The crème de la crème of post-apocalyptic horror series, The Walking Dead is not only a bona fide critical darling but also a full-out cultural phenomenon, with a massive legion of fans who endlessly obsess over the show well beyond its weekly airtime. If you’ve never immersed yourself in the series, here’s everything you need to know to hold your own in conversation.
The show is based on the comic strip Marmaduke: Anyone familiar with Marmaduke’s wacky capers with the Winslow family in the Sunday funny pages will certainly experience some déjà vu as they watch The Walking Dead’s cast of kooky zombies try to navigate life in the human world, as virtually all of the show’s plot points are taken directly from the classic syndicated comic strip. Lucky for fans of the series, creators say they have enough Marmaduke source material and madcap misadventures to make the series last at least 12 more seasons!
The show centers around Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes, a character who possesses the world’s last remaining bottle of shampoo: All of the zombies have dry, brittle hair and desperately want to use Rick’s shampoo, leaving him constantly on the run from hordes of dandruffy zombies.
The whole show is probably just one big, fucking metaphor for something: You gotta figure, right? Maybe something with colonialism or climate change or us-versus-them political divisions or some shit? Whatever the fuck it is, there’s a cautionary tale in there somewhere.
In the Walking Dead universe there is no word for “zombie,” so the characters refer to them as apples in various states of decay: Tune into an episode for five minutes and you’re bound to hear a line or two like “That Honeycrisp is brown and ready for the compost bin” or “That Braeburn’s definitely got some soft spots” in reference to the zombie “walkers” plaguing the show’s dark and barren landscape. It definitely takes a bit of getting used to, but once you’ve got the lingo down, it makes the show all the more engrossing.
The characters in The Walking Dead are aware of Chris Hardwick’s Talking Dead aftershow and regard Hardwick as an omniscient but unfeeling god: All of the Walking Dead characters regularly watch Chris Hardwick’s official live aftershow Talking Dead, baffled that a perky comedian is dissecting their every action and laughing at their gruesome deaths. “If he knows so much,” Rick is often heard to mumble, “then why doesn’t he help us?”