Tele­vi­sion Apoca­lypse Maybe

TV’S rat­ings mon­sters The Walk­ing Dead and Game of Thrones are stag­ger­ing to­ward oddly sim­i­lar ends

Newsweek International - - NEWSWEEK - BY JOHN WALTERS @jdubs88

, cru­saders. All of hu­man­ity bi­fur­cated into a good-vs.-evil, win­ner­take-all main event while a greater ex­is­ten­tial threat—the zom­bie apoca­lypse—looms. Add to that a callous in­dif­fer­ence on the part of showrun­ners to killing off (and then oc­ca­sion­ally res­ur­rect­ing) a beloved main char­ac­ter. As the Oc­to­ber 22 Sea­son 8 pre­miere of The Walk­ing Dead ap­proaches, we won­der if AMC’S megahit is not Game of Thrones with a more penu­ri­ous per-episode bud­get.

The Walk­ing Dead pre­miered on Hal­loween night, 2010, and has since be­come the most-watched se­ries in ca­ble tele­vi­sion his­tory. Five months later, Game of Thrones made its de­but on HBO and has since whacked The So­pra­nos as the most­watched show ever on pre­mium ca­ble. For the first few years of their ex­is­tence, the shows seemed to have lit­tle in com­mon be­sides their mas­sive au­di­ences and roots in fan­tasy.

Dead, after all, was set in a con­tem­po­rary, post-apoc­a­lyp­tic Amer­i­can South. Thrones was set in the fic­tional land of Wes­teros, which bears a pass­ing re­sem­blance to Bri­tain, in an age of iron. Thrones was rife with clan­des­tine al­liances, broth­els, in­ter­wo­ven royal lin­eages, gi­ants, dragons and Dothraki.

Dead pro­mul­gated a far sim­pler plot­line: Stay to­gether and don’t get bit­ten.

Su­per­fi­cial links ex­isted. How many other shows fea­ture a cross­bow, the weapon of choice for Dead’s heroic Daryl (Nor­man Ree­dus) and a toy for Thrones’ sadis­tic boy king Jof­frey (Jack Glee­son)? And yes, a mur­der tool for Jof­frey’s imp­ish un­cle Tyrion (Peter Din­klage).

Glenn (Steven Yeun), one of Dead’s

most pop­u­lar char­ac­ters, fell into a zom­bie mosh pit at the end of one episode only to re-emerge in the next un­scathed (are there ve­gan zom­bies?), while mul­ti­ple Thrones char­ac­ters have over­come stab­bings, drown­ing and greyscale, only to re­turn. Lord of Light? More like deus ex machina.

In the past two sea­sons, how­ever, the shows have be­gun to ap­proach a point of con­ver­gence, al­beit from op­po­site di­rec­tions. Since Sea­son 6, Dead has pro­moted a malev­o­lent gang of fas­cists, the Sav­iors, as the most di­rect threat to Sher­iff Rick and his posse, while rel­e­gat­ing “walk­ers” (i.e., zom­bies) to a rel­a­tive sup­port­ing role. Mean­while, across the Nar­row Sea, the Lan­nis­ters have bro­kered a truce with the Tar­garyen-stark al­liance, while Thrones’ zom­bies, the Night King-led white walk­ers, sweep down to­ward Win­ter­fell like a Cat­e­gory 5 hur­ri­cane.

The com­par­isons are man­i­fold. Look­ing for a sadis­tic ruler with a thirst for in­flict­ing pain? Ne­gan, meet Cer­sei (one man’s Lu­cille is an­other woman’s Moun­tain). How about a re­luc­tant but res­o­lute leader who is also a bas­tion of in­tegrity? Sher­iff Rick and Jon Snow. Hulk­ing gin­gers fight­ing for the good guys? Sergeant Abra­ham and Tor­mund. Bad ass, blade-wield­ing hero­ines? Mi­chonne, meet Bri­enne of Tarth.

At their cores, both shows have been dis­tilled into a triad of fas­cists vs. free­dom fight­ers vs. the un­dead. The last group is a rel­a­tive force of na­ture, an im­pla­ca­ble jug­ger­naut that is not vul­ner­a­ble to de­ser­tions or be­trayal but is also in­ca­pable of hero­ism. Who will win out? Will an al­liance be forged be­tween each show’s two hu­man fac­tions be­fore it is too late? Forget win­ter; for both se­ries, Sea­son 8 is com­ing.

Look­ing for a sadis­tic ruler with a thirst for pain?

Ne­gan, meet Cer­sei (one man’s Lu­cille is an­other woman’s Moun­tain).

FUNNY, I FELT FINE THIS MORN­ING Walk­ing Dead, above, meet frozen dead: GOT’S Night King, left. Royal pains Ne­gan and Cer­sei, right, both alive...for now.

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