Is The Walking Dead worth watching?

The Walking Dead is now available to stream on Sky and NOW in the UK, so there has never been a better time to dive into zombie carnage.

The Walking Dead is now streaming on Sky/NOW in the UK. (AMC/Alamy)

For more than a decade, The Walking Dead was one of the biggest shows on television. The bloodthirsty adaptation of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard's comic book series provided determined human survivors, marauding zombies, and humans so despicable they made the zombies look like Gandhi.

It has been two years since the show finally called it a day after 11 seasons, though it lives on through an expanding universe of star-studded spin-off series. For UK viewers, the complete series now has a brand new streaming home over on Sky and NOW, so it's a great time to watch The Walking Dead in all of its glory — or perhaps, gory.

But what if you're a complete Walking Dead newbie? If you don't know your walkers from your Governor or your Terminus from your Hilltop, should you delve into those original 11 seasons?

Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln were recurring members of The Walking Dead's huge ensemble cast. (AMC)
Norman Reedus and Andrew Lincoln were recurring members of The Walking Dead's huge ensemble cast. (AMC)

The simple answer to the question about whether The Walking Dead is worth watching is simple: it's worth starting. In its early days on our TV screens, The Walking Dead was something fresh and compelling. It delivered thrilling zombie action and bloodshed, as well as reaching deep into the human psyche to show just how awful we can be to each other.

Read more: Andrew Lincoln regrets leaving The Walking Dead (Yahoo Entertainment)

Critical reaction to the show remained solidly positive across all 11 seasons, which average an 80% approval rating on aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. However, there was a notable decline in seasons six through eight, which only managed approval percentages of 76%, 66%, and 65%.

That decline also came in the ratings, from the midpoint of season seven onwards. By the time the final season aired, the show averaged just 2.22 million viewers — way down from its peak of around 17 million.

Part of this decline came about for an obvious reason. The nature of The Walking Dead's setting during a zombie apocalypse meant that major characters were killed off routinely throughout the show. By the time the seventh season came around, very few of the original favourites were still alive, with the departure of Andrew Lincoln's protagonist Rick Grimes in season nine very much a watershed moment.

Watch: Trailer for The Walking Dead's final season

The season seven premiere is often talked about by The Walking Dead fans as the pivotal event that started the show's downfall. In that episode, titled The Day Will Come When You Won't Be, viewers saw the resolution of the previous episode's cliffhanger, in which one of the members of the core group was brutally beaten to death by new villain Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

Read more: Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live boss shares “very different” original film plot (Digital Spy)

It was Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) who ended up on the wrong side of Negan's barbed wire bat, but things got even worse when fan-favourite character Glenn (Steven Yeun) met one of the most violent ends in TV history. It was truly eye-popping. Sorry.

Many viewers have since cited Glenn's death as the reason they switched off, though Negan became one of the show's most memorable bad guys.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan won fans and turned stomachs as Negan in The Walking Dead. (AMC)
Jeffrey Dean Morgan won fans and turned stomachs as Negan in The Walking Dead. (AMC)

So if you're trying to decide whether to watch The Walking Dead, the best thing to do is to start watching it. Those early seasons were brutal and unflinching entertainment that, along with Game of Thrones, helped to define the "peak TV" era throughout the 2010s. However, it's also safe to hop off the show whenever it stops working for you.

Read more

The beauty of the current Walking Dead universe is that there's no need to watch every minute of it. If you give up on the main show, you can still enjoy Fear the Walking Dead, new series The Ones Who Live, or any of the other spin-offs.

But, once you've seen Negan swing that spiky bat — complete with chunks of bloodied scalp — it might be time to turn off the main show and watch something else. Maybe something cuddlier.

The Walking Dead is available to stream now on Sky Max and NOW.