The Walking Dead is a cable-TV show about the zombie apocalypse and the brave band of survivors who are barely clinging to hope and their humanity. It airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. on AMC, and millions watch—season 4 averaged 13.3 million viewers per live episode and last week’s season 5 premiere set a record with 17.3 million. By definition, it’s a gruesome show that doesn’t flinch from grotesque violence, and always has been—in the very first scene of the series’ very first episode, a shaken Rick Grimes, still wearing his crisp police-officer duds, shoots a little-girl walker in the head.
That was four years ago, and Rick is now a completely different man. The Walking Dead‘s audience has changed along with him, and it’s become harder and harder to shock them. But that’s a challenge the show’s creatives have gleefully accepted. Last season, a marauding gang of villainous predators threatened Rick’s teenage son, Carl, Deliverance-style while Rick was forced to watch, and his “Hail, Mary” response was to rip out his captor’s throat—with his teeth. READ FULL STORY