Mixed Media

The Walking Dead

The zombies of Georgia will be coming back to the airwaves as “The Walking Dead” premieres its fifth season on Sunday, October 12, on AMC. This may not mean much to you, but it’s a highly anticipated event for many viewers in North America.

Really, you may ask, a zombie show? Why would this matter to Banner readers? It is, after all, an exceedingly violent show. It is also partly a horror show, which is something I usually avoid completely. But after a recent hip surgery left me with way too much down time. I took the advice of a friend whose judgment I respect and watched a couple of episodes on Netflix. Over the course of a few weeks, I watched them all. My physical therapy workouts flew by.

That friend forewarned me about the gruesome nature of the show. While most of the violence—but certainly not all of it—is directed at zombies, it’s still hard to see. But “The Walking Dead” goes beyond the violence to raise some gigantic questions we all have about the meaning of life and how we live it.

Former small-town sheriff Rick agonizes about the cost of continuing to survive and especially about how his son’s character is being shaped as he grows up in this post-apocalyptic world. What does the constant violence do to him? In the newly lawless society, women, children, and the elderly become more vulnerable (as is demonstrably the case in the real world too).

Some characters take the view that since there is no government, no organizing structure to life, there is no need to bother with morality. It’s every person for him- or herself. Others hold on to their pre-disaster belief systems, looking for strength and truth that rises above their current circumstances. People do horrible things to survive, and they have to cope with the consequences.

Still, some of the survivors find love and hope. They find beauty in the devastated creation. And sometimes they face the fact that the only way to move forward together is to forgive each other.

The character Herschel, who seems to be a symbol of wisdom, is a Bible-reading older man who encourages others to make the right choice and wrestles with how his faith fits the state of the world. That’s a struggle with which many of us are familiar.

Different events leave characters wondering, Is it worth the struggle to live if the world is nothing like it should be? What is the point of being alive in the first place? As people become zombies, what is the definition of “alive?” Zombies are empty shells of their former selves, seeking ever more flesh to satisfy their hunger, but they are never satisfied. Some of the more graphic scenes feature them feeding, and it’s a vision of hell.

Binge-watching the show, I started to see a rhythm in it. The survivors find a place that feels somewhat safe, make it home for the time being, and then they need to move on again. They feel hope, they experience devastation, and then they move on again. It’s almost like a (really violent) version of Ecclesiastes 3 with times to kill, times to heal; times to plant, times to uproot; times to be silent and times to speak; times to mourn and times to dance.

I would not recommend this show for just anyone; discretion is definitely advised. “The Walking Dead” stands in the company of AMC’s handful of other well-written, character-driven, sometimes violent, sometimes sexual, but always thoughtful television shows such as “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men.”

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 I'd add (I was just justifying my love for this show to my wife yesterday) - that it's profoundly pro-life in the sense that humans are increasingly rare and valuable - and that people work hard at relationships and reconciliation because they need eachother more than they ever did - people are not disposable in this show.  

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