"I just don't really get into zombies!" you say. My friend, I was once you, uttering those exact words to a most trusted and beloved sister who was convinced I would fall in love with this show. But I put it off for months, and she accepted my ambivalence and waited patiently for me to begin this new television adventure on my own terms. I owe her everything that I finally did because it miiiiight be my favorite show ever. And I think it could be yours, too.
Dead on Arrival
So it's just a show about people fighting zombies, right? A sorely inaccurate misconception, my friends. Here's what to expect as you start.
Yes, there are zombies. Here, they're called walkers. Walkers have taken over the country, and a small group of people - some strangers, some not - try and survive. But what happens when you are faced with choices that the regular world would never force? What happens when you have to choose between survival and people you love? What happens to the person you were before? Does crisis change you, or does it enhance who you truly are at the deepest place?
Just as Friday Night Lights is not just about football and LOST is not just about an island, The Walking Dead is not just about zombies. It's about people. It's simply a catalyst for experiencing characters and how they move through the world; it just happens to be a rather gross catalyst, a grossness you'll accept shockingly fast.
Dead Man Walking
It's violent. I won't gloss over that. And sometimes it's super gross. But the violent grossness isn't there just for shock value. Sure, sometimes it makes you cringe and look away, but I think that's because living in a zombie apocalypse would make you cringe and look away, too. We're seeing a shockingly believable world that's overrun by walkers and experiencing it through people who are just like us. I'm not trying to philosophize it; I'm just saying it's real, not gratuitous. Don't let the violence stop you, unless of course you'll never sleep again. Then go watch Gilmore Girls and we'll talk later.
In the Dead of Night
It will begin slowly.
The first month, I watched the first six episodes. The second month, I watched the next FIFTY. This is not an exaggeration; you can check my Netflix viewing history. I am chronically tired because I've stayed up well into the dark thirty hours to watch "one more episode," but I have zero regrets. Only a few bags under my eyes.
Why did I take so long to get going you ask? I was intrigued by the storytelling but unmoved by the characters. A bit too much melodrama and some bad Southern accents. But they righted that ship fast shortly into season one. The storytelling became FABULOUS, the action was engrossing but not manufactured, and some new characters brought life to a rather unlikeable group. So stay the course in season one. You need to watch it - lots of stage-setting - but don't expect to hit binge speed until a bit into season two.
Then be prepared. Because you won't know how to stop.
Drop Dead Gorgeous
One of those reasons? A single word I have for you.
There are pretty faces and bulging biceps aplenty, including a sweet Korean guy named Glenn who reminds me of my husband and is the dearest, but DARYL. I will sound like a lunatic, but once you watch it, you'll understand.
His effect is surprising and haunting and I love him vastly more than my aforementioned TV men that make me swoon. Like, it's NO CONTEST. More than Jack, more than Tim Riggins, more than all the Bravermans combined. Daryl is it lock, stock, and barrel... or whatever the equivalent is for a crossbow since that's his weapon of choice. He's mysterious, broken, kind, a badass, and sexy as hell. Forgive the slight color, but there's no way to talk about Daryl without getting a little saucy. He's also the comic relief of the very not-funny show with the best lines hands down.
I think the reason the first season feels slow is because Daryl isn't in it the whole time. The producers and writers didn't anticipate The Daryl Effect, and once they figured it out? Mighty fine, sunshine. The point? Don't give up on the show until you see Daryl. If you're a guy, you'll want to be him, and if you're a girl, you'll want to be with him. Everyone loves Daryl. Which is why real people, including myself, wear this with pride.
Time to Beat a Dead Horse
Don't make that face. I know what you're thinking. I understand because I thought it, too. The show can't possibly be that good, right? WRONG. SO. SO. WRONG. It's better than you think. And not just better... it's AMAZING. Millions of people in this country agree; it's the highest rated show on television for two years running in the 18-49 range. They can't all be stupid.
So let's look again at why you'll love it. It's fun, immensely entertaining, full of characters that you really care about, and has some of the best twists and surprises of any show I've ever seen. The only show that comes close in terms of smart and compelling storytelling is Breaking Bad, and with The Walking Dead, there are a lot of good people to root for. It's the best of both television worlds.
After a few episodes, I started seeing walkers in drainpipes underneath my walking trails. I brutally killed a fly with one swat against my kitchen window and thought how proud Daryl would be of my marksmanship. My youngest son bit my oldest son in the face like a boss and I could only attribute it to the Walking Dead in the air. (I don't condone biting. It was terrifying and gross. Just really thematic with my TV watching at the time.)
I implore you to start watching this show so you can start seeing drainpipe walkers, too. What a wonderful fandom to be part of.
The Walking Dead is currently in its fifth season on AMC, and the previous four seasons are on Netflix. Here's your plan. The mid-season premiere is on February 8th. That gives you almost two months to catch up. Then you'll get to watch it live every week like it's 1999.
Sidenote: it's brutal going from binge-watching to waiting for an episode each week. Waiting is the WORST. But it's also oddly exciting. It's how TV was originally meant to be enjoyed. So don't run from the event-television model. If you start now, this show can capture both ways of watching for you, and you'll love me forever.
So today? I commit to waiting patiently for you, just like my sister did for me. I trust that eventually this show will call your name, that it will beckon you from the shallow pools of How I Met Your Mother reruns to the deep well of brilliant storytelling and Daryl's beautifully dirty biceps.
You won't be sorry.