As AMC’s The Walking Dead progresses into its third season, the influence of the source material begins to make itself known. So sleep with the light on.
10/14/2012 The Episode 1 review is here.
In the Frank Darabont Directed Stephen King adaptation The Mist (2007), viewers witness the abrupt dissolution of modern society and a rapid regression into a God-fearing, medieval worldview, all of it playing out in the petri dish of ordinary people trapped in a grocery store. Shortly before the climax, a formerly reclusive Bible thumper incites the mob of Kroger Nation with the intent of killing a child.
Darabont is best when working with a strong writer, and in this category Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead comic book serial, certainly qualifies. In the most recent season, Kirkman and Darabont shared in a considerably large masthead, and I worried that too many cooks would spoil the proverbial broth. I am happy to say that, despite a longer wait from set up to pay off, I still experience extreme feelings of disquiet and horror by watching this show.
The term undead commonly describes all manner of supernatural creatures, but most often the image evoked is that of zombies–far more than vampires, Frankenstein monsters, friendly ghosts etc. Unlife can be considered code, a label for an existence that would be dubbed a “lifetime” if the creature in question was in fact living. If we are to accept that The Walking Dead takes place in a world where the dominant species is in fact undead, then this world operates on an entirely different set of rules.
An example: I’m TERRIFIED OF TENTS thanks to Robert Kirkman.
Let me elaborate. Anyone raised in an urban environment will likely have connotations to the way a modern tent looks, sounds (the zipper on the flap, the sound of wind at night), and even feels (the vinyl, the woven screen) or smells (especially if it was a tent bought recently, and used seldom).
A tent in a forest in a world populated by “walkers” will represent nothing in common with our happy childhood memories: it will be a source of trepidation and apprehension as we creep towards it, shotguns at the ready, eyes and ears strained for any sign of movement.
The appeal of a world populated by unliving human beings takes many forms according to the beholder. Many see it as a story of chickens coming home to roost for humanity–world peace through the slow and steady consumption of brains. It’s a thrill, but it doesn’t mean one is wrong, sick, or desensitized for enjoying it. The sensation that drives the appeal of watching a show or a film like this thrives on the negative stimulus it presents to the audience.
Some members of this audience, like me, respond to the survivor’s ongoing quest for survival in the wake of the apocalypse. We thrill as societal taboos slip away, and humans become predators as deadly and dangerous, if not more so, than the unliving. Is the upholding of moral values, the “rule of law” as it existed before the globe got coated in walking dead people, even worth a year old pack of Lunchables and a pot of boiled water?
The characters who have had the good fortune of surviving to this point have also changed. Unfortunately they don’t appear to be changing for the better, or getting any smarter.
The Grimes Family will never be the same after Shane’s very belated death. Neither Rick nor Lori (especially not Lori) recognize the extent to which their son has been emotionally traumatized. Psychotic nihilist Andrea struts around in her tight jeans, enjoying her new zombie killer persona, and doesn’t appear to give two shits about anyone or anything. The late-season revelation that everyone who dies becomes a zombie, regardless of the cause, seems pretty much irrelevant to the characters at this point.
Living in such a world does not sound nice to me. It does not sound like fun. There is no place for the majority of human beings in Western Civilization in the shit-colored nightmare that is unlife. And for the rest, could it possibly be a life worth living? How much can the soul take?
In the world of The Walking Dead, terrible things have happened so far, with even worse to come. There’s no way I can stop now.
Consider me bitten.
See you all Sunday Night. I’ll be blogging here about all of the awfulness I must witness. Because like all of the rest of you I simply cannot help myself.
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