What is it about zombies?
I’m marathoning The Walking Dead as I write this. I’ve been with this show from season 1 episode 1. I am a black Caribbean female who is not a huge fan of gore or slasher fics. But I do love me a good zombie movie so when I saw the first set of previews for The Walking Dead, I was in. Almost five seasons later, I’m still here. And it’s not for the guts and gore.
I love man of action Daryl but not just because he looks like sex on wheels and wields a mean cross bow. I like how his character has evolved from a loner and a little brother with self esteem issues balanced out by mad survival skills to a core member of the group who has proven his courage, his tenacity and his heart and shown his vulnerability.
I love that Rick struggles with trying to hold on to his humanity and continues to put one foot in front of the other even when he feels like giving up because he has a deeply rooted sense of honour and responsibility; and it’s that core that makes it that much more heart wrenching when he breaks apart – as he did when his wife died. Some were impatient with him, there’s no time to grieve loss and have breakdowns in a zombie apocalypse but he is just human…as are we.
I’m loving Carol’s season 4 arc. I’m a little ashamed to admit that season 2 Carol annoyed me because yes I see the contradiction in that, considering what I just said about Rick; she had just lost her daughter and maybe me and other viewers like me could have been a bit more patient with her, even if she did depress the hell out of us. In any case, this much more capable – if slightly more scary Carol (seriously, if she tells you to look at the flowers, run) – is much more entertaining to watch, and the trajectory of her journey much more interesting in the full. She has blossomed now that she’s no longer under the heel of her abusive husband though it could be argued that she’s past a tipping point where even as you applaud her strength and badassery, you mourn the loss of her humanity (killing for the greater good) – but, hey, if Carl can come back from the edge…
Michonne, watching her learn to become a part of a society again; Hershel, the conscience of the group and yet likeable in a way Dale never was (for me); and, yes, even Carl (from clueless kid to efficient killer-slash-child of the corn to tantrumming teen to boy becoming young man) are all interesting to me.
Point is, I love the characters’ journeys – the interactions and the inner journeying – and if I do get frustrated with anything it’s character contradictions that feel less organic or more like the character just jumped the shark – season 3 Andrea, anyone? I mean say what you will about Lori but she was consistently exasperating.
I love that The Walking Dead isn’t just about zombie kill after zombie kill, and that the producers, writers, directors slow the pace enough to force us, yes, the viewers, to confront who are you when all of society is stripped away – like a modern day Lord of the Flies. No, that’s not a stretch at all; think about it – who are you when no longer confined by laws and social protocols? In some of us, the survival instinct is strong, and we related to Shane’s ability to make tough, albeit highly unethical judgment calls (for the greater good); and isn’t that a bit unsettling. Because if we survive at all costs, how different are we from the dead, mindlessly seeking flesh, and if we do survive, find a cure, whatever, what of our humanity will be left, and can things ever go back to what they were?
I remain engaged by the Walking Dead because it places that big question before us – who are you?
All that and the thrill of zombie kills.