I've always seen the zombie threat as the fear of the inevitable. It's our fear of death manifested. The massive zombie attack then is the fear of the end of everything. Mass extinction. I believe the recent debate about fast zombies vs. traditional staggering ones is tied into this. In our modern society the inevitable always feels right around the corner, something that can strike at any moment and crash quickly upon us. It makes sense then that zombie lore would speed up as well.
The Walking Dead on AMC chooses to remain with the slow zombie model (In full disclosure, I have not read the comics, so I refer only to the television show). At first, this bothered me. To be honest, it still does a little. In today's world, the slow zombie doesn't feel like much of a threat. It's an inevitability that can be avoided the way we ignore high cholesterol or the dangers of smoking. These zombies are so easily killed that there's little tension there. The only threat comes from the massive hoard. Naturally, this is a symbol of how at times the inevitable weighs heavier on us than at other times. But still, where's the immediacy?
Much like the zombies in the show, I felt the series got off to a very slow start. I was hardly impressed with the first episode and barely impressed by the second. I felt the characters were all formulaic television tropes and that the story felt culled from a million other stories. But there was always enough to keep me coming back. In the end, I feel as though I was rewarded.
Over the last four episodes, the characters found themselves. The story took some risks. And the show evolved from a show about zombies to a show about survivors. The last two episodes were truly gripping and compelling and seem worthy of all the praise being heaped upon this show.
I have to admit, I'm going to miss it until it comes back. I still have some big questions about the premise though, most pressing: Why in Hell would you keep going back into the city?