Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Way of All Flesh

The Walking DeadI was going to make a joke about brain-eating zombies and the Republicans, but I decided not to. Ha! No, I’m actually taking a break from politics in this entry (although I’ll probably watch the first hour of tonight’s debate...I’ve discovered that an hour is about all I can stomach) to write about my current favorite TV show, “The Walking Dead.” (AMC 8/9 pm Central/Eastern)

I’ve dug zombies (see what I did there?) for a long time. I remember seeing the original “Dawn of the Dead” in the theater with my sister Diana (also a fan of horror movies) and being totally creeped out. I’m sure I saw “Night of the Living Dead” as a kid, because I was always watching such movies, but I’ve watched it more times as an adult. I wouldn’t say that I’m a zombie aficionado, because I haven’t seen every zombie movie that’s been made, but it definitely is one of my favorite genres. There is so much you can do with the subject, you know? Slow zombies, fast zombies, infection, alien invasion, adult zombies, kid zombies, and so on. In “Zombieland,” we even got Bill Murray Zombie. (The same can be said of vampire movies, which I also love, but there are some differences, both physically and psychologically. A topic for another day.)

One of the most fascinating aspects of zombie movies to me is the one I just mentioned: the psychological. How do survivors deal with the post-apocalypse world? How do you deal with possibly having to face consumption by a dead loved one, and are you able to put your feelings for them aside in order to save your own life? Will you be strong enough to hang on in a world gone mad, or will you “opt out?” Much has been written about the political aspects of the zombie genre, and I think it’s a legitimate discussion. There is the mindless shuffling of the zombies, which is related to both Republicans and Democrats, as well as to our consumer-oriented society. (George Romero did this best in “Dawn of the Dead,” with the zombies inhabiting a shopping mall.) And of course, there’s the requisite gore. When you have to kill a zombie by nailing them in the brain, you’re bound to have some gore.

“The Walking Dead” incorporates all this to perfection. Obviously, it’s not for everyone, and I’m amazed at the amount of gore they get away with on AMC...and they’ve even stepped it up the second season. It’s a goo fest, make no mistake about it. Those scenes are satisfying for the squirm factor, but the best part of the show is how the survivors are dealing with this odd new world into which they’ve been thrown. The power structure is fascinating, with Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his deputy Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) being the de facto leaders of the group. However, Rick has doubts about his ability to lead; he does the best he can, but there are inevitably those who criticize his decisions. Shane brings a different dynamic to the power structure, especially since everyone originally thought Rick was dead, so Shane took Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) under his wing and into his bed; he also became a substitute father for Rick and Lori’s son, Carl. When Rick shows up, miraculously alive, the resentment of Shane and the anger of Lori (she thought Shane was lying about Rick being dead, but he really did think that he was) become part of the mix.

The Walking Dead2I won’t go into all the relationships in the show, but that should give you an idea of the complexity of the interaction, and the potential for both conflict and cooperation. I find that I’m as fascinated by the continuing character development as I am by the whole zombie apocalypse storyline. In the very first episode, I recall saying that I hoped Shane would get eaten by zombies soon, because of his rather misogynistic attitude; he has since become one of my favorite characters. He thought he was doing the right thing by taking Lori and Carl as his own family and trying to protect them, but with the return of Rick, he’s angry and hurt. He tries to shut down and plans on taking off on his own, but with the ending of the season premier, it looks as though he regains his compassion and will probably stay a part of the group. Can the conflict between him and Lori be resolved? Can Shane let it go and find someone else? What will happen if Rick finds out that Shane wasn’t just protecting his wife, he was screwing her, too? I’m telling you, I’m dying to find out. Well, not literally! I will not be reading the graphic novels to find out what happens, though. I want the show to surprise me.

I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this show. Usually if I’m watching something, I might be at the computer, or doing something in the kitchen, but not for this one. I plant my ass on that couch and am glued to what is happening. (Hint: do NOT call me while it’s on!) The tension is almost unbearable at times, and it would probably take a nuclear bomb to disturb my focus. It is incredibly well-done—I would say movie quality rather than TV quality—and well-directed. Frank Darabont is the director. That’s the guy who wrote the screenplays for and directed “The Shawshank Redemption” and “The Green Mile.” Yeah. He’s pretty good. With a wonderful cast and incredible makeup artists (the best zombies you’ll ever see), it’s a combination that can’t lose.

This was my ode to “The Walking Dead.” If you don’t like it, make like a zombie and bite me! [grin]


  1. Great review! I also love this show. It has complex and interesting character development and enough scary moments to make me inadvertently scream ou loud a few times each episode. I'm so glad that the new season has started. I didn't see the ending of this first episode coming!

    The idea of the zombie intrigues me because of the fear of dying that so many people have. What could be worse than dying? Walking around as the living dead with the only goal to eat the living. I find zombies scarier than vampires. Vampires are dead but they still have their mental faculties. If I had a choice, I'd rather become a vampire than a zombie. Okay, I admit, I get totally carried away when it comes to discussing horror movies and books.

  2. Oh, and vampires are way better looking than zombies!

  3. Loved the extras from our re-watch of the first season. Rick is such a great character, flawed but the leader of the pack. Love Sundays!

  4. I still have this season's premier DVR'ed and can't wait to see it!

  5. ... I will have to trust your judgment on this show... not that the gore would chase me off but I never think about 'appointment television' other than a football game!


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