I’ve been watching this zombie show for some time — it’s my Sunday night ritual, to switch on AMC while I’m reviewing material for Monday’s lecture (I don’t think any of the themes have leaked over into genetics, though). And there’s a rhythm to the seasons of the show.
Rick and his hardy, zombie-smackin’ survivors struggle in a post-apocalyptic world. They suffer gradual attrition — it’s a feature of the show that some well-loved character will die, horribly — and the group barely makes it. Then they find some little enclave of other survivors who are much better off, who have it together and have built defenses and are eating regularly and doing things like bathing, and aren’t killing zombies non-stop day after day as they wander through a hostile wilderness.
And it always ends up that Rick & Co. end up destroying the enclave and going back to wandering.
Sure, there’s a reason for it. Maybe the happy sheltered village is run by a psychopath, or they’re cannibals. But still, there’s a pattern: Rick’s group is barely able to hang together and feed themselves on their own, but dang, they are battle-hardened killers and are cruising through the landscape like a wrecking ball, smashing every other group of survivors.
I’ve been saying since the beginning that this show is about the bad guys who think they are the good guys.
Now finally, they are embracing their true nature. Once again, they’ve found a nice sheltered community. It doesn’t seem to have any flaws, although the leader is a rather smarmy politician who thinks much of herself. They’re in, and they’re already plotting to take over. They talk about the community members as weak. They’re scheming to get weapons out of the storehouse.
Best of all is Carol. Carol, as those watching the show know, is fiercely protective; she used to be meek and submissive, married to an abusive man, who got his throat conveniently ripped out by a zombie early on, and she’s been growing in fascinating ways. She has been kicked out of the group once before when she took it upon herself to execute a couple of sick members before the disease spread, so she does what it takes…and she was also able to survive solo in the zombie-infested wilderness while exiled. She’s a badass, in other words.
In this last episode, Carol has ingratiated herself into the community by acting motherly and sweet — she bakes cookies. But one night she’s sneaking into the armory and discovers she’s been followed, and this happens:
See? They are the bad guys. The message of the show is that ruthlessness pays and that the hardest survivors are far more dangerous than a mere swarm of zombies.
I see it taking the same trajectory as Breaking Bad, in which the focus is on a central character who is criminally egotistical and evil, for superficially justifiable reasons, and it’s tricking the audience into cheering him while holding up a mirror and showing us some of the nastiness within us.
That makes it interesting. I was starting to get bored with the repetitive cycle of the show, but now…it’s something different.