The Walking Dead season 9: Settling down vs fleeing zombies

The Walking Dead SDCC promo image. Photo: AMC
The Walking Dead SDCC promo image. Photo: AMC /

Season 9 of The Walking Dead shows life settling down as the group tries to build a new life in a new place. Is this a problem for the show?

The Walking Dead has always been about survival, but over the years the threat has shifted from surviving Walker attacks to fighting off other people. The audience has been following a group of survivors for eight seasons and at long last the survivors might just be settling down into a real community. But if the show is about staying alive in a world full of the undead, settling down changes the nature of the game even though it’s the natural progression. Though the chase might be more entertaining, surely the survivors can’t stay on the run forever…can they?

One Instagram user said: “Great, gonna be boring just focusing on rebuilding. Where’s the thrill of bein’ [sic] on the run and struggling to survive? It all went to s**t when they decided to settle down, was better when they were on the run. Now they are all just domesticated and weak, except Daryl.”

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It’s easy to understand where this viewer is coming from. The Walking Dead is, at its foundation, a show about zombies and people trying to stay alive following the collapse of civilization. Honestly, it would be easier if the only problem was the collapse of civilization. The undead add a layer of complexities, not the least of which is the ever-present threat of an attack. But how long could (read: should) a show about people fleeing the undead last?

The Walking Dead started out with a group of people struggling to stay alive, and now years have passed since the outbreak began. Years later, the Walkers aren’t necessarily the biggest threat anymore, rather the clear and present danger is other people. The Walkers are a nuisance, but not the threat they once were unless they’re in a massive herd.

The first photo of season 9 reveals what things look like after technology breaks down. Like other works of post-apocalyptic fiction (I recommend S. M. Stirling’s 2004 novel Dies The Fire) when everything falls apart so too does technology, and survivors do well to look to the way our forefathers used to do things. Carts and wagons will take the place of cars as gas (and parts and oil and tires) runs out. Car parts are certainly useful to repurpose, though, and you can see that car seats have been integrated into the wagon.

Next: The Walking Dead: Will someone take the reigns from Rick Grimes

Years have passed and the survivors have adapted into their new way of life. The time jump reflects this shift, giving season 9 a decidedly different look and feel. The big question is how the story plays out as communities rise and defend themselves against other people. The Walking Dead will be less a show about zombies and more a show about how to persist, and it’s up to new showrunner Angela Kang to make that story as compelling as the zombie stories were in earlier seasons.