WARNING: This post will include spoilers for both The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones. Read at your own risk!

I’m not a fan of The Walking Dead — the TV show or the comic. I watched the first season of the show, and just couldn’t get into it. The characters were all shrill and unlikeable, and I found myself rooting for the zombies. But I made it a fair way into the comic series before I finally had to give up on it. It was simply too bleak. I quit right when Rick’s wife and baby were killed, along with half of the other survivors. At that point, I started to think that death would actually be the best outcome for the protagonists, and I couldn’t understand why they still fought to survive. So I stopped reading and gave my books away.

Now, I am a fan of Game of Thrones, and the A Song of Ice and Fire books it’s based on, and friends have asked me how I can tolerate the bleakness of that series, if I found it so distasteful in The Walking Dead. That’s a fair question. Both series have a tendency to kill of their protagonists, and Westeros is almost as brutal a place as the zombie apocalypse. But for me, there are a few factors that keep me coming back to Game of Thrones despite the frequent deaths.

  • Characters: GoT is filled with compelling characters. For every dead Stark, there is still a Tyrion, Arya, or Daenerys to keep things interesting. The characters in TWD just felt like a conveyor belt of generic zombie food. Each one seemed to serve no ultimate purpose but to die, which made it difficult to get invested in them.
  • Scope: Game of Thrones is a globe-spanning story. Tragedy may strike at the Wall, or in King’s Landing, or at Winterfell, but the world spins on. It puts things in perspective. The Walking Dead focuses on one small band of survivors, which amplifies the impact of every death.
  • Hope: In GoT, there is still hope for a somewhat happy ending, despite all the deaths. There’s still a chance that the Seven Kingdoms can be united under a strong ruler, and peace will return to the land. I’m not sure what a satisfying ending would look like in TWD. Perhaps the survivors can find a place where they aren’t constantly threatened by dead cannibals or living madmen, but even if they do, they’ll be living in a ruined world, having lost most of their loved ones and some of their favorite body parts. It just feels pointless.

Now, I’m not saying that TWD is a bad comic; only that I can’t get into its particular flavor of bleakness. What’s your take on the depressing nature of Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead? What other franchises do you find too depressing to follow?