Obviously, everyone has probably seen or heard of the TV show, “The Walking Dead”, based on the original comic. But not many people have likely read the comic, which is a shame. It ended a while ago, and I finally had a chance to read through it and get to the utterly fantastic ending.
But as I read through the series, (especially the ending), I realized that Robert Kirkman is actually brilliant as a writer: The Walking Dead was never about Zombies, it’s about something much bigger. The end of “The Walking Dead” comic book brings into focus what the series is actually all about: Rick Grimes carrying the light of civilization through the end of modern society into the dawn of a new one.
This is why all the villains of the series in reflect the different stages of mankind’s fall and express different views on what the “new” society in the Apocalypse needs to be; the main villains, Shane, The Governor, Terminus, Negan, etc. all depict how society becomes more brutal and violent as they leave civility behind. The zombies are the catalyst to civilization’s fall, but the real struggle in the series is about how the survivors choose to deal with the zombies, each other, and moving forward.
Rick Grimes, as a former lawman and deep believer in order being necessary for civilization, becomes the main sail for society to become civil again. He’s not perfect, he makes mistakes, but the journey of the series is mainly to establish that without at least one man, (the right man), trying to keep hope, dignity, order, and civility alive, the Zombie Apocalypse would likely have ended the light humanity has under civilization.
The new civilization that we see spring up has safety, schools, law, art, and has become so ‘safe’ that despite zombies still being a threat, it’s just a normal part of life, and society finally has started to move forward again.
The Zombie problem never goes away. It is the new normal that when people die, their body reanimates. However, the Apocalypse where zombies are a threat to all humanity does indeed end, and civilization begins anew.
The series actually makes a great case that it is not the zombies that ended civilization: they were a catalyst to opening the floodgates on our baser impulses and pushed the survivors of the old world to near-barbarism. However, civilization managed to stay alive through Rick Grimes and his communities, and most certainly his efforts. Running with the theme in The Walking Dead that the biggest threat isn’t the Walkers, but the surviving humans, we see the series end confirming exactly that; it takes effort and faith to not just be, “The Walking Dead”.
I’m not trying to bag on the show at all, and there are a few seasons of it that I really love. But I think both stories are more interesting to the audience when you see the big picture: it’s not a series about just grinding through situations against zombies. The scope of the tale is much broader: it’s about humanity and civilization, and what it actually means to have both.
Once I had read the ending, the slog of particular chapters and situations disappeared into a sense of satisfaction. There is a happy ending to the series, though not every character gets there, and it’s not by making all the zombies go away. It’s actually about re-establishing that light of a free society. If you like good stories, I highly recommend it!