I remember vividly the first time I watched The Walking Dead. I was taking a TV Writing class in college and occasionally our homework was to watch pilots for popular television shows and review their effectiveness. I rewatched pilots I had already seen such as True Blood and was introduced to new series such as Mad Men and Girls, but when it came time to watch The Walking Dead pilot, something different happened.
Let’s be clear up front – I knew nothing about The Walking Dead except that it was a zombie show that had been on the air for a couple of seasons. So, with no real opinion or expectation, I followed Rick Grimes as he slowly uncovered this new world, and while I was captivated, I do remember feeling unsure about it.
Then, I heard “Hey you, dumbass” over a speaker in a tank. The hairs stood up on my arms, the commotion of campus around me stopped, and I smiled. For the first time since I started taking the class, I watched the next episode. Next thing I knew I had a Netflix account and the rest is history.
For a couple of seasons, I watched The Walking Dead as a party of one. I gasped as Amy died, realizing for the first time that main characters would be taken away. I teared up as Sophia walked out that barn. I paused my laptop and sat silently in the dark after the series killed off Lori. I yelled at Andrea, I cried for Andrea, and I fell in love with Maggie and Glenn. Soon, I eventually caught up with the show and joined a family. No longer was I watching alone. I was watching alongside millions of people as we grieved, debated, and praised the series together. Every death and every heartbreaking moment was faced together and it was truly something special.
I’ve been through many phases of life since that day I watched the pilot. I’ve hit some extremely high peaks and some severely low valleys and to be honest, so has The Walking Dead, but over the course of eight years what do you expect? It’s an unprecedented amount of television for a series without a “case of the week” formula and much like anyone, it’s made some mistakes. The thing is though, despite those mistakes – the heart of the show is still there – and for every valley, there is a new peak to climb, which is why after eight seasons, I’m more excited than ever about a new season of The Walking Dead.
That sentiment almost sounds traitorous to say as Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan are literally leaving the show, but there is something that feels different this time around. The addition of Angela Kang as showrunner certainly has me hopeful. She’s proven over the years just how in tune she is the with the series and a lot of the episodes she’s penned are true standouts. It was time for a change and having a familiar and passionate face at the helm is the perfect way to kick off a fresh start.
And I say fresh start because that’s exactly how season nine is being marketed. I don’t even think I could count on just two hands the number of times I’ve heard an actor from the series in an interview say “this is our best season yet!” or “this is our most brutal, action-packed season to date.” Yet, as we near the season nine premiere, these generic promises aren’t being made. Instead, there are promises being made that are rooted in facts that could be easily disproved by longtime fans. The cast and creators have made some intriguing declarations that season nine feels more like the early seasons of The Walking Dead than ever before. It’s going back to its roots – to the good ol’ days of the series that fans are still highly invested in almost a decade later, and that should hopefully ignite even the smallest spark of hope.
This thing is, The Walking Dead may not be your favorite show anymore. You may have quit seasons ago or maybe you decided to pull the plug after season 8, but once upon a time, this show was probably pretty special to you. I think back to that day I watched the pilot quite often. It was a moment that significantly changed my life and the journey of stuff, things, family, humanity, and friendship that followed will have a lasting impact. So, I encourage you to think back to when that moment was for you. When the show was something that you loved and enjoyed.
There’s a new beginning for The Walking Dead on the horizon and it’s the perfect time to consider coming back.