WHY WE LOVE THE WALKING DEAD - SEASON 5

28 October 2014

By Mel Phillips

9781447275749

The Walking Dead – Fifth Series breaks viewing records – Why is it so popular?

Spoilers…probably…

 Grubs up! The Walking Dead is back on the menu (along with everyone else if the first two episodes areThe Walking Dead anything to go by)

 With the first episode notching up 17.3 million views and breaking viewing records for the biggest cable audience for a non-sports programme in the US, The Walking Dead is currently putting movie theatre attendance ratings to shame.

So, what is it about post-apocalyptic television series that makes it so popular? For those of you who have followed Rick from his hospital bed, then I realise you are already well rehearsed in answering this question.

 “I don’t see why anyone would want to see zombies eating people.” Is something that tends to be trotted out by non-watchers (and probably those who will die first in the zombie apocalypse)

 I sigh loudly.

 “But it’s so much more than that!”

 Yes, there’s quite a bit of killing and enough messy headshots to satisfy the gore seekers (I was left shaking after the first five minutes of the opening episode to Series 5) but the reason it continues to be so popular lies in the fact that the focus is, and has always been, on the characters.

 In fact, you could remove the zombie aspect completely and set it in space and very little about the storyline would actually change. This is, I think, what makes it so popular and allows it to appeal to such a wide audience. Whilst there’s still enough gore and guts for the horror fans and guns for the action seekers  at the (admittedly bloody) heart of this series lies a dysfunctional family, not dissimilar from our own.

 Yes, they might spend some of their time fighting off the undead, but the relationships and trials that they face are still familiar to us. We can relate, even under the most bizarre circumstances. Rick’s struggle as a father as Carl enters his teenage years is hardly a new storyline; neither is two people falling in love and fighting to stay together (Glen and Maggie); or a woman developing a maternal relationship with a man not her biological son (Carol and Darryl).

 Credit where credit’s due, the writers know their stuff. We’ve watched the characters grow and change and, as a result, we have become part of this weird little group of survivors. We’re invested.

 Carol, for example, who started off a meek and mild battered wife, spent the whole of last week in kick-ass mode, taking on the role of sniper, zombie camouflage survivalist and explosives experts. I silently fist-pumped as she sent a flaming zombie Molotov cocktail directly into the bowels of Terminus, why? Because I know how far she’s come. I know what she’s been through and her transformation into a strong matriarch genuinely excites me.

 If we want to go a little deeper, this series interests me on a more psychological level. I’ve had in-depth pub debates over who is the man and who is monster? Whether we are seeing humanity at its best or at its worst? My friends and I have our foolproof zombie apocalypse survival plan now firmly planned out and I’ve developed an unusual distrust of signs offering help (let’s be honest, we all knew Terminus was dodgy).

 I guess, my fascination with the franchise is that it appeals more to my “what if?” nature. It opens up that little bit of darkness that lies buried in all of us and makes us ask, “Who would I be? How would I survive?”

 I think I already know the answer and it terrifies me.

 I fancy myself as Michonne – no-nonsense, zombie-killing, sword-wielding and (most importantly) a survivor. However, I cut myself trying to eat a fig last Tuesday, so I think my chances are pretty slim…

Mel is a London based writer and YouTuber who puts out a weekly video blog every Wednesday. www.youtube.com/mejustnowuk @lilmissphillips

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