Here’s how the action-horror saga became a celebration of strong female leads…
If you’ve never watched The Walking Dead before, you could easily mistake it for a testosterone-drenched shoot-em-up.
But while Andrew Lincoln does more than his fair share of brooding as zombie survivalist Rick Grimes, the show has become remarkably well-stocked with powerful female characters.
In fact, with female show-runner Angela Kang now in place, The Walking Dead has become one of TV’s most reliable showcases for three-dimensional female heroes.
With season nine set to return to Fox on Monday at 9pm, and The Walking Dead: Art Apocalypse, a new interactive exhibition running at London’s Truman Brewery on 8 – 9 February, here are the five key moments that saw the women of The Walking Dead step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Oh, and as you’ve probably guessed, there are LOTS of spoilers ahead…
1. Michonne makes an entrance (Season 2, Episode 13)
Ah Michonne, katana-wielding warrior queen… how we love you.
For the bulk of the first two seasons, the spotlight falls mainly on male characters like Rick, Shane and Glenn as they shoulder the bulk of the zombie-bashing duties in this new, apocalyptic world.
But that all changes once Michonne shows up.
Speaking of her arrival, it’s probably one of the most iconic in the show’s history.
It comes towards the end of the second season, when an isolated and unarmed Andrea finds herself cornered by walkers in the forest. Just as it looks like curtains, a hooded figure comes to the rescue with a well-timed swish of her blade.
We don’t actually learn her identity for another couple of episodes, but standing in silhouette with a pair of dismembered walkers trailing her on a leash is a hell of a way to make an impression.
2. Carol unleashes hell on Terminus (Season 5, Episode 1)
As the longest-serving character in the show, Carol has gone on quite the journey over the last nine seasons.
When we first meet her, she’s a shell of a woman trapped in an abusive relationship, but she eventually proves herself one of the toughest members of Rick’s band of survivors.
And when the first episode of season five rolls around, Carol goes full Rambo.
With the rest of our heroes trapped in “Terminus”, a supposed sanctuary that turns out to be run by a clan of cannibal lunatics, our heroine decides to take matters into her own hands.
Cue an explosion-laden, machine-gun-wielding rampage as Carol sets about dispatching cannibals, walkers and everything else that crosses her path. Thank you, next.
3. Deanna hits breaking point (Season 5, Episode 16)
If Michonne and Carol express their strength with bullets and blades, Deanna demonstrates a soft power derived from a career as a congressperson.
Her introduction is a key moment for the show, as it offers up a vision of firm female leadership that seems to be working pretty well.
She’s the ruler of the Alexandria safe zone, a perceptive judge of character and a natural diplomat. Whereas most of The Walking Dead’s community leaders have turned out to be bloodthirsty megalomaniacs, Deanna’s non-violent regime makes for a refreshing change.
Not that she can’t make an exception, and when her husband is brutally murdered, she gives Rick the nod to bring about swift justice.
Crucially, however, she doesn’t abandon her principles long-term – and recovering from her grief, is instrumental in renewing Rick’s faith in society. No mean feat.
4. Call me by my name (Season 7, Episode 5)
Like most of the women in The Walking Dead, Maggie has been through more than her fair share of horror, and when she arrives at the Hilltop Colony mere weeks after watching her beloved Glenn’s public execution, she’s in no mood for any nonsense.
So when patronising middle-manager figure Gregory goes full patriarchy on her, she is absolutely not
It’s a massively cathartic scene for anybody who’s ever been talked down to by a blustering old windbag. So, pretty much everyone then.
5. Farewell Rick (Season 9, Episode 5)
The first half of season nine saw a seismic changing of the guard, as OG leader Rick Grimes sacrificed himself in order to save the rest of the group.
Okay, so Rick’s big “death” scene turned out to be a slight red herring thanks to the well-timed arrival of a rescue helicopter, but he will be out of the show for the foreseeable future.
That means we have a power vacuum on our hands, which could well be filled by one of our favourite heroines.
After all, show-runner Angela Kang has promised meaty storylines for the likes of Carol and Michonne in particular, stating that “they go toe to toe with the men… we don’t write damsels in distress.”
Sign us up.
Love The Walking Dead? Immerse yourself in fan art as well interactive set recreations at The Walking Dead: Art Apocalypse at G4, Truman Brewery, Ely’s Yard, 91 Brick Lane, E1 6QL, on February 8 (12pm-7pm) and 9 (10am-5pm). Warning: 18+ advisory age limit. The exhibition includes images that some people may find disturbing.
Watch The Walking Dead Season 9 when it returns on Monday at 9pm on FOX.