The Walking Dead has undergone significant changes since its first season about a man trying to find and protect his family in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. TWD keeps introducing new characters, storylines, and reams of world building.
Unfortunately, the show has lost a lot of its original identity in the wake of so many changes. While the fundamental core of The Walking Dead remains intact, there are obvious differences between the series’ early days and later seasons.
10. Lost: The Intimacy Is Gone
An essential component in earlier seasons of The Walking Dead was its clear presentation of a post apocalyptic world inhabited by the last surviving members of humanity. New characters were rarely introduced. This was an intimate form of storytelling focused on just the main characters. Future seasons saw the series’ protagonists interact with other survivors. Season 5 and beyond sees a rush of world-building that introduced semi-civilized survivor groups within walking distance of one another. This newly populated world is an abrupt change that brought forth opportunities for new storylines.
9. Stayed: The Aesthetic Remains Appropriately Apocalyptic
In a somewhat-memed piece of dialogue, Enid states “It’s their world. We’re just living in it.” Although that particular line was hard for some to take seriously, it was the vocalization of the show’s objective.
One of the most notable visuals in The Walking Dead was Rick Grimes riding a horse towards Atlanta down an abandoned road strewn with cars. As one of the premiere post-apocalyptic stories in modern fiction, The Walking Dead consistently displayed a deserted world audiences became familiar with.
8. Lost: Zombies Aren’t A Constant Threat Anymore
In a zombie apocalypse, one often expects the zombies to be the main threat. Outnumbering humanity thousands to one and driven by an animalistic desire to eat human, zombies are an impossible enemy to beat. At least on paper.
With season 3’s introduction of more menacing and malicious human villains, the walkers stopped being the most dangerous characters the protagonists faced. While many of these villains are popular, it’s disappointing that zombies have been reduced to little more than set dressing.
7. Stayed: Society Is Still A Lost Cause
The Walking Dead has always explored how people act when there is no law and order, or social expectations constraining their actions. Initially explored through characters like Shane, the series has explored the ugly side of humanity. The Walking Dead does not shy away from the extreme lengths people will go to satisfy their own wants in extreme situations.
6. Lost: Deaths Aren’t As Memorable
As with many shows from the 2000s, The Walking Dead distinguished itself with a willingness to kill off characters that would have remained safe in any other series. Death happened often to important characters, but was always poignant and meaningful. There’s a limit for this, however.
Too many deaths makes an audience care less. It doesn’t help that some characters have serious plot armor. As a result, most deaths in The Walking Dead past its first seasons tend to be more minor characters, and even the significant ones have lost some impact.
5. Stayed: Human Life Is Still Precious
The Walking Dead has tried to sell the idea that human life and happiness are worth fighting for. Even with all of its other changes, The Walking Dead has never abandoned this idea. While discussions of war and killing abound in later seasons, the message is always about protecting humanity.
4. Lost: Likeable Characters At The Forefront
Even grim and dark shows need for the audience to like what they’re watching. This is something The Walking Dead has struggled with past its early seasons, once its characters – including once-lead Rick Grimes – took a turn towards the darker. With later seasons largely focusing on feuds between grey and gritty characters, some viewers have found it hard to engage with either side in a sympathetic way.
3. Stayed: Characters Are Fallible
Even important characters make mistakes, especially when under pressure or battling personal demons, and no character is above being undone by their own actions.
Although some find seasons of characters making avoidable mistakes tiresome, others enjoy the more realistic take that better reflects how a great many people would actually behave in a zombie apocalypse.
2. Lost: Realistic Dialogue Fell By The Wayside
Part of The Walking Dead‘s charm early on was that characters often spoke like real people – as far as was allowed by television censors. Characters cursed and stammered, interrupted one another and fumbled their words. Starting quite early, characters began speaking in a much more stylized way. TWD has become somewhat notorious for characters going on ‘sermons’ for lengthy stretches of time that sum up a storyline’s themes or message. Part of this comes from incorporating more dialogue from the original comic book – a medium with different conventions for speech.
1. Stayed: Characters Focusing On The Future
Everyone’s main concerns in the post-apocalypse are getting food for the day, shelter for the night, and keeping safe from others. This has never stopped characters in The Walking Dead from looking to the future, wanting their children to have something more than just survival.
The show has always focused on what the future will bring, from using children like Carl Grimes as emblems, to characters attempting to rebuild society in a number of locations. Carl remained a symbol even after death, with characters aspiring to build the sort of future he wanted to live in.