It’s been 3 days since the finale of The Walking Dead on AMC. I needed some time to process what just happened. You see, I’ve actually never heard of the graphic novel. For someone like me, that is shocking. I love the horror genre and have always appreciated the zombie genre especially. I have seen the evolution of zombie movies from I Walked With a Zombie (1943), to the Romero zombies; Night of the Living Dead (1968), to the modern Day Danny Boyle zombies; 28 Days (2002).
In all of these movies, the main focus was the zombie itself. Sure Romero threw in some underlying social commentary about current social events. I’ve really enjoyed watching the evolution of the zombie throughout all of the “Dead” movies. Yes, they have gotten a little cheesy as time goes on, but if you look closer you can see how the movies somehow relate to what is going on socially in our world.
However, the one thing I have noticed throughout all the zombie movies is that the focus was mainly on the zombies, or who to blame for this dead apocalypse or how much blood and guts can we throw in to gross out the audience. Not that I don’t mind those things. Hell, I’ve watch every Dead movie, 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead, Resident Evil, I am Legend…etc. I’ve seen a lot of movies that fall into this genre. With the exception of I Am Legend (which can or can not be seen as a zombie movie), most have dealt with the Zombie as the main character. We really don’t get to see the actual human point of view. We don’t get to see the evolution of a group dynamic. We don’t get to actually get a sense of what each person is feeling.
But in the AMC show, The Walking Dead (yes I know, I will read the graphic novel after this, maybe Santa will get it for me for Xmas) the zombies are secondary. They are so secondary that I can’t remember if they ever called them zombies. I think everyone referred to them as Walkers. I won’t go through the episodes and do a play by play of what happened, you will just have to watch the reruns, DL it, or go buy the DVD. However, from an audience POV, you really get to feel with the characters, even the characters you normally wouldn’t talk to or associate with in your daily life. After all, this does take place down in the south and we all have that perception of the south because of their history. I am after all bi-racial…nix that, multi-racial butterfly (for those that don’t watch ANTM you won’t get the joke, thanks Jade).
I would never talk to anyone that acted like Merle or Daryl Dixon. My first impression of these two characters were that I was hoping that some zombie would just come along and bite them so their life would cease to exist and Rick wouldn’t hesitate to put a bullet in their either of their Neanderthalic sized brains. But, as the first and 2nd episodes continued, we realized that there is much more to them than their racist, bigoted personalities. We begin to remember that this apocalypse just happened. No one has any answers. We as the viewers weren’t given any ideas or clues or answers to why this happened, so of course the characters would be acting scared, defensive, violent, etc. It’s all survival mode and we all act and cope differently. I’m pretty sure the majority of us in America would probably act like Amy or Andrea and would just be happy to find anyone that can lead. Lead us anywhere but to the middle of this sea of “walkers”. The leader didn’t have to be great, they just had to lead. But truth be told, if I ran into someone like a Merle or a Daryl, you can best believe I would try and hang in their company. Their characters seem to have a different upbringing that what the norm…not normal people but I will say suburbia/metro upbringing from people like myself. They tend to know the survival skills. They tend to know how to hunt and gut and just shoot any type of weapon their is, if not make something out of shoe string and 3 sticks like MacGuyver. But I rambled. What I meant to say is that no matter how horrible a person may be in the beginning, they can change as time goes on. The group dynamic and social order tend to sort its way out and these are just two characters (granted Merle is missing until season 2, but you felt his anguish and his willingness on the roof when he basically spat on God and pulled a Aron Ralston) that evolved throughout the 6 episode season.
To me, the first and last episodes of the season were the most emotional because you saw not only the human despair of what has occurred but their willingness to fight and survive regardless of what was going on at the present time. Now that I think about it, the first episode is the most emotional. The first episode set the bar on the emotional roller coaster. You don’t know who exactly to feel sorry for. I mean you know the Walkers are bad but are they evil? No, not at all. This just happened and we don’t know how or why. I’ll admit, I didn’t feel sorry for most of the Walkers, but there were 2 that I did feel compassion for; Morgan’s Wife & the crawling Walker.
Morgan is a man that lost his wife to this outbreak. He lives with his son in his boarded up house. Every night he sees his wife come back to the house but he never has the heart to end her “life”. He has no idea why she keeps returning. Could it be some residual thought or memory that may be left over in this shell of a body, who knows? But near the end of the episode after Rick has left the house to find his family, Morgan sits up in his room and he sees her walk up to the house. We feel the tension. We feel the tears he cries as they stream down his face. Is he going to pull the trigger? Will he end his wife’s walker life? We see his inner battle of should he or shouldn’t he. Then the camera becomes his eyes and we see the target and we think he will pull the trigger, but the expression of his wife’s face, her eyes, they seem to speak to him or give some sort of hope that she may be in there just waiting for something to cure her. He doesn’t pull the trigger. We just seem him break down and she turns to walk away.
The second Walker that made me feel that this show wasn’t going to be like any other movie on the genre, was that of the crawling Walker. We first see this Walker when Rick is running through the park. We see her but its in a “matter of fact” type of glance. The 2nd time we see her was near the end when Rick left for his mission to find his family. We see this “Crawler” with half of a body pulling itself along the grass. Rick stops and just looks at her. We hear the this moan come out of her as she reaches for him, her food source. From Rick’s eyes, I was seeing the pain, sympathy, and ultimately mercy for this Walker. It was like Rick was putting down a horse with a broken leg. He realized that this thing no longer had a shred of humanity in it and decided to it out of it’s misery and that’s what he did. That sound that came out of her mouth and her expression still resonates with me and has solidified my view on what to expect from this show.
During the last 5 episodes we see how people interact more so in a group setting unlike the first episode when we followed mostly Rick’s story. We see how a group of strangers that don’t know each other come to rely on each other regardless for their dislike for certain people. They all came together and just knew that there is strength in numbers and certain attributes will eventually come out to either help or harm the group. This of course makes and interesting story. I mean who honestly wouldn’t want to leave Merle on the roof? I just wish there was more of Merle for my pure eye candy viewing pleasure. I love me some Michael Rooker. But back to the point, I would have left him. His racist, violent, drug addled mind is more of a hindrance to the group than his great sharp shooting ability.
By the season finale, I actually cared about every character. I can see the evolution and the group roles each person will take on in season two. I saw the human spirit of just wanting to live on regardless of what answer may come. I saw the strength of friendship in Andrea and Dale. Andrea just wanted it all to end. She lost her sister and she just didn’t see a reason to move on because of what she saw around her but Dale, a person she met due to this outbreak who later became friend and confidant, was willing to die with her. Did he want to die? No. But he cared for her so much that he basically left his life in her hands. She felt guilty for the death of her sister and she didn’t want the guilt of Dale on her conscience so she decided to live for him not herself. So either Dale was really willing to die or he just used some damn good reverse psychology.
The Walking Dead has so many ups and downs, twists and turns in this manic depressive story that I know that season 2 will bring more to the table. Not just because of the great acting and story lines, but because there will be 13 EPISODES! 7 more episodes to laugh, cry, hate, and throw things at the TV. I know next October I will have Walker parties at my house. Just like when I was in middle/high school in the early to mid 90’s with the Melrose Place viewing parties, I’m sure this party will be a hit. Now who will us fangirls swoon over? I claim dibs on the Dixon brothers.