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Is The Walking Dead TV's Most Depressing Show?

Lennie James, The Walking Dead, Season 6

Lennie James, The Walking Dead, Season 6AMC

Another week of The Walking Dead, another reminder that there is no hope.

Sure, six seasons in, the AMC hit remains thrilling and powerful. In the show’s four episodes this fall, they’ve quite possibly delivered the series’ best work ever. There’s just the tiny problem of the show continually presenting the bleakest outlook on the TV landscape. 

In some respects, this is to be expected. Hopelessness is built into the show’s general conceit: The world has essentially ended and every human fighting for survival will eventually succumb to the virus that decimated humanity, no matter how hard to try not to. But that concept doesn’t necessarily mean the story must devolve into a pitch black look at humans at their absolute worst. And yet, that’s exactly what The Walking Dead has become.

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The Walking Dead, Steven YeunAMC

Maybe it’s the decision to use this season’s first four episodes to tell the story of one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day that’s driven this point home? (Yes, tonight’s extended episode showed us just how Lennie James‘ Morgan returned to the show with a new unwillingness to kill, but his telling of the story still took place on the same day as the other episodes.) Let’s take a look at what has happened to these people in the span of just one awful afternoon. 

An intricate plan to lure a massive horde of walkers away from the Alexandria settlement went horrible awry, instead delivering said walkers right to the walls. Why? Oh, because a group of nihilistic killers known as the Wolves descended upon Alexandria while those best able to defend it were out dealing with those walkers, resulting in the deaths of almost every Alexandrian who isn’t a main character. (Rough season to be an extra on TWD.) Then Glenn (Steven Yeun) was rewarded for trying to help Nicholas redeem himself by being blown off a dumpster into a pack of walkers (though he’ll probably survive) while Michonne (Danai Gurira) dared to tell a man he’d get deliver a letter to his wife back at Alexandria himself. (Spoiler: He didn’t survive and no one grabbed his letter. But, honestly, the Wolves probably killed his wife, anyway.)

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Lennie James, The Walking Dead, Season 6AMC

And that brings us to tonight’s episode. We watched as Morgan stumbled upon a cabin in the woods, occupied by Eastman (played rather beautifully by John Carroll Lynch), while still in the depths of his madness. Slowly, Eastman was able to get through to Morgan, bringing him back to something resembling sanity while imparting upon him the study of Aikido and a hesitance to take any life, regardless of circumstances. Naturally, Eastman fell prey to a walker bite before episode’s end because this is The Walking Dead and anyone who isn’t an indiscriminate killing machine never survives for very long.

It’s that very thing that makes it hard to believe Morgan will remain non-violent for very long. The show has conditioned us to believe that his aversion to violence will either get him killed or be forced out of him by the unrelenting nihilism of the world in which he lives. Our money’s on the Wolf he’s got locked up that basement in Alexandria. You know, the one who promised he’d kill everyone if he didn’t die from his wound. 

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When a show stays on the air for as long as The Walking Dead has (and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon), its central theme is abundantly clear. And for TWD, it seems that would be: There is no winning, there is no thriving, there is only surviving. At all costs. And that was fun for a while, but when does it become too dark to bear? We have a feeling we might find out soon.

What do you think? Has The Walking Dead become TV’s most depressing show?

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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