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Oats in the Water

This morning, I was listening to Oats in the Water by Ben Howard, a song made famous after being featured in an episode of The Walking Dead.

 

 

It’s been a while since I listened to this powerful song, and I couldn’t help but be both moved and transported while listening to it. The episode of Walking Dead that it was featured in aired in 2013, almost ten years ago. So much has happened over the past ten years and as the Walking Dead comes to an end, I can’t help but be reminded of the beginning.

 

I first heard of The Walking Dead through a co-worker of mine Kevin. He was a comic book reader, and he knew that I was a fan of horror, so he told me about this black and white comic that I really should read called The Walking Dead.

I didn’t get around to reading the comic until the first episode aired. I was skeptical. Not so much about the comic, but more so the television show. Horror on cable hadn’t exactly worked and as much as I loved zombie films, I was concerned that the budgetary restrictions of television would create something less than interesting.

Zombie stories come in all shapes and sizes. You have high quality social commentary like Dawn of the Dead and then you have absolute bonkers near parody like Return of the Living Dead 2. The Walking Dead was presented to me as a down-to-Earth, realistic portrayal of what survivors would experience should a sudden zombie outbreak occur and that was a zombie story I wanted to see.

Despite my fandom for the genre, I was also intrigued by the survival aspect of the show due to the state of the world. The recession was still fresh in my mind as I was lucky enough not to have been affected by the economic issues. That didn’t mean it wasn’t terrifying and worrisome. Feeling alone and isolated in the world, riding out the recession and hoping for the best, with little to no money nor backup, was not ideal. In fact, as we are in the midst of more concerning economic times, I find myself triggered from my life around 2008 to 2010 when The Walking Dead debuted. There were obviously mental wounds left that even I didn’t realize were there.

The Walking Dead’s success was no doubt influenced by the fear that existed in the world at that time. Audiences were primed to see strong characters surviving in an uncertain time. It also helped that Frank Darabont, the masterful filmmaker behind The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist was running the show. Combined with a healthy budget, wonderful effects by veteran horror makeup artist Greg Nicotero, and great performances by underappreciated and a mostly unknown cast, The Walking Dead came out of the gate strong with striking visuals that still reside within pop culture.

Frank Darabont was fired after AMC cut the budget significantly and doubled the episodes ordered to continue to cash in on the show’s success. This caused the show to stumble early on in season two, but it quickly found its footing where it resided as the most anticipated television show airing. Sadly, the revolving door of showrunners and stepping away from the source material became an issue as The Walking Dead’s storylines seemed to be designed more for shock than telling a coherent and interesting story.

The world also changed. As the world healed from the recession, the incredibly bleak and humorless Walking Dead fell out of favor. People had experienced enough of the weary and troubled world and were looking for something different to engage in. Still, the ratings were solid enough for The Walking Dead to continue down this path of disappointing storytelling and major cast members leaving the show.

Now, it’s 2022 and The Walking Dead is coming to an end, or at least the main series is. Various spin-offs are airing along with new spin-offs to air in the future. Still, I wonder if now is not the perfect time for a new take on this tired zombie story. Maybe, something a bit more current for our political and divisive times. Something where the future is far from guaranteed and whenever people begin to feel comfortable, the reality of the harsh world comes crashing back down on them. Wow… then again, that really is the story The Walking Dead told, isn’t it? Maybe the show is more relevant for this time than any of us give it credit for.

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