The surprisingly fascinating politics of The Walking Dead

How a show about zombies speaks to our cultural moment

'The Walking Dead.'
(Image credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC)

Though AMC's The Walking Dead debuted in 2010, the zombie drama is still widely viewed as an entertaining spectacle that, on occasion, poses very broad questions about morality and survival in a world without laws. Mad Men's Don Draper went spelunking for the meaning of human happiness in Old Fashioned after Old Fashioned, and Breaking Bad's Walter White interrogated the nature of power through many a searing monologue and well-placed explosive. The Walking Dead, on its surface, favors a more dorm-room kind of existentialism: Like, I mean, if you had to, like, kill a bunch of people, for you and your family to live, like, would you do it?

The show's seven seasons have followed small-town sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) as he wakes from a coma, bands together with a ragtag group of survivors (is there any other kind?) who'd never have anything to do with each other in the days before the end of days, is grizzled and hardened by catastrophic losses and betrayals, and, oh yes, grows a very gnarly beard. In its last several seasons, The Walking Dead has delivered more moments of extremis than moments of insight — season 7 began as the new Big Bad, a sneering, leather-jacketed warlord named Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) plays eeny-meeny-miny-moe before beating two fan favorite characters to death with a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat; it ended with a giant CGI tiger named Shiva saving Rick's son Carl (Chandler Riggs) just as he's about to meet the business end of that baseball bat.

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Laura Bogart

Laura Bogart is a featured writer for Salon and a regular contributor to DAME magazine. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, CityLab, The Guardian, SPIN, Complex, IndieWire, GOOD, and Refinery29, among other publications. Her first novel, Don't You Know That I Love You?, is forthcoming from Dzanc.