In 2013, George A. Romero famously told The Big Issue, “They asked me to do a couple of episodes of The Walking Dead but I didn’t want to be a part of it. Basically it’s just a soap opera with a zombie occasionally. I always used the zombie as a character for satire or a political criticism and I find that missing in what’s happening now.” While I disagree with Romero’s assertion that The Walking Dead lacks social commentary, last night’s cliffhanger ending does raise some questions as to the show’s approach to serialized storytelling.
That the show utilizes established soap opera tropes is without question. From the Rick/Lori/Shane love triangle that results in a pregnancy of questionable parentage to an ample supply of teenage angst courtesy of Carl and Enid, the show has a consistent track record of employing storytelling devices first manifested in the soap opera format. Yet, unlike Romero, I believe that this approach to the narrative is ultimately beneficial because it creates an unusually high degree of audience involvement.