[SPOILER ALERT: The following article contains spoilers for AMC's The Walking Dead. Tread with caution.]
"I'm not here to win. It's an honor just to be nominated."
Famous words spoken by many an actor, actress, writer, director and producer over nearly a century of awards shows in the entertainment industry. Also, famous words not spoken by anyone associated with The Walking Dead.
The post-apocalyptic zombie drama (sorry...Walker...we're not using the z-word) premiered in 2010 on AMC and has been the highest rated show for its demographic ever since, with record breaking premiers and finales hitting each and every year. And yet the immensely talented cast and crew have never been able to grace the red carpet of the Prime-Time Emmy Awards, this past Sunday's broadcast failing to break that trend.
With nearly 20 million viewers, The Walking Dead is officially the highest rated cable show of all time and one of the top five shows on television period (losing out only to the likes of broadcast shows and sports programs like The Big Bang Theory and Monday Night Football).
Awards shows are a tale as old as time. Put the spotlight on art pieces that tell dramatic stories about topical themes including (but not limited to) addiction, racism, sexism, LGBT awareness and the struggle to overthrow Westeros with your pet dragons.
But in this day and age where HBO's graphically violent and sexually explicit Lord of the Rings LARPing series, Game of Thrones, can win Best Dramatic Series at the Emmy Awards...why can't we at least get a nomination for a series about a motley crew of cops, criminals, rednecks and pizza delivery boys fighting to survive in a wasteland of adversaries, both living and undead?
Is it because it's a "zombie series?"
It's true that some shows just aren't going to get the award show recognition that they might deserve. Even though shows like Arrow and The Flash are ratings powerhouses for their network, they just don't have that artistic or dramatic flare that awards show voters are looking for. That's why we have shows like The People's Choice Awards and The Teen Choice Awards. But The Walking Dead is an intense and incredibly dramatic series that sucks you in to its compelling narrative and gut punches you at every turn. It is, for a lack of a better term, phenomenal.
The Walking Dead is based on the comic book series created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard. Yes, it depicts a graphic scenario of zombie violence and people being torn apart and screaming during fairly malicious death sequences. But unlike most installments to the horror genre, The Walking Dead does this for a purpose.
At its core, The Walking Dead is a show about the depths that people can fall to when things are at their worst. How will this person handle the new world around them? What things will they do that they have never done before? How dangerous of a place is this to live, and what are the consequences of the environment and your decisions? It's just as much a series about philosophy and the exploration of the human soul as it is the horrific atmosphere of the undead apocalypse. The graphic death sequences are simply a hard look at the reality of this world the characters live in.
And that's what The Walking Dead has...that's what it's truly about...
The journey of Rick Grimes (played absolutely brilliantly by Andrew Lincoln) has been one of the most gripping (if not THE most gripping) character development stories I have ever seen in my life.
At the start of the premier episode, Rick Grimes was a deputy sheriff in a small town outside of Atlanta with all the same daily issues as anyone else. He had a troubled marriage that he fought to make work for the sake of his son, whom he loved more than anything. He had a best friend that he told everything to and he had a job that took up too much of his time. He's not a billionaire. He's not an alien. He doesn't have super powers and he doesn't lead a team of government operatives or any of the other stereotypes associated with most popular movies or television shows. Right from the start, Rick Grimes is just a man trying to make his life work.
When the zombie apocalypse happens the only thing Rick Grimes cares about is finding his family. When he finds them the only thing he then cares about is keeping them safe and preserving the values of a decent human being in a world where all rules have been thrown out.
We don't. Kill. The Living.
That all changed after a series of one unfortunate event after another. Rick's son was shot in a hunting accident. He survived and they met some new friends along the way. But in that same span of time they lost more people and usually due to some form of neglect, disagreement or a matter of circumstance. The safe haven of the farm in season two was lost when a confrontation between two best friends lead to a gunshot that attracted a herd of Walkers.
More friends lost.
After a winter spent on the run, things seemed better. They found safety at a prison. Fences. Food. It all seemed perfect. But if something is too good to be true it usually is.
More friends lost...including Rick's wife.
When The Governor (played by David Morrissey) rolled up to the prison, destroyed it with a tank and subsequently decapitated beloved character Hershel...that was it. Rick Grimes no longer had any faith in humanity. From that point on the only thing that mattered was survival.
The Walking Dead is a story about people. People at their lowest. At their worst. People doing whatever they need to in a world where anything less is the difference between living and dying.
Each episode is not always an intense display of zombie chaos and gore. Some episodes are actually quite slow. But they build intensity in the story. One of the most dramatic episodes of the whole series, in point of fact, was actually one of the slowest in terms of writing.
The Grove was an episode in the back half of the show's fourth season. After the fall of the prison the group found themselves splintered and heading in different directions. This particular episode followed Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) and Tyreese Williams (Chad L. Coleman) as they traveled with three kids. The episode found them setting up at an abandoned cottage at a pecan farm. With a recent history of violence and chaos, this episode displayed a little bit of peace.
Then the young girl Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) killed her sister...saying she was going to make her better. The episode tackled the intense social matter of mental illness and did so in an incredibly dramatic way because it built slowly and in the background of everything else that was going on. The fantastic episode came to its silent end when Carol was forced to kill Lizzie because, like other characters on the show, she was too far gone.
Television is a medium of entertainment. At the end of the day it's there for your enjoyment. Whatever you're interested in...there's a show for you.
The more dramatic...the more thought provoking...the more controversial shows gain favoritism with award show voters. But I submit to you that The Walking Dead is one of the most dramatic...most thought provoking...and definitely most controversial shows on television.
It is incredibly well written. Superbly acted and directed. Very few shows have literally had me on the edge of my seat waiting to see what would happen next. Simply put... The Walking Dead makes you feel. For the characters. For the world they live in. It makes you feel way more than an episode of Game of Thrones ever did. That it has never been nominated for an Emmy is the real shame.
Shame. Shame! SHAME!
What do you think? Should The Walking Dead be recognized for its stellar work with an Emmy nomination? Sound off below. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter (@ThisIsJamesT) for all things rant and ravey.