The Endless Fascination of the Undead

I realise I am, once again, behind the times, but I just got to checking out The Walking Dead.

First off, I have to admit myself humiliated that I recognized neither the sheriff himself (Andrew Lincoln) nor the lovely African-American (Afro-English, actually) gentleman (Lennie James) holed up with his son in the first episode without the assistance of IMDB. I really should be and am embarrassed. Of course, once I realised who the actor playing Grimes was, I had a hard time seeing him as hard-core bad-ass sheriff’y type. But I’m sure I’ll get over that.

I have to say that the thing I really love about this show is how quiet it is. No moaning, no groaning, no stumbling, very little screaming, shrieking, or general freaking out. So far — only a couple episodes in — people mostly seem to be coping in a pretty reasonable fashion. After enough horror movies, you get really sick of the continual freak-outs; a couple of “Teen Screams” movies off Netflix will have you practically praying for someone who doesn’t continually insist that what is happening clearly in front of his eyes isn’t really real. (Not to mention blood that looks real.)

The hospital wake-up is very good — I’m relieved I didn’t have to see Andrew Garfield in the same state as I unwittingly saw Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later.

One of the reasons I kept wanting to see the show — apart from the fantastic art hung in the windows of a couple local comic shops — was I saw one of the comic covers that featured the “don’t open / dead inside” door graffiti and I wondered if that was in the show. Turns out it is — and it’s awesome.

The zombie make-up is fucking fantastic and the extras must be having a blast: “Okay, what we want you to do is kind of wander around aimlessly and then bite people. And make it look good.” Where do I sign up, please?! I’m sure more has been written about the Bicycle Girl in the first episode than I could ever cover, but I find both Grimes’ original reaction to her and his later dispatching of her fascinating. The original encounter reveals both his practicality and clear thinking — and how much the hope of finding his wife and son safely at home is sustaining him. He isn’t really thinking all that clearly — as his subsequent breakdown reveals, a large part of him is hoping that this is all a bad dream — some sort of bad reaction to anesthetic or perhaps he’s really just back in the coma.

His going back to find her is…interesting. I keep coming back to that as one of the more interesting points of the pilot. It’s a pretty foolish way to spend your time, really. There are so many zombies about the place that if you see your new goal in life as “putting down the infected,” you’re totally set for the rest of your life. It seems fairly obvious that the show creators are setting up a parallel between Grimes who sets out to find this one individual and “put her out of her misery” or whatever it is he does and Morgan who also has a specific individual on his hands, so to speak, and can’t bring himself to treat his wife as Grimes does the Bicycle Girl.

There’s a pretty surface-level interpretation here: one can’t kill the person one loves the best. But I think there’s something more going on here: in the middle of all the ghastliness of his first couple days awake in the new world, Grimes remembers the Bicycle Girl, tracks her down, and doesn’t simply blow the back of her head off, but talks to her, tries to get something back from her — before, of course, blowing the back of her head off. The one-sided conversation he has, even with a zombie who is clearly dying of starvation in front of his eyes, is fascinating as Grimes tries to make sense of what’s happening in front of him and come to terms with it in some way.

Morgan, on the other hand, has had longer and more horrible circumstances under which to come to terms with what’s going on. He knows exactly — or as exactly as any of our character can know at this point — what’s going on and that his wife will never come back. At best, he can hope that she wanders away and is lost in the undead hordes; at worst, her persistence at the door will be rewarded and she will kill him and their son — or doom them to wander as undead with her. Either way, their family is over: as the man said, “There ain’t no comin’ back.” He’s prepared, he knows what he has to do, even his son understands in the end and hides without trying to stop him — and he can’t do it in the end.

What this means in the long run for the two characters I have no idea. I don’t even know if Morgan shows up with any regularity after the first episode. But I’m eagerly anticipating going through the rest of the season and finding out.

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