Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Walking Dead: The Zombie at its Apocalyptic Apex

In Robert Kirkman's seminal zombie apocalypse comic book, published by the fine folks over at Image Comics, the character of Rick Grimes explains to us that it isn't the undead walkers who are the walking dead, but that it is them, the survivors, those trudging through this post-apocalyptic wasteland, wondering if life will ever be normal again, who are the actual walking dead. This metaphor is never explicitly discussed in AMC's hit adaptation of the comic, but the feeling is still the same. Yes, the walkers may be a seemingly unending, undefeatable horde of monsters from Hell, but those who have survived, and fight on to see another day, are indeed the true walking dead. Their lives destroyed, their loved ones dead and gone (or sometimes not quite gone), everything they knew in the world turned on its proverbial head, morality changing by the minute, these walking dead go on and on, in a most likely vain attempt at restoring balance to the universe - a universe that has seemingly gone crazy, gone to literal Hell on Earth. And it is in this vein, this desperate, nightmarish vein, that causes The Walking Dead to be the best damn show on television these days. At least that's my opinion. Take it for what it's worth.

Granted, The Walking Dead TV show has had more than its share of haters, detractors, and nay-sayers (some overly-analytic Monday morning psychiatrists have even called the show racist, ridiculously claiming the dead are metaphors for the African-American) and has never gotten the kind of respect from Emmy voters that shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and even Game of Thrones have, but that hasn't stopped the show from gaining the most rabid of fan bases, as well as setting ratings records for cable television shows. Now I understand many being put off due to the genre (my wife can't watch the show because of the gore factor getting to her) and such a show just not being everyone's thing, but it really is a quality show. Not just a cult show, but a legitimately well-done show. I understand the Emmy snubs (at least in part) due to the show's genre, but then fantasy shows like Game of Thrones or other horror shows such as American Horror Story, have been rewarded in the past. I think any Emmy voter who did not include Melissa McBride on their Best Supporting Actress ballot this past season, needs to look at the flowers. Those who have not seen the show, will not get that last reference, but trust me, if you were a regular Walking Dead viewer, hat would be freaking hilarious. But hey, I didn't come here to lambaste Emmy voters or cry about how some people hate the show (though certain critics of the show do sound like totally clueless morons). No sir, I came here, on the eve of the show's season 5 opener, to talk about The Walking Dead. So let's get to that, shall we?

When the show debuted in October of 2010, its rather short six episode first season, quickly became a cultural phenomenon. With characters such as the born leader Rick (Andrew Lincoln), his rather annoying wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), their troublesome kid Carl (Chandler Riggs), the hotheaded Shane (Jon Berthnal), the voice of reason Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), the voice of anti-reason Andrea (Laurie Holden), and the ex-pizza delivery guy with a heart of gold Glenn (Steven Yeun), the show became a hit. This wasn't just another zombie story, full of gore and guts and lots of flesh-eating (though it did have these things in spades), but instead was a story of society and survival, loyalty and morality. Kirkman, along with series developer Frank Darabont (the latter of whom is no longer attached to the show), took a cue from George Romero's zombie series, especially Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead, and gave the series a sense of dread and doom, but layered with a still breathing humanity. As the series moved along, and other characters were thrown in (Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon quickly went from bit player to the most popular survivor in the show's four year history), we saw the original humanity erode further and further away. As other living humans became just as dangerous as the walking dead, and as society tumbled further and further away from memory, the show has gotten darker and darker, and even though my favourite season so far, has been the second one, the one spent on the farm (I think that season had the perfect blend of humanism and moral questioning) I do believe the show has, in turn, become a thing of Grand Guignol resplendence.

The show has had some great moments (turn away now, before any spoilers come your way) such as Carl's evolution from bratty kid with an attitude to stone cold killer of the undead (and sometimes the still living when necessarily), the time Shane had to take down Otis (Pruitt Taylor Vince) in order to save himself, and in turn help save Carl (sorry Otis, but I would have done the exact same thing!), the emergence of The Governor (David Morrissey) as a major threat, the addition of the katana wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira), the rise of Carol (the aforementioned Emmy snubee, Melissa McBride) from battered wife to assassin, the return of the Captain Hook-esque Meryl Dixon (the great Michael Rooker!!) as my favourite character, and his going-out-a-hero ending, that scene back in season 2 when they opened the barn, and what all came out (the best damn fifteen minutes the show has ever known), poor little misunderstood Lizzie (Brighton Sharbino) and those damn flowers she loved so much, that porn movie moment between Glenn and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in the drug store, the tragic losses of T-Dog (IronE Singleton) and Hershel (Scott Wilson), and  slew of others. Even the smaller moments (Carl eating all that pudding or Spaghetti Tuesdays) are fun. Sure, there have been some somewhat stupid moments as well, like when Andrea's life was at stake, and she kept taking time out from her attempted escape to talk to Milton. Seriously Andrea? It's called multi-tasking. Give it a try, you might still be alive if you had!! But I digress.

Now we enter the fifth season, and we find our intrepid heroes trapped inside the confines of a cannibalistic hideaway. Whatever will happen? Well, I'm sure it will be quite intense. In fact, from all I have read on the season 5 opener, they are going to be hard pressed to follow up this episode. The show differs from the comic enough that we never know what's coming next, which is part of what keeps the show, and its viewers, on all of our proverbial toes. The fact that any character (and to all you Daryl lovers out there, I do mean ANY character) can at any time, bite the dust, keeps it all rather intense as well. And even though, as I stated above, I personally consider season 2 to be the best, this show, right here and right now, is the Zombie at its apocalyptic apex. Not that the term zombie has ever been used in the show. Anyhoo, I plan on watching until the undead cows come home (already, several days before season 5 begins, AMC has renewed the show for a sixth season) even if it does seem like forever during the extra long wait time between seasons. But now, it's finally here. Almost time to watch. Yeah, baby!

1 comment:

  1. It just makes me feel too depressed. I know it is good from all I have read and heard but it just feels so hopeless and I am not one for that as it often seeps into my dreams. I am seriously needing musicals:) I agree that many great shows go unnoticed. I think of Star Trek :TNG