of season 9 and it was fantastic, as were nearly all the first season 9 episodes.
Sure, there was a grisly death early on, but there wasn’t that nonsense of teasing it out as a publicity stunt, nor was it portrayed as gracious for the sake of ratings. No, it was meant to evoke a feeling of regret and allowed major characters to wrestle with the implications, then it had real consequences on the arcs of several characters.
The pacing is back to being fast. Gone are those extended episodes meant only to add additional commercial breaks. Storylines start, then they were resolved, nearly that fast. Watching season 9 keeps you on the edge of your seat in a good way.
Old characters are gone, including the tent poles. There has been a time jump! Side characters are given a chance to shine and new, engaging characters are being introduced. It feels fresh and familiar simultaneously and the ending of arcs is being done in interesting ways.
The zombies are scary again. Comic book readers know of the Whisperers. Television viewers are getting a glimpse now. But the new show runner–Angela Kang–hasn’t made the same mistakes as her predecessors. Negan at one time was a comic fan-favorite, only to be wasted with that lean-back schlock nonsense we were shown. But the introduction of the new storylines seem much more measured and considered.
Truly, season 9 of The Walking Dead has been well done. Yet, the ratings from The Walking Dead’s “Evolution” scored the lowest ratings for a midseason finale since the show’s debut. Season 9 has been an effort to shake things up, for certain. As a fan of the show since the very beginning (and even before with the comics), I’ll be the first to admit that the last couple seasons have been a mess.
But my faith has been restored in The Walking Dead. Sure, many are reflexively still dumping on the show and the narrative of cynicism that the last couple of seasons established will carry through, meaning lots of folks will simply now roll their eyes sight unseen. But, to be clear, The Walking Dead is still the biggest rated cable television program when you take away football (Who saw that West Virginia / Oklahoma game?). So reports of the show’s death are greatly exaggerated and it is indeed poised to rise again. So why not join that zombie horde again?