We’re (not so) patiently waiting for The Walking Dead to return with season 8, but while we do have time to spare, we decided to rewatch the seasons from the very beginning to hold us over until the new episodes debut in October. See, we’ve been massive fans of the series from day one, obviously, thanks to James and the Walker Stalker Podcast, we’re actually sort of born from the series; so it’s something that’s quite special to us. It’s easy to rewatch a few favorite episodes here and there, but then go off with the new series’ on Netflix or get lost in comic books and also have to focus on our day to day lives. This time we deliberately sat down to watch every single episode again and so far, we’re really enjoying it.
Watching it again has given us a different look at the series in its entirety. We know more about the roads our favorite characters take, we know the moments before and the moments immediately after the big decisions they have to make and we know when we’re forced to say goodbye to people like Abraham, Glenn, Herschel and Tyrese (just to name a few). With all of that in mind, we focus more on their characters in certain situations, we watch not for the wow factor but for what truly makes them click as people, and we’ve even started paying closer attention to the little things, the traditions and the habits that ensure their humanity in a world surrounded by the undead.
Season 1 laid the groundwork for the series, obviously, but it also created a place in our hearts for these characters and allowed us to bond with them. Which ones had personality traits like ours? Did any of them act the way we would if we were suddenly put into their shoes? Were they brave or were they terrified and did they manage to keep the knowledge to know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong?
The big scene during season 1 that set the tone for everything that would happen through the series was Rick’s first filmed walker kill…aka…the first scene Andrew shot which he’s talked about and how it left an impact. At the time, Rick had no idea what he had stumbled upon, no idea how it would shape his life from that moment forward. That kill, his hardest scene, was difficult for viewers to watch too. Even as the animated young girl growled at him, he still saw a life within her, not yet knowing about the undead or ‘walkers’. That moment of hesitation is still something that all of the characters struggle with, in their own ways.
Season 1 set The Walking Dead apart from other things ‘zombie’. It’s not a thriller focused on the shock factor, not a series obsessed with blood and gore, not something just made to be horrifying. It’s a show that aims to do the impossible and show people continuing to live with a sense of self-worth, respect for others, and kindness when everything is telling them to just simply make it out alive. To forget anything but surviving.
One of the most impactful ways this happened is, again, in season 1 when Rick went on to tell a walker that he was sorry this happened to them. Focusing on the fact that they were people and this tragedy isn’t something that they asked for. Yes, it was then – and is now – a matter of life or death, but it doesn’t mean that it’s ever ‘easy’ to kill, even to save yourself. Rick’s humility is what makes him the man he is, the leader, the one in charge and while he’s taken life (both human and walker) he never considers it a game.
The series also tackles issues that we deal with today, from prejudice to cheating and relationship drama to falling in love unexpectedly, and again, all of those little pieces that grew into the storylines that continue to wow us were all being sprinkled in each and every episode of season 1.
Another way the series tackles that is the way the zombies exist. Now, in all horror, zombies are slow moving, life stealing, brain eating…shells of people. That didn’t change in The Walking Dead, but it almost got deeper. The zombies are almost reflections of everything else. It’s not just the undead that takes you, once (or if) they finally catch you, it’s struggle or defeat and loss and even overwhelming pain that leads to that one weak moment that allows you to fall.
While we continue to rewatch the seasons, leading up to the 100th episode and 8th season premiere, we’ll focus on favorite moments, funniest quotes, best gifs, etc – but for this one, we wanted to stick to the basics and focus on why the series stood out from day one.