We all have our favorite and least favorite tropes. From love triangles to slow burns, tropes are often the best ways to showcase great characters and storylines. They can also be frustrating and make you question why it is even a trope at all. In this weekly column, we’ll take a deep dive into some of the most classic television tropes.
Zombies, aliens, and ghoulies, oh my.
What is it about post-apocalyptic television shows that have me wrapped around their finger? I mean, it’s no secret I love these types of television shows, as I do spend my time writing reviews for The 100. But, really, what is it about this type of television show that has me so invested?
I was a big fan of The Walking Dead and its spin-off Fear the Walking Dead before they both got pretty bad. I am convinced that Falling Skies is completely underrated. And I gave shows like Colony, Revolution, and Under the Dome the chance to grab my attention when they first premiered (Revolution had a fantastic first season. I will admit).
As you can tell, this trope is very common. But it doesn’t mean that all of these shows are the same. In fact, they are all very different in their own way.
While the end of the world is no doubt a very dark theme, shows like The Handmaid’s Tale take a much darker approach to post-apocalyptic life. Its raw storytelling, and their decision not to shy away from some of the most intense issues out there that has made the show such a hit.
To my earlier point, The 100 is also a very dark post-apocalyptic show. But unlike The Handmaid’s Tale, The 100 doesn’t do a great job of fully embracing the violence. I find that a lot of the most notorious deeds on the show are brushed off in a matter of episodes. Killing hundreds of people – including children – in Mount Weather never seemed to have as big of an impact as it should have.
Still, the world they were living in is much different than normal society. Which makes things like killing hundreds of grounders with rocket fuel acceptable. But with all this violence and death, why are I and so many others obsessed with these types of shows?
Same reason why I love seeing vampires and witches on my screen – escapism.
Escapism is the ultimate objective of why anyone chooses to engross themselves in the world of television and movies. Perhaps our lives are super crappy and we just want to watch Rick Grimes kill some zombies for an hour to forget about it. It’s also why people are so captivated by other people’s drama – because it makes your life seem a little bit better.
But of course, television is more than just a means to get away from our lives. My life is pretty good right now, but that doesn’t mean I won’t watch The 100 for the billionth time.
One of the biggest draws for me in choosing to watch shows like this is because it’s just different. As I touched on earlier, I find post-apocalyptic shows to be very unique versus the plethora of television out these days. Despite the similar genre, Falling Skies is vastly different from Colony. Two shows about aliens, but nowhere near similar. Before they connected the two shows with the crossover, Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead did really feel like two separate shows with their own set of problems.
But hey – I am the first to admit the typical downfall this trope generally has is when the show stays on the air for more than five seasons and becomes anything but unique. I used to be a big The Walking Dead fan. I have even re-watched it multiple times. But there is no doubt that when the show got a few seasons in it lost its way. For a show that built a big following because of their explosive cliffhangers and big moments, it started to take advantage of that.
When they spent an entire half of a season trying to convince us that Glenn was dead only to have him live, and then die in the second half of that season they lost me. And each new season introduced a big bad that we were supposed to believe was worse than the last. It just honestly got so recycled that it has made me – and many others I’m sure – question why the show is still going on.
I do think that it is not necessarily the fault of the trope itself. A lot of shows struggle with finding nuanced ways to tell their story as seasons progress. Any show that isn’t a procedural has this problem. And that’s pretty much impossible to do with a post-apocalyptic show. I mean, how long can you continue to fight zombies without it getting boring? How many times are the people from The 100 going to continue to ruin any chance they have at building a peaceful society? Are the aliens going to be on Earth forever?
These are also all the shows I wish I could forget I ever watched, just so I can watch it again for the first time. Because when The Walking Dead was good, damn was it really good. I can watch Falling Skies and The 100 over and over, but nothing will ever beat the first time I watched them. This isn’t trope specific (I think it was just me wanting another chance to tell everyone to watch Falling Skies).
They just don’t make them as they used to as they say. I can’t think of a post-apocalyptic show that has debuted recently that really blew me away. The Handmaid’s Tale probably was the closest. But no zombie or aliens have grabbed my attention recently and what a shame. Guess I’ll stick to rewatching the early seasons of Fear the Walking Dead to curb my appetite.
Or perhaps I’ll kick my ass into gear and get back into binging Battlestar Galactica.
All I know is that when the apocalypse does come, I will be more than ready.