THE WALKING DEAD BY DEFINITION
By Todd Schultz
When a helicopter flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane of undead to swarm an unsuspecting farm. Season two of The Walking Dead concluded with a series of unintended consequences not solely from the chaos theory but also from seemingly innocuous actions by the survivors.
The second half of season two opened just seconds from where we left off, with gunsmoke billowing from Rick’s revolver and poor Sophie’s head. The catharsis from the search to the discovery and slaughter of the undead in the barn has sucked most of the will from the group. They still must rally together. Their only recourse is staying the course.
Positive group cohesion is not Shane’s specialty, however, as his blind resolve to ‘keep us safe’ no matter what cost to their morality is only strengthened by his instigation of the massacre at the barn. Rick, despite doing what he had to do with undead Sophia, attempts to hold on to old world sensibilities of humanity and the like. It is very dangerous to have two opposing alpha males in this sort of world. Herschel, despite watching Shane use his wife as a zombie bullet catcher front of him has turned a new leaf and now sees the walkers for what they are. Hi ho silver lining I guess.
There is something else very interesting about this show, something I am sure that has been written about before, but I want to address it anyway. If you notice, I am no longer using the word zombie to describe the undead horde. I should research this to be sure, but I am positive that no one has used the word ‘zombie’ once during this show. Now much time has been spent waxing philosophical as to the moral and practical implications of when society collapses. But since the weirdness at the CDC, no time has been spent on why this is happening.
This takes me back to the non-use of the word ‘zombie.’ In the finale Rick tells Herschel to have faith and Herschel retorts that Christ promised a resurrection of the dead, though that is not what he had in mind. The etymology of the word, as it is relates to this show, is Haitian Creole, and refers to a corpse reanimated through voodoo magic. Perhaps invoking such a word suddenly makes the supernatural too much for the human psyche, as if admitting their existence means that the end of days is nigh, and that’s why they don’t say it. So if they are not zombies, whether by definition or philosophical beliefs, then something much more sinister is happening, and I don’t think they have a word for that. Maybe they don’t want a word for that. Now that they know that people turn when they die whether they were bit or not, these questions just got a lot more complicated.
However these are questions better asked than answered. For me, the show is about survival under the most dire of circumstances. Losing Dale, Rick having to ‘Old Yeller’ Shane (putting down a rabid dog) and Carl becoming further desensitized to the horror are incredibly ‘human’ moments in a place where little of that is left. One of the alphas had to go, too much has happened between them and keeping them constantly at each other’s throats has been done ad nauseum. Somehow this addition by subtraction works, making the remaining characters precious and vulnerable again. How quickly we forget. But losing Dale was like losing Jiminy Cricket.
When a herd of undead approaches, the group decides that they don’t 'wanna work on Maggie’s farm no more'. Then nothing goes according to plan, and they are separated.
I guess the writers figured they killed off enough major characters, with only a few of Herschel’s anonymous family receiving pink slips via undead evisceration. The rest eventually find each other, but the reunion is cut short as they must keep moving and Rick must answer questions about what happened to Shane and what the Doctor said at the CDC regarding everyone being infected. They are far from the comforts of the farm now, as they are reminded how finite and fragile supplies and goodwill have become.
Only Andrea remained astray, finally chased down by walkers after a valiant effort. But she is spared by a mysterious hooded figure wielding a samurai sword like Michael Dudikoff American Ninja with two jawless armless walkers in tow. Finally we got a true Mad Max type badass. Dale once said to Shane that he is perfect for this new world. He never met this book of Eli fool. I am sure that readers of the graphic novel are familiar with this character.
That is all until fall. Hopefully they find that prison just a short ways from where they made their first 'off-the-farm fire' in a while. I will spend my summer like a ‘zombie’ (the voodoo magic kind, I know a guy), with much less pontification, lest I create a hurricane that actually answers these philosophical nuances. Sometimes just surviving this life is more important than understanding it.