Walking With Zombies
I’m not quite certain how I feel about AMC’s new horror series, The Walking Dead. I have enough of an interest in zombie apocalypse stories to be intrigued by an ongoing serial. Yet, having watched the first four episodes, I’m still unconvinced that it has much to offer beyond open-endedness. It’s Dawn of the Dead without a race to the chopper.
That’s not to say that The Walking Dead is anything less than competent. It’s good enough. It’s just that this setting has been so well explored in the 42 years (!!!) since George Romero’s brood shambled their way onscreen that there’s not much new in zombietown.
One (annoying) way in which the series attempts to set itself apart is that the word “zombie” is never invoked. Everyone refers to the flesh-munchers as “walkers.” Because when one considers animated, cannibalistic corpses, the first thing that comes to mind is the walking. It’s stupid, fake slang, and it pisses me off. Even if this is somehow a world which never produced a zombie film, surely there’d be a more apt term for the undead. Like, for instance, “undead.”
More realistic but no less irritating are the handful of utter douchebags mixed into the large cast of characters. There’s Merle the racist redneck, his brother Daryl (his “other brother Daryl” is absent), and a wife-beater (and possible pedophile) whose name I never registered, but who got eaten anyway, so there’s that.
It’s been pointed out to me that it’s not at all unlikely that d-bags would overcome the early stages of a zombie plague, what with their guns and sheer cussedness. I can accept that. It’s just that I don’t see a compelling argument for purposely inviting them into an otherwise tightly-knit band of survivors.
Rick, our presumed hero, risks a return trip to ghoul-overrun Atlanta to rescue Merle, who was left behind when Rick (quite rightly) handcuffed his sorry ass to a rooftop pipe. Okay, I get that Rick’s a decent guy and doesn’t like leaving a man to die, even if he really, really asked for it. But, aside from proving a point, what’s the benefit? Safety in numbers, perhaps, but is it worth the risk? Returning Merle to the fold would mean that they once again would have a belligerent, violent asshole disrupting their plans and being a general menace.
Sure, I understand that zombie apocalypse stories are about the choices we make to survive a breakdown of society. And without someone to cause conflict, you’ve got Star Trek: The Next Generation. But really, if we can’t draw the line at wife-beaters who sit around watching the women do all of the work, who can we exclude from our brave, new world?