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It ain’t easy taking “The Walking Dead” seriously. While the AMC series’ gargantuan ratings attest to its many fans, few journalists have acknowledged the show’s artistic integrity.

Until now, that is.

Three TV critics have suddenly lavished unprecedented praise on “TWD” based on its last three episodes. As Andy Greenwald of Grantland put it on Nov. 5, “The show that returned for its fifth season last month isn’t just improved, it has taken a wildly unexpected turn toward being great.”

That courageously counterintuitive sentiment cleared a path for two more critics, Indiewire’s Sam Adams and Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff, to issue similar estimations in the days that followed.

And just in case the backhanded nature of Greenwald’s compliment wasn’t clear in qualifying it as “wildly unexpected,” he characterized his opinion of the show’s earlier seasons thusly: “The show was noisy, violent and unrelentingly dumb.”

Well then, showrunner Scott M. Gimple must be so gratified his series magically stopped sucking only once the fifth season began in order to earn these generous reappraisals. Which isn’t to say Greenwald & Co. haven’t developed finely honed rationalizations for not seeing the show’s greatness years ago, conveying everything from some vague sense that its characters are now fully realized to recent storylines that puts the cast moving on the road instead of fighting zombies in one location.

As someone who has written previously about the injustice of “TWD” not getting the respect it deserves, I suppose this should make me feel validated, as if I simply came early to a party that is now officially cool. But what sticks in my craw is the ridiculous notion that “TWD” recently experienced some qualitative quantum leap about 60 episodes into its run.

It’s not that I can’t understand why respecting “TWD” is not a good look for any self-respecting critic. Anything with a zombie in it is presumed to be shlock. And even the show’s popularity works against it considering most critics prefer championing the under-watched.

But if accepting this fresh wave of critical acclaim is tantamount to conceding that the show wasn’t plenty awesome all along, let’s just all go back to ignoring “TWD.”

Wouldn’t it have been great if just one of these critics wrote a more honest commentary admitting they ovelooked the greatness all these years and are now jumping on the “TWD” bandwagon, instead of sharing some self-delusion that the show just got better on a dime?

Don’t take it from me. Go back and watch to see what you obviously missed.