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Why The Walking Dead's Opening Credits Are More Important Than You Think

As Season 11 of AMC's hit drama "The Walking Dead" hurtles towards a climactic series finale, it's worth taking some time to look back at just how far the show has come. So much has changed over the years: We've seen the deaths of dozens of fan-favorite characters, the departure of series staples like Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira), and we've even seen villains of the past return to ally themselves with the likes of Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan).

Speaking of Daryl and Maggie, aside from Carol (Melissa McBride), there are no other survivors remaining from that original team headed by Rick and friends at the series' start. If you were to start watching today, after having only seen the first couple seasons, you might not even recognize it as the same show.

That's not to say everything has changed. In fact, there's one thing that has stayed almost completely consistent the entire time the series has been on air: its iconic opening credits score. To this day, the opening credits of each episode are backed by the same haunting violin riff that became synonymous with "The Walking Dead" from its earliest episodes. Interestingly, the opening credits themselves have changed frequently, and there's one key detail in the way they change that is extremely important to the show as a whole. It's something so subtle, even super fans might have missed it.

A gradual descent into chaos

One of the things that set "The Walking Dead" apart from traditional zombie media is the series' emphasis on what the zombie apocalypse does to people. The true monsters of the series aren't the walkers that terrorize the surviving remnants of humanity, they're people like Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Governor (David Morrissey), whose desperation forces them to make horrific choices in the name of survival.

Watching the decline of the world around our characters has always been a major focus of the show, and this theme of deterioration is subtly referenced in the opening credits of the show each new season. The opening credits deteriorate a bit more each season — specifically in the final title card the reads "The Walking Dead."

In Season 1, this title card was simply a set of dull yellow letters against a black background, but those letters take on new wounds after each season — at first, just a small chip or crack there, nothing too bad. Over the years those cracks have added up, and by Season 11, the title card looks like it's been through hell and back: dripping blood, decaying into an ugly green tinge in some places, and crumbling away into dust in others.

This gradual decay is something you wouldn't notice watching the series progress naturally, and it's such a neat little way of reminding the audience how much this apocalypse has progressed since Season 1.