The last episode to air of The Walking Dead was on December 11, 2016. In the intervening two months, it feels like our entire cultural landscape has been upturned. We spent the holidays debating cabinet nominations and conflicts of interest. We opened the new year talking about Jeff Sessions and Stephen Bannon, there have been entire news cycles devoted to Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia, allegations of golden showers, and murdered Russian spies. That all came before the inauguration, and since, it’s been dominated by executive order actions, leaks from inside the White House, Kellyanne Conway interviews, and Sean Spicer disasters. Three weekends ago, we had the Women’s Marches all over the country. The next weekend, there were massive protests over the travel ban, and this past weekend, even the Super Bowl and the commercials were informed by politics.
Donald Trump has somehow managed to dominate both the news and pop-culture cycles even more since he was elected than he did during the campaign, and there’s been only fleeting respites from the world of politics, like a three-hour window last week in which the internet celebrated Beyonce’s pregnancy. Otherwise, our social media feeds have been clogged with politics, and our real-world conversations have largely revolved around the chaos of the Trump administration. Television has offered little respite, aside from the occasional Netflix series like The OA or the Santa Clarita Diet or NBC’s This Is Us, a warm and inviting family drama but hardly a great source of conversation.
On Sunday night, however, The Walking Dead finally returns, and for an hour or two, millions of people will take a break from the news cycle and watch Rick Grimes and co. take on Negan and the Saviors. I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited about the return of a TV show and it has little to do with the fact that the back half of season seven is expected to take a much-needed break from the oppressively bleak front half. It’s mostly because it means there will be another topic of conversation beyond Donald Trump.
Granted, the ratings are down from season six, but The Walking Dead still remains the most dominant show on television. Until Game of Thrones returns, it’s one of the few shows that still provides opportunities for small talk. Whether an episode is good or bad (and they were unkind in the first half of the season), the AMC series still provides a source of conversation that has nothing to do with the President, the Republican Congress, White House leaks, or a Supreme Court nomination.
Indeed, The Walking Dead is the kind of show that can put us back on schedule, break us from the vicious news cycle, and remind us that it’s a good idea every once in a while to take a break from politics. It will set us back on course, as we settle into FX’s new series, Legion, the return of The Americans in March; Better Call Saul in April, or even John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight, which also returns on Sunday night after a two-month hiatus. What this country needs right now is some routine, a few appointment television shows to get us back into the pop-culture groove and flood our Twitter timelines with something other than Betsy Devos or Sean Spicer jokes. We can talk about Michonne again. We can celebrate fantastic zombie kills, fret anxiously over possible character deaths, laugh at a new series of The Walking Dead memes, or ship Carol and Daryl or Carol and Morgan or Carol and Ezekiel. Instead of threatening to protest the actions of our government, we can threaten to riot if AMC kills off Daryl.
I have high hopes for the back half of season seven. I’m glad most of the major characters have been reunited. I am excited to see Rick regain his fighting spirit. I want to see what kind of team Maggie and Sasha will be. I want to spend more time with Ezekiel and new fan favorite, Jerry. I hope Carol regains her bloodthirst. I can’t wait to see what evil deed Negan still has up his sleeve, to find out who he is going to kill next.
Mostly, though, I’m just excited to have a familiar characters back on our television screens, and for an hour each week (or closer to 70-90 minutes thanks to the super-sized episodes), 15 million Americans will find a little normalcy again in the comfortable environs of the zombie apocalypse.
— The Walking Dead AMC (@WalkingDead_AMC) February 6, 2017