The Walking Dead
Ah, the zombie apocalypse, truly the escapist fantasy of our generation. For what young man has not envisioned himself walking through a barren husk of a metropolis, brandishing a shotgun in one hand and a lobotomizer in the other, wearily preparing to stand off against undead, savage, cannibalistic automatons, whilst defending what remains of humanity? Oh the repugnant joy we would feel as we claw and hack at the onslaught of mindless, decaying, and once normal humans, while they suffocate us with their numbers and brain-thirst, and shower us and our party with their blood and viscera drawn out by our shotgun blasts.
Okay, that is probably enough, but the zombie nation does seem to have a lot of appeal in our current mainstream culture. Everything, from B-movies, and comic books, to adaptations of classic literature seem to explore the possibilities of a world overrun with the undead, and there does not seem to be any end in its popularity. Perhaps it is because the zombie apocalypse is the ultimate metaphor for individuality: the lone freethinking individual must battle against waves of mindless drones unable to overcome the monotony of their lives. Or maybe it is because the unrelenting gore satisfies some primal bloodlust skulking within all of us. Regardless of the reason, we love the geek show.
Currently, AMC is airing the series “The Walking Dead,” which explores the lives of several survivors as they hobble for safety in zombie-ravaged Georgia. The show just completed its first, six-episode, season and plans on airing its second, twelve-episode, season this fall. With the longer format, the show is able to explore its characters in greater detail, rather than casting out un-compelling stock characters to be knocked off one by one, which is usually the case in zombie films. You get to know the characters a lot better, and get to feel for them. It is fascinating to explore how human beings would react when pushed to the brink. You can explore some tough facets of human nature, while preventing things from getting too grave by having this fantastic central element. You can have a scene of two sisters discussing the grief over the loss of their father, followed by a scene of a zombie getting decapitated by a shovel. This is appealing to me, because I can indulge in melodrama without being bored by the long expositions, or being depressed by the harsh realities of the real world. Nothing needs to be real except for the emotions and reactions of the characters.
There is one big drawback however. Ultimately, there is not a lot for the characters to do but to run and hide, from campsite to compound to campsite. They just sit around waiting for the zombies to attack, then the zombies attack, and they move to the next campsite. On top of that, they do not have much to do in a day other than sit around, or go fishing. There is no intriguing plot device to propel the plot forward, and no fascinating antagonist, with zombies having absolutely nothing interesting to say. All they do is shuffle forward, moan, and chew. I fear it will get very boring over time. In fact, boredom was a key theme in “Dawn of The Dead,” which was the progenitor of the zombie subgenre, and to me, it seems a daunting task for the creators and the writers to keep the show fresh and interesting. I feel like there are already signs of the writers struggling with the finale of the first season featuring a timer that comes out of nowhere counting down to an explosion from which the survivors all of a sudden have to escape (oh, and how about this for a medical device?) It seemed like a lazy plot device to move things along, and I hope twelve episodes do not prove to be too much for the writers. It would be really terrible if this punk metaphor against the mindless monotonies of developed society becomes tedious and boring.