A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Walking Dead is a horror-drama hybrid that contains vividly violent action sequences involving blood, guns, and half-eaten corpses, among other stomach-turning visuals. There's also some unbleeped swearing ("s--t"), but those words are rare. A handful of episodes include sexual content, including visual references to (offscreen) rapes and consensual sex; there are references to affairs, pregnancy, birth control, coerced sex. In earlier seasons the "walkers" (zombies) are the main source of violence in conflict; in later seasons, non-heroic humans exploit and kill other humans. Characters, including children, may be suddenly bludgeoned, shot, stabbed, thrown off buildings, imprisoned and starved, and meet other terrible ends.
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What's the story?
In the wake of a global pandemic, a small band of survivors makes its way across the country to find a safe, new home -- away from the dangers of THE WALKING DEAD. The group includes an injured sheriff's deputy (Andrew Lincoln) who wakes up in an abandoned hospital, only to find the facility crawling with flesh-eating "walkers" (that's slang for zombies) and half-eaten corpses. But in time, he joins forces with a single father (Lennie James) and his young son (Adrian Kali Turner), and sets out to find his own missing wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) and boy (Chandler Riggs), and then, to find other humans and rebuild a shaky civilization -- which turns out to be its own struggle, walkers aside. The show is based on a comic book series of the same name created by writer Robert Kirkman and artist Tony Moore.
Is it any good?
No pun intended, but, for most viewers, this AMC drama about flesh-eating zombies will be an acquired taste. Because even if you don't mind watching a swarm of the undead descend upon a mounted horse, knock it and its rider to the ground, and feast upon the writhing animal's entrails, you're asked to endure a surprising amount of drawn-out silences in between the series' admittedly grim action sequences.
That's not to say The Walking Dead is too gross to watch, or unworthy of praise for its acting and art direction. British actor Lincoln, in particular -- perhaps best known to Americans for his small role as a pining Romeo in Love Actually -- is impressive as the Southern-drawling hero, and Lincoln's sometimes-ally-sometimes-antagonist Daryl (Norman Reedus) as well as fierce warrior Michonne (Danai Gurira) have also emerged as fan favorites. And as the series progresses, viewers will be drawn into characters' personal stories and their continuing efforts to survive and wrestle with complex moral questions -- which only grow thornier in later seasons.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the recent rise of zombies in popular culture (for example, with horror-comedies like Shaun of the Dead and Zombieland). What's the appeal? Do you think a serious drama like this one -- which purposefully lacks laughs -- will attract the same type of audience?
When it comes to violent content on television, does the show cross the line? Would the show still be gripping if it were any less gory?
Zombies aside, how realistic is the series' depiction of human nature? If the world were to suffer a true global pandemic, would the survivors band together in an attempt to preserve humanity, or would they continue to battle each other for control of what's left?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love zombie and horror
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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