Thoughts on the Walking Dead

I like to say that I don’t watch much tv. It’s true as far as it goes: I get very excited about my annual fix of Sherlock and Doctor Who (yes, I enjoy Moffat), but otherwise tend to watch the odd satirical news quiz and movies. And every now and again I indulge in some high production value US series on DVD, and wonder why it’s taken me so long.

I intended to watch The Walking Dead, but I’m not used to scheduling tv time and if it’s not on the Beeb, I don’t get to iPlayer it. My boy was never going to enjoy zombie television, so I got the dubious pleasure of watching it alone in monster chunks while he was out of the country.

Let me qualify that: the show is, frankly, awesome. I assume the make up and effects teams have won every award in town by now, and I hope the writers have at least had honorable mention. The dubious nature of the pleasure is all their fault: I get to crawl up the stairs to bed alone afterwards, and listen to the noises in the dark and try not to imagine things.

Yes, the show explores tropes and archetypes, but I mostly marvel that it ever got made. The gore rating is pretty unpleasant, and the storylines are downbeat: conflicted loyalties, impossible decisions, tarnished honour, and the ever-repeating desolation of hope. The dark hopelessness is as surprising as the gore (if entirely appropriate).

Of course I love it.

I love that a significant proportion of the womenfolk stand up for themselves, defend themselves, and don’t wear make-up*. I might wish for more, but it’s a start.

I love the constant twisting of personalities under pressure, and that everyone’s values erode over time. I love that the writers go where I would. That’s some cold shit. I love that it seems to have found an audience anyway.

I love that the show runners feel no overpowering need to explain everything, and that there’s neither a ‘previously, on…’ recap nor a ‘next time, on…’ spoiler.

I’m afraid this is popular because it allows for big badly behaved men with guns to run around being manly and everyone thinks that could be them (although Derren Brown suggests this may be true, most of us would be zombie fodder).

I’m afraid that embracing the unthinkable makes it acceptable, even though I know rationally that this is bollocks.

Regardless, this has to be the most interesting show on tv.

* Pet hate: Rene Russo’s perfect make-up as she’s dying of Ebola in Outbreak