When it comes to visual expression and artistic worth, television isn't really seen as the pinnacle of the form. This general disregard for the medium means that words like "televisual" are used as an insult to films that are lacking in a distinct or professional aesthetic, though is this really a fair judgement? TV isn't the most visually expressive medium, that's true. Thanks to limited budgets and time, TV is usually filmed fairly quickly, which can lead to a more generic or uninspired style. But that's not to say there isn't anything of worth on TV. In fact, recently it's been quite the contrary. Hits such as Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and True Detective are producing episodes that rival, and even better, film aesthetic. This brings us to The Walking Dead, one of the most watched American TV shows of recent memory, just heading into the early days of its 5th season. The Walking Dead is quite an anomaly when it comes to TV, because both visually and narratively, there's nothing else quite like it on the small screen.

At first glance The Walking Dead might not appear to be an obvious choice for this article series, but bare with me. The most impressive thing initially with The Walking Dead is how well it manages to transfer an inherently filmic sub-genre over to the small screen. The episodic nature of the zombie movie seems obvious for a TV transfer, but there's no point if you don't have the budget, time and imagination to successfully pull off the world-building. Monster creation, environment design, and world credibility all need to be professional and believable otherwise you've stalled straight out of the gate. That said, the world the characters occupy in The Walking Dead is the most hauntingly beautiful space I've seen in a zombie story in any medium.

It all kicks off in a relatively realistic setting. If not for the pesky zombies, The Walking Dead's representation of Suburban America in its initial episodes is the familiar one we're all used to. But what this show does best is the slow and subtle evolution of its world. The first few seasons portray a Southern America that juxtaposes bursts of gory horror with an otherwise unblemished industrial state. It's scary because it's so off-putting and unnatural; these streets, farms and woodland have been tarnished by something sinister. It's a brilliant mix of the familiar and the otherworldly.

Gradually, the environment evolves (or devolves?) into the classic familiar tropes of post-apocalyptic fiction: run-down buildings, overgrown woodlands, burned out cars, deserted streets dense with vehicles - everything you'd expect to see at the end of the world is laboriously detailed in The Walking Dead. It's not that these tropes aren't there from the beginning, it's that they increase in frequency as the series goes on. This decay happening gradually without you really knowing is an essential subtle technique that The Walking Dead nails gloriously.

This weathered, ageing evolution is also used on the character designs. As the seasons progress characters get dirtier, sweatier and hairier. The clean-shaved do-gooder Rick Grimes of season 1 looks nothing like the beaten down, homeless survivalist Rick Grimes of season 4. Even the zombies themselves, at first all distinct, devolve into a colour-coded hive-mind swarm as the seasons evolve. This is where The Walking Dead proves that TV has the ability to do aesthetic in a more sophisticated way than film. This level of progression and aesthetic development would seem jarring and obvious in a 2 hour film, but over 4 seasons it feels like a natural and subtle continuation of the world.

When The Walking Dead is at its visual best it straddles both its film inspirations as well as its comic book roots. Shots and scenes can be, and often are, translated beautifully straight from the comic book source. These translated scenes usually take the form of the more violent sections of the comic, while the TV show imbues them with such a cinematic flare that it's hard to not be impressed. Thankfully, for a fast-paced mainstream action show, The Walking Dead knows when it should slow down and reflect. The best parts of The Walking Dead often aren't the massive fire-fights or the close-calls with the walkers, but something quieter and simpler. Watching as two characters symbolically burn down a deserted house or just catching the fleeting image of a family's last words etched into a wall without explanation can be both incredibly powerful and poignant.

While on the surface The Walking Dead might not appear to be pushing new ground in television aesthetic, look a little deeper and you will find an extremely detailed horror landscape unlike any other on TV. The show manages to viscerally capture the grotesque brutality of a post-apocalyptic world, yet it doesn't skimp on the much needed wide-eyed wonder and moments of hopeful poignancy. For every five crushingly depressing things that happen in The Walking Dead there's always one moment of promise that things might just get better for these characters and this world. Thanks to this, The Walking Dead never becomes unbearable.

The Walking Dead works so well because of how consistently stunning it can be. It's an often overlooked aspect of the TV show but it's so vital to making something like this work as well as it does on the small screen. The next time you sit down to watch The Walking Dead, or in fact anything on TV, actually sit down to watch it - you might just find yourself surprised by how much of an interesting and unique visual experience it can be.