Does TV do the Post-Apocalypse well? Where TWD, Sweet Tooth, & Fallout Fit In

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Once upon a time, the post-apocalypse genre was almost exclusive to movies, with the occasional exception, such as the 1994 mini-series The Stand. Fortunately, the advent of streaming services and bigger budgets changed the paradigm.

Nowadays, radioactive landscapes, bombed-out buildings, hordes of shambling, reanimated dead bodies in various states of decomposition, and desperate, struggling survivors are commonplace on smaller screens.

Ostensibly, post-apocalypse shows are about survival in a devastated world. Dig a little deeper, however, and there's almost always a tale of morality or lack thereof. Movies struggle with this, often opting for CG effects to dazzle and attract, neglecting the human aspect.

Fallout New Vegas

That's what makes TV the perfect conduit for a tale of post-apocalyptic survivalism. While not all of them get it right, like 2020's The Stand, a long, drawn-out affair has the luxury of time and world-building on its side.

Condensing the worlds of Fallout, Sweet Tooth, and The Walking Dead into a two-hour affair would sap these stories of the life and vibrancy that make them effective. The same can be said of Silo and The Last of Us.

Rick Listens - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Season 1 Episode 1

Of course, you must have a good script and a well-thought-out structure. Golden Raspberry Awards have no business anywhere near a post-apocalypse screenplay for a major TV series or adaptation.

The only problem is the prevalence and expansion of this genre.

If there's one thing the entertainment industry is very good at, it's beating a dead horse. With the proliferation of post-apocalyptic sagas on the small screen, each tale has to find its seat at the table.

The table, in this case, is a welcoming and vigorous audience. Shows like Sweet Tooth, Fallout, and The Walking Dead have to fit in, without overdoing it and rendering the entire genre mundane. Think: The Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Sweet Tooth

The Whole Gang Together

This is an odd one, and that's not a knock against the series. In fact, Sweet Tooth is probably the most lighthearted of the three despite its dark undercurrents.

Where so many post-apocalypse movies and shows focus on the survival aspect and the inhospitality of the surrounding environment and people, Sweet Tooth is the calm, deceptive ice over a raging river. Gus, the series's protagonist, is a hybrid human/deer, hence the antlers.

Survival is a key factor, though Gus (Christian Convery) and his protector, Jeppard (Nonso Anozie), are being hunted rather than experiencing events randomly. Desptie the post-apocalyptic nature of the series, a ruined world is nothing more than a backdrop for a deeper meaning of being different.

Sweet Tooth proves that a ruined world doesn't have to be a character itself.

There are certainly dangers in this world, but they come mostly from the xenophobic nature of humanity. Put three people together in a bubble, and two of them will find a reason to alienate the third.

Sweet Tooth Season 3

There are also elements of hope and the potential for happiness, while other attempts at the genre tend to follow a line of neverending misery, drama, and despair as one nightmarish event follows another. It makes for good entertainment but is eventually exhausting.

The Walking Dead

No other post-apocalyptic series has enjoyed the longevity and attention that The Walking Dead commands.

It hasn't always been an easy road, and the spin-offs, convoluted storylines, and sheer number of characters create the up-and-down nature of the series in terms of popularity.

Though the series officially ended with Season 11, there are several spin-offs, a testament to the series' longstanding appeal.

Ready To Talk - The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Season 1 Episode 4

By the time The Walking Dead came along, it was thought that the zombie genre was dead, or at least in its death throes.

TWD's success is due to a pivot away from traditional zombie apocalypse themes of consumerism mixed with voodoo and toward the drama of survival and tribalism.

Unfortunately, longevity comes with consequences. Over time, The Walking Dead lost a step or two, eschewing the focused, character-driven narrative in favor of shock value and savior tropes.

Nevertheless, The Walking Dead remains one of the defining aspects of excellent post-apocalyptic storytelling, with character, moral ambiguity, and tribalism eclipsing the zombies.


Ella Purnell (Lucy) in “Fallout”

Fallout is one of several video game adaptations that have found success on the small screen.

Like many post-apocalyptic movies and TV series, Fallout's world is the result of nuclear war. The only difference is the twist, which is due to Vault-Tec, the designer and manufacturer of the many vaults throughout the world.

Fallout fits into the more traditional concept of the post-apocalyptic theme while separating itself uniquely.

It's similar to SIlo in that people live in underground facilities, safe from the horrors of the outside world. it also shares another theme with Silo: the idea that human beings cannot be restrained from exploration, at least not for long.

Human curiosity is an inescapable trait of all people. We simply can't help ourselves, even if curiosity really does kill the cat.

Power Suit

Fallout owes much of its success to Ella Purnell, who plays the protagonist, Lucy. As a character, Lucy runs the gamut from a curious and ambivalent explorer to a betrayed veteran. Fallout shares so much with Silo that it's telling how both series are so successful.

Cryogenically frozen employees that lie in wait to take charge? Check. Humanity living within a concrete superstructure, avoiding the outside world? Check. A shady corporation with diabolical convictions pulling the strings from the shadows? Check.

Deceptive birth and breeding protocols subtly enforced on the populace? Check. Humanity's ineluctable desire to escape such constraints and explore the great beyond? Check. Fallout also incorporates elements of the same tribalism tropes TWD entertained in the form of various factions.

Both Silo and Fallout play with similar themes, and both are successful within their respective streaming services.

What separates Fallout is its origin as a video game, while SIlo was originally a series of books written by Hugh Howey.

Juliette's Plan - Silo Season 1 Episode 5

The Walking Dead, Sweet Tooth, and Fallout don't do anything to separate themselves from the post-apocalyptic genre in terms of aesthetics, but they do offer their contributions and unique style. Judging by the level of fan appreciation and viewership, they are and were successful in that endeavor.

Such examples are only a few of many.

TV alone doesn't necessarily do post-apocalypse well, but it is the best conduit for the power of such storytelling. While the post-apocalypse genre can function within a two to three-hour timeframe, it has the opportunity to soar with a series format.

The Walking Dead did much to light the way, and so far, shows like Fallout, Sweet Tooth, Silo, The Last of Us, and Station Eleven are proving that the genre is in excellent hands.

Thomas Godwin is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. You can follow him on X

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