Now wait just a second! Before saying "zombies? no, thanks" or "horror isn't my thing," just hear me out. This well-made, AMC television drama deserves all the fandom and critical acclaim it has received. Yes, it has heaps of flesh-eating zombies in every episode (literally and figuratively), and yes, when you think about it, that really is quite horrific... but The Walking Dead has more in common with LOST, Battlestar Galactica, and Friday Night Lights than it does with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.
Why? Because above all else, this show is an exploration of human nature, group dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and moral grey areas. It's not about the plight of doddering waifs whose blank expressions and sense of balance give them the appearance of the very zombies they (narrowly) elude. It's about the decisions we are forced to make in the face of unspeakable tragedy, what we must do to survive, and what we must do to truly live.
The hero of the show is Rick Grimes, a Southern police officer who wakes from a coma to discover that nearly everyone has died and been resurrected as hollow, hungry "walkers." We experience his confusion, heartbreak, and fear as he searches for his wife Lori and son Carl. We cheer him on as he finds other survivors and support him as he continually puts the needs of others before his own. The cast of characters is compelling and entirely realistic; the issues are poignant. There are more than a few instances of scenes being downright tender. (No pun intended.)
Let me be clear - The Walking Dead is no walk in the park. This show makes no apologies for exploring the bodily consequences of fighting off the living dead. But coming from a squeamish person, I'm telling you: it's a fantastic show and worth watching, even if (occasionally) viewed through tightly interlaced fingers.
• the graphic novels from which the show is based
• the novel, The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman
Recommended by Leah Youse