I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead. I’ve watched it from the start and, whilst I’ve sometimes fallen behind on a few episodes, I’m fully up to date and enjoying the anticipation for the upcoming final series.
However, of my countless friends who I have shared conversations with about the iconic series, I am the only person I know who is still watching it. Those that haven’t given up on it have fallen drastically behind on the latest episodes, making conversations about it more of a memory test rather than, as it should be, a group of friends getting excited about a plot line or key cliffhanger. “Where are you up to?” “Erm, Season 7. Maybe 8. They aren’t in the prison anymore. There’s a tiger.”
Here’s a graph, taken from the Wikipedia episode guide, which displays the rise and fall of popularity for The Walking Dead (albeit in the USA but I suspect this reflects its popularity globally).
As you can see, there was a clear peak from the start of Season 4 to the first episode of Season 7. This is roughly the immediate aftermath of the Governor story arch, battling with the cannibals, introduction of The Hilltop, battling the Wolves and then the Saviors, right through to the iconic episode in which Negan exacts his horrifying revenge on Glenn and Abraham.
From that point onwards, many things conspired to alienate the viewers. The lack of direction or desire to finally conclude the story. Two canonical spin-off series that may have been essential viewing. Three planned Rick Grimes films. Five Telltale video games. A parallel comic book with differing storylines. The continual killing off of main characters. Disheartening comments from the the show’s creators that implied it would never end. Spending too long focused on secondary characters and ignoring the main characters for several episodes at a time. All these things conspired to lead all but the most enthusiastic away from the show. It was too much to keep up with.
Take the situation in the UK, where I am based. When the first spin-off, Fear The Walking Dead, was announced, I was really excited. Then it was announced it was coming to a new BT-exclusive TV channel called AMC, launching in August 2015, which was fortunate for me because I was a BT subscriber. However, shortly after this announcement (on 1st March 2016), FOX TV was removed from the BT service due to a contractual disagreement. This meant that in the UK you had to choose between watching the main series or the spin-off series – a crazy situation to leave a flagship programme in.
This confusion coincided with the controversial killing of Glenn and Abraham, and the sudden decline in viewership. It was a botched job – too much content, too difficult to access, spread too thin across multiple channels.
Additionally, it was confusing just to keep track over the years exactly where each series was going to be released, or how long it was going to stay on the platform. I had a hilarious situation late last year where I was desperately trying to watch 2-3 episodes of Series 10 every day, just to watch them before Sky deleted them from their service. Fortunately, I found this watching experience to be entirely engaging and exciting, with Samantha Morton putting in a star turn as the series antagonist Alpha and a wonderful Whisperers storyline bringing as much excitement to the story as I’d ever seen.
So, why should you watch it now? Well, for the first time we now definitely know when the end point is going to be. Starting in August 2021 – next month as I write this – the final series is going to start airing. That should mean that the show will pick up significant pace as they aim towards the eventual conclusion. There are rumours that Rick Grimes will be returning, although these are unsubstantiated.
Secondly, you can watch the entire series on a single platform (in the UK at least). For The Walking Dead, go to Disney Plus, work out where you got lost, and dip back in. If you’re enjoying it and want more of a fix, you can go to your Amazon Prime account and watch Fear The Walking Dead. If you’re feeling extremely hungry for more you could also seek out the brilliant The World Beyond, also on Amazon Prime. No longer will you be wondering where you are in the multiple series as it’s all in one place.
You will still need to suffer through some of the most frustrating tropes of the show, the most blatant being the continual desire to put a cliffhanger out in the open that is not mentioned again for two or three episodes. They’ve always been guilty of this and it doesn’t change before the end of Series 10, I’m sorry to say.
But, if you have ever wondered if you’ve missed the boat on it, then now is your time to catch up just in time for the start of the new series.