I recently watched a film review of Day of the Dead over at Cinemassacre, where the point was made that 1985 was the peak for zombie movies. There’s no arguing this point, as any zombie fan is aware of all the great films that came out during that time. But I think this point actually explains why The Walking Dead is so great. Simply put, it is not only the best zombie material since then, but it manages to surpass all its predecessors while keeping faithful to its roots.
After three episodes I have little doubt that season 4 will prove to be the best yet. The visual effects are as brilliant as ever, and the gritty, absolutely realistic look of the zombie-ravaged world completely sucks you into the nightmare. But it is the exceptional storytelling that continues to shine the brightest.
While Rick Grimes has left his role as leader to try and save his sanity, he soon has no choice but to jump back into the role. If I had to pick one scene to exemplify the entirety of Rick Grimes’ evolution it is the profound sadness on his face as he hobbles the piglets to lure a cluster of zombies away from a collapsing fence. You can see how disgusted he is at having to participate in anymore violence. And then he unexpectedly get’s thrust back into being an officer of the law, bringing his character full-circle, albeit as a totally different man.
In contrast, Carol has become a much more hardened and proactive character. She faces the horrors of her world with confidence, and even seems to be the only person willing to pass on the harsh truths to the community’s children. Her transformation reaches the extreme when she takes matters into her own hands, with group-dynamic-altering repercussions. Carol’s evolution is indicative of the underlying struggle facing the characters. The fight between trying to regain any sense of normality from the past, and the acceptance of living in a world where death is omnipresent. Using the characters’ growth as a way to tell the story is what makes The Walking Dead so exceptional.
Every character has become indelible and full of rich texture. Their relationships continue to morph, as does our feelings for them. Seeing Maggie’s little sister face the death of her boyfriend without shedding a tear is literally heartbreaking. Michonne and Carl seem closer than siblings, and you’re glad to see it. You can actually feel Glenn’s constant fear of losing Maggie. This season so far proves that The Walking Dead is a show about people living through a zombie apocalypse, more than it is about the zombies themselves.
It’s no wonder The Walking Dead is more popular than ever. Continuing to shatter its own viewing records, and with a spinoff in the works, it’d be difficult to find a more popular, well-polished, and viscerally emotional drama on television. There are some great shows on right now that come close, but when it comes down to it, The Walking Dead is clearly on top!