SPOILER ALERT…can’t say I didn’t warn you.
This week’s reference material:
The Walking Dead Graphic Novel
The Walking Dead Television Series
The Walking Dead is one of the most revelvant zombie shows of our generation, if not the most popular. Unlike other zombie media the Walking Dead as a TV show shows us more character depth and more more issues than a regular, 2 hour movie can do. This is realistic to a real disaster – we do not know the personalities of people, the ramifications of our choices, the reality of the disasters we are in, nor can we learn this all right from the beginning. It takes time. However, when we look at the zombie we can see that the story really is not about the about the zombies. It is really about the humans. In order to fully realize this we have to look at how the human and the zombie is developed in the Walking Dead.
The story of the Walking dead centres around Rick Grimes and his group, who are made up of a diverse amount of people with different skills to offer. Throughout the three seasons, they battle zombies that have taken over civilizations, eating the flesh of humans and spreading the disease. Rick’s group struggles to survive in the aftermath of society. However, as the seasons progress, the zombie is an enemy that is becoming fazed out. We seem to be bored of seeing the same problem, that the zombie is becoming a background nuisance, like living with a really big ant problem. The zombie is an enemy like an ant is. It invades, it can be held at bay, but also it can only progress so much – at some point, it will just be an ant, no longer growing or developing.
Zombies Never Change
Death is finality. It is the end of your spirit, and the end of your development. The zombie, a manifestation of death in a constant live state, is not developable They do not have priorities, they do not have personalities and they do not have changes of heart. They have one goal that never changes, even if they complete it. The zombie does not grow or become anything new. It does not have the potential to be good or evil. This takes them from scary, to unnecessary. The initial shock is over – once it was figured out the zombie cannot be changed, the Walking Dead introduced human enemies and the zombie became a backdrop. Instead, it is now the humans who have become more dangerous and threatening then the zombies themselves. The reason is obvious; after the human is changed to zombie, there is not much else it can be developed in to. It cannot become an arms master. It cannot become anything intelligent. In order for the enemy to stay interesting, it needs to be able to be developed. The changes in the enemy and the hero is what keeps us paying attention. Where did the zombie stray from being powerful?
Back When The Zombie Was Strong
If we look at the zombie in the beginning of the outbreak, we see a clear enemy. The zombie is also the ultimate enemy. They not only kill and eat you, but they also have no emotion, no reasons for attacking besides primal urges. What’s more is that every zombie that bites or kills a human creates another recruit. The army is ever expanding. Even when a human dies naturally, the army expands more. The humans are outnumbered.
This situation is bleak. The enemy is clear. The humans do not stand a chance. However with time, in the Walking Dead, the situation changes. It becomes about the survivor’s feelings, thoughts, actions, and ultimate development or regression. The movement between morality and immoral choices. The first season was very much about survival of the situation. They worked together to find their basic needs. Once those were satisfied in season 2 (Hershel farm provides necessary shelter) the story line deepened. The story became less about zombies and more about the human folly. The situation was adapted, the characters began to developed, and again they were driven out by the infestation and they left the zombie horde in the dust. Thankfully, since the zombie can’t be developed, it didn’t suddenly come up with any tactics to get to the humans. They humans have the upper hand.
In season three, the zombie is nothing more than a nuisance The group practices a c-section with one. They take wedding rings off of them. They are used as weapons. They are used as protection. The zombie therefore, becomes a tool and not a complete enemy. It is clear that the enemy has changed to something more developed – a human being who fell from grace and developed into something evil. As for the zombie, its back-seat has established the zombie as something new – a situation. A problem that forces them to adapt to a new world, strive for a goal, and find real problems in this new society. The zombie is no longer an enemy, because it cannot adapt. It is the bottom of the food chain. It is now just a plot device to be used by humans. The human can achieve this heightened position because it is able to adapt to its situation. It can learn to use guns, to kill zombies, to travel on foot for miles, and to survive in a way a zombie cannot. The human can also become the enemy. What makes the human and zombie ultimate different is that survival of the fittest requires us to develop, adapt, and change. The zombies will be no different than what they are, dying animals who blend into the background as nothing more than a problem the survivors must work around.
With the human the new enemy, a more relatable enemy, a person fighting to survive the zombie apocalypse, there is a way the zombie hood is used as a weapon that goes beyond the rest, and why the human is a more worthy enemy. Only a human could rationalize why this works.
Three times, the Governor has killed people just enough in a way that became the ultimate betray. He killed half the people in his group enough that they died, became zombies, and ate their friends. He killed Merle in a way that ensured he would come back as a zombie and perhaps kill his brother or at the very least, cause pain. Finally, he stabbed Milton in order for him to come back and kill Andrea while she was chained in a chair. The ultimate betrayal is represented here as the brainchild of the new enemy. He developed enough to realize that the underdeveloped zombie, the one without morality complexes and consciousness, the thing that everyone in the Walking Dead fears, was the ultimate weapon. The zombies will do the dirty work, because their is no way they would refuse. They cannot decide not to. And in the dying breaths of those he killed, they know that is their faith. They will kill because of him. They will become part of the army because of him. They will no longer be able to decide what is right and wrong. There is no recovery, only regression.
The zombie is not the enemy. Becoming a zombie because it is beyond control. It is not a premeditated murder. However, we know that humans have decision making. We know that they have the potential to be good. When they choose to be evil, when they chose to be immoral, we know that this decision was one of free will. That is the scary truth. That is where the line between human and zombie is drawn, because the human can become evil. The zombie was forced to.
We know who the enemy is. The zombie just becomes a background piece, a tool, a betrayal mechanism a horrible situation that directs the actions of the survivors, whether they be good or bad.
In the end, the zombie takes a back seat to the true walking dead. They are the humans who struggle between good and evil. The humans who are the real enemy.The enemy is the evil you cannot predict, the ones who will kill you for a can of food, who become unfeeling, who change to something dark and resistant to compassion and old world morals, willing to kill for those they love, clouded by emotions they cannot control.
What is interesting is that, in a way, our society influenced this push for new enemy. As far as TV series go, the enemy must be developable and changeable in order for the series to go on. Why? We get bored to easily. We need excitement. This is why the zombie is a good enemy for a 2-hour feature film, but for a 13 hour series that is renewed each year, the natural progression was to an enemy more developable, someone who could switch between good and evil, do things we would expect and unexpect. The zombie, unfortunately is a one track mind. We pushed it back simply with our own boredom and the necessity by networks to sustain views. We did this to the zombie, whose place as a real enemy is only on the big screen.
See you later,
Next week will be comedy week. AWWWWWW YEAAHHH. Good times.