I’m late to the party on this. I watched the opening episode of The Walking Dead’s new season and it’s a week later. A lot has happened since then and that may have coloured my view of the show. I may not watch it again. Six years and I may be done. That’s a lot of time to invest in a show. I remember watching Season 2 while feeding my newborn daughter and questioning my parenting credentials.
I’ve always been a subscriber to the idea that zombie shows encapsulate our fear of death. Zombies have always been lumbering, clumsy monsters. On their own they are not scary. It’s more that they are relentless in their pursuit and it’s more about being overwhelmed but still there is the threat that a careless moment will be your undoing. They embody the creed of “it’s out there and it’s going to get you”.
This is why I don’t like ‘modern’ running zombies of the [insert time period] of the Dead remakes. They miss the point.
Back to The Walking Dead, a show and comic that has been more about the horrors of survival and what people are capable of in an environment free of the normal social and moral constraints provided by the thinnest veneer of our civilization.
For much of the show it has trodden the fine line on this. Yes, there has been gore but to steal a phrase (and the show) it’s been more Talking Dead than just zombie kill of the week.
This season opener abandoned that. It was a horrible watch but what really did it was the Talking Dead episode afterwards that sealed it for me. After 45 minutes of torture porn and watching visceral and brutal violence played out I then watched a show conducted more like a memorial service than any sort of reflection. We saw the usual cast as family stories trotted out and slow motion recaps of the dead characters played out with the usual sad strings to remind us how sad it was.
Maybe it was a cultural thing but the whole premise of a show as therapy seemed distasteful. I understand that it can be sad when a fictional character is killed but to deem it worthy of some collective outpouring of grief irritated me.
This may well have to do with having lost my father only a few weeks before but I found the idea that the death of a fiction was in any way comparable to that of a real person left an unpleasant taste.
Why? Because a fictional death has been orchestrated, planned and delivered. It has been written to achieve an effect be that to ‘reset’ the story line or shock the audience. The ‘shocking’ deaths were brutal. I get that The Walking Dead is unlikely to feature a particularly subtle take on any topic but this was (boom tish) overkill.
I watched as a chortling author and show runner described how all of this horrific violence was necessary to the story, necessary to show the ‘breaking of Rick’.
This buys into a false notion that The Killing Joke slipped into. The idea that to truly ‘break’ you need to have a catclysmic event. Something brutal, sustained and dreadful.
As any good interrogator knows, this isn’t true. It takes surprisingly little to achieve that effect. That’s what’s scary. Not the threat of a charismatic sociopath proving a point with a barbed wire wrapped baseball bat or a rotting corpse but the knowledge that all you ever hoped for, all you hold dear, all you worked for can be taken away in a heart beat (or its absence) or with just a handful of words.