The amount of times that I end up in the fetal position, screaming at the television every episode is truly astounding. In my house, everyone knows when The Walking Dead is on, usually because I'm screaming at everyone to be quiet. And it's not hard to guess what happens every episode, even when my family isn't watching. By now they know exactly how to distinguish my screams, usually by octave and length. It's quite marvelous, actually. Never in my life did I think that this much of my time and brain space would be devoted to a TV show. I used to be ashamed of that, but I'm not anymore. Because the way I see it, the show is great. And in some aspects, I think it's pretty damn groundbreaking.

I know a lot of people who cringe when I mention The Walking Dead, and I can see why. Admittedly, the show is bloody as hell. And it's not just ill-placed buckets of blood with a few jump scares thrown in. This is eerie, honest, anatomically correct, and realistic gore. Brains, guts, the whole deal. If you're the kind of person that can't handle that kind of stuff, the show very obviously isn't for you. But for the people like me who've watched the show since Season 1, you're kind of desensitized to the violence by now. I've always thought that the intense realism that this show provides is what adds to the overall quality of it. The realism makes it scarier, the actors aren't just dumped in fake blood. You know that they get hurt. Yes, it's damn gross, but I think it's just enough.

Another reason that I love this show so much is a magnificent and always scruffy man named Norman Reedus. Others would know him as the actor who plays the beloved antihero and fan favorite on the show - Daryl Dixon. I love this man, and Lord knows I love Daryl too. For one birthday when I was still in high school, my dad wrapped my present in nothing but pictures of Norman's face. True story, it was a printout from Google images, and I could not have been happier at the time. I also never thought that this much of my time would be devoted to loving a man who bases most of his sex appeal off of the fact that he perpetually looks in need of a shower. And he's also 46 years old, but that's okay. You know why? Because he's younger than my dad, that's why. I have plenty of twisted rules that make my love for this man okay. But in all honesty, this is just a really cool guy playing an awesome, multi-dimensional, truly lovable character.

And there's another thing. The characters on this show are - all of them - pretty damn awesome. It's obvious, when you watch enough episodes, that the writers spend a good amount of time giving each character a really detailed back story to work off of. And, like Daryl, they're very easy to fall in love with. Even in bad guys like Negan and The Governor, under all that hatred, you can kind of see why they turned out the way that they did. And the characters you're supposed to root for like Rick, Daryl, and Michonne, they're not all perfect either. Sometimes they make very questionable decisions that make you doubt just how good they really are. They don't do everything right, and that makes them human. And that humanity makes them very easy to rally behind in a fight.

All of the characters are great, but I think the lead female characters are definitely worth taking a second to talk about. Most of them lack emotional connections to men and thrive in that world without the basis of a romantic relationship to fall back on. Carol in Season 6 is a strong and independent fighter, but started out in Season 1 as a wife in an abusive marriage, trying to protect her daughter. Michonne chose to travel alone, and did not pursue a relationship until she knew that she was okay on her own. A few women chose romance, others chose to take on domestic tasks like cooking and cleaning for the group, and others chose to fight. Now of course these women still have perfectly plucked eyebrows and shaved armpits in the apocalypse, this is TV. But my point is that you don't just see the overused trope of women cowering in the corner while the men kick ass. And you don't just see the stereotypical leather clad, oversexualized badass that some women are in apocalypse dramas. There are women of all kinds in this show. They choose their own paths, and that gives them power. I think that makes the women on this show pretty amazing role models.

There's one scene on The Walking Dead that gets me every time I watch it. It's the Season 6 mid-season premiere and most articles I read call it the "Battle for Alexandria." In the scene's climax, all the main characters are shown, one after the other, beating the absolute shit out of the hoard of walkers invading their hometown. It's one of those scenes that makes you get up and cheer, and when it's over you sit back and think, "Damn, did I really just do that?" It shows the characters you have loved since the beginning fighting side by side, set to this epic, sweeping battle music that you could probably see in a war movie. And I've watched this specific scene way more times than I can count. I think this shows the true power that this show has over its viewers. It sucks you into the survivors lives, and in every battle it's like you're fighting right there with them.

So, yeah, I used to be embarrassed about my intense devotion to this show. But when I stop and think about it, there's some pretty obvious reasons for that. The writing is good, that acting is good, everything is just so damn good. Okay, I have been following this show since Day 1, so maybe I am slightly biased. But can you blame me? I love the idea of a rag-tag group of misfits sacrificing their lives and putting themselves in dangerous situations, all because they consider each other family. The show is gritty, honest, and really bleak at times. But underneath all that hopelessness and death, sometimes there are little smidgeons of good. And you see that in what these survivors are willing to do to protect each other. Wipe away all that gore and, well, that just gives me the warm fuzzies.