(Note: This story contains spoilers about The Walking Dead’s just-completed ninth season, but to be honest, they’ll probably make you want to watch the show again when it hits Netflix.)
If you’re one of the millions of viewers who have stopped watching The Walking Dead since 2016, I can say with absolute honesty—for the first time in years—that this is a damn shame. While AMC’s venerable zombie apocalypse show has managed to squander much of its once immense popularity, the series’ just-wrapped ninth season proved that it is once again one of TV’s most entertaining dramas. Now if only its former audience knew.
I don’t blame anyone who gave up on the series between the show’s apex—culminating in 2016’s infuriating, insulting cliffhanger—and the two boring, interminable seasons that followed. After it was announced that star Andrew Lincoln, who played the main protagonist Rick Grimes, would be leaving the show in late 2018, there probably didn’t seem to be any particular reason to come back. Now I’m here to tell you there is, and it’s a simple one:
The Walking Dead has gotten weird.
New showrunner Angela Kang seems to be the one to thank. And the shift began, appropriately enough, with Lincoln’s final episode. While most viewers—myself included—assumed the only way Rick’s character would achieve any narrative closure would be to die heroically, Kang had a different plan in mind. Instead, Rick blew up a bridge he was standing on (it’s a long story), appeared to die, but then was seized by mysterious people and flown away in a helicopter to a mysterious location. It was completely bizarre, and it was also interesting as hell. Viewers still have no idea where he is, but AMC‘s canny announcement Lincoln would return as Rick in future Walking Dead TV movies has kept fans satisfied that they’ll eventually get to see what happened to the character who was the heart of the show.
After that shocker, Kang wisely used the opportunity afforded by such a seismic change to reset the series. Following a…