Walking Back on Walking Dead

Awhile back Empath, Dalrock, and Oscar all recommended “Walking Dead” to me. At the time I demurred because zombies haven’t interested me since the excellent “Resident Evil 4”. That was a long time ago. It’s so long ago the only thing I’m more tired of than zombies are vampires. Thanks for nothing, Ann Rice.

Readers from last autumn may recall that another show was recommended to me, and I trashed it. There was a lengthy debate among Empath, GKC, (both fans) and myself about how to interpret story elements; whether characters and plots are meant to instruct the audience, or whether they are merely influenced by the creators’ worldviews. We will turn to that topic again, but not until after I’ve laid into this Walking Dead business.

It’s very good. At the time of the Longmire post I was in the midst of watching the first season of WD. I said then that Justified (my favorite show still in production) had a challenger. I still really like Justified, but I have to say that WD is a better show and tied for favorite. Every episode is incredibly intense. Each character is utterly believable. Those of you who live in a metropolitan area of the Southern US know them, and their interactions provide the goriest bits of the show.

The characterizations of the women are more true-to-life than any other show or move that I can recall. They cause so many problems, and generate so much unnecessary friction by the things they say and what they don’t say… As a man with a wife and three daughters I am sensitive to this reality, and I very much appreciate it being shown in the raw rather than glamorized as it almost always is. It’s shocking to me that very many women like the show. If the ratings are anything to go by, then they do.

–(Slight Spoilers)–

As I said, I’m only halfway through season two, but it’s been clear to me that Shane has to die, and probably soon. The combination of hubris and self-degradation via Lori and Otis has rapidly accelerated his loss of sanity. He is obsessed with the idea of “making the hard choices”. Hard choices must be made, but in Shane’s mind hard choices only consist of who to kill and who to abandon. Unfortunately for Shane his decisions appear to be expedient to everyone else. Of course, they don’t know what he’s done. It’s only a matter of time before he decides that he needs to make the “hard choice for the good of the group”, and kill Rick. Since Rick is still on the program, I surmise that he kills Shane, and soon. (Plus, someone told me he’s dead. At the time I insisted I would not watch the show.)

I don’t know if Shane and Rick could ever have lived together in peace, but if they were to have done so then Rick would have to be more assertive in directing the group. He puts little confidence in himself, and no confidence in anyone else. He is a doubter in general. Everyone in the group naturally looks up to Rick, but his unwillingness to direct them leaves everyone uneasy. Unease metastasizes into chaos, rebellion, and depression.

There’s a scene in the last episode I watched where they’ve just killed a bunch of zombies and now it’s time to dispose the bodies. Rick just stands there, moping. One of the group tries to get the ball rolling and suggests they bury the zombies who the group loved in life. Rick mopes. Another ones makes a suggestion. Rick mopes. The members of the group know what to do, but they stand around expectantly; waiting for Rick to give them directions: bury those; get the truck; burn those; etc. They don’t need knowledge–they need courage, unity, and purpose. Those come through and from the leader.

Conversely, Rick thinks no one but him can personally handle real problems. He cannot delegate, and when delegation is forced on him he has no sense of order about him. He cannot distinguish between his responsibility, and the responsibilities of others. He has a martyr complex and makes every mistake his own fault. This robs the group of confidence and the ability to learn and gain confidence. It also robs them of a leader because he’s always running off to be the frown-faced hero. Unless of course he’s straight-up moping.

It is in this vacuum that an impulsive person like Shane loses his compass, stops being a boon, and becomes dangerous to those around him. There is a lesson in there for husbands and fathers.

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19 thoughts on “Walking Back on Walking Dead

  1. It gets better. I’m as far as Canadian Netflix will let me go (season 4?) and, while there are some characters that seem far fetched, it’s probably my favorite serial at the moment also.

  2. Really? I found the show a bit slow and the plot less interesting than “Justified”, and I love the characters and acting of “Justified”. And the dialogue. And the soundtrack.

    Justified is amazing.

    TWD just didn’t catch me as much.

    To be fair, I stopped watching TWD about halfway through season 2, and I did love the moment that Shane shot whoever the other dude was getting the medical supplies for the Sheriff’s son (it’s been a few months, okay?). But that’s the only thing so far that’s stood out for me.

    And on the flip side, I am BEYOND psyched for the final season of “Justified” premiering Tuesday. I hope they don’t kill Raylan. That really would be sad.

  3. TWD is entertaining and I enjoy watching it, but I find Justified more to my taste.

    After reading Cane’s post and the comments on Longmire (which I happen to like, despite some flaws) I found myself amused that people really only talked about shows that were on my list of what to watch, but was wondering how something as magnificent as The Wire could be omitted. I am watching it again on Amazon and I forgot just how terrific it was. I’d also like to recommend Stephen Fry’s Kingdom, which I believe is available on Netflix. Not in the same league as the some of the HBO shows, but easily the equivalent of Bones or Castle, if not a notch above.

  4. Cane, based on your high regard for the show “Justified” I rented season two (season 1 was not available). I’ve watched two episodes and for the most part so far I don’t like it. The main women in the show are whores and the main character is a fool. What kind of fool would compete with another man for a woman who has already demonstrated she is a faithless and rebellious adulteress? And she’s argumentative to boot. Yes I know that there is a better chance that unicorns exist then a character invented by Hollywood that actually has scruples, but does it get any better?

  5. JDG,

    No. Winona is the worst part of the show. On the flip side, I find Raylan’s (who is really shown to be an extremely smart, or at least clever if you’d prefer, guy) desire for Winona eminently believable. Winona is an adulteress, but she was RAYLAN’S adulteress.

  6. @Leiff

    Welcome.

    was wondering how something as magnificent as The Wire could be omitted

    I saw a few episodes back when it was on the air, but I didn’t care for it. Modern American urban crime dramas don’t interest me much, and I’ve never understood organized crime for profit; not Italian, not black, not Irish, not Jewish. That lack of understanding sort of undermines my appreciation for the genre.

    @JDG

    I’ve watched two episodes and for the most part so far I don’t like it. The main women in the show are whores and the main character is a fool. What kind of fool would compete with another man for a woman who has already demonstrated she is a faithless and rebellious adulteress? And she’s argumentative to boot. Yes I know that there is a better chance that unicorns exist then a character invented by Hollywood that actually has scruples, but does it get any better?

    By “does it get any better” we have to mean “will JDG like it more”, and I don’t know the answer to that question.

    I mentioned in the OP that later I’d return to the topic of worldview in fiction. It’s a large subject and I think this is where we might have a miscommunication. I did not recommend Justified on the basis that the characters are in alignment with my ideals. Raylan is not a role model. Winona certainly isn’t. Part of what I enjoy about the show is my anxiety for Raylan in regards to Winona.

    What’s more interesting to me is, on what grounds do we call Raylan a fool for attempting reconciliation with his ex-wife? It’s clever to jump to scriptures about not taking back a wife who has been given to another, but is that really what we question? (Either way, Gary is dead soon enough.) Based on what you wrote I don’t think so. I have had that same impulse, but I do not think those instinctual responses are Christian. Loving her isn’t foolish. I would say that Raylan absolutely has and demonstrates scruples; just not in regards to women.

    Regardless, it’s just a show and I won’t think less of you if you simply don’t like it. Unlike those of you who watch Bones and Castle; whom I regard with deep derision. Ha!

  7. The women in TWD are much more heroic in later seasons, just to warn you. But they still screw up plenty.

  8. It’s clever to jump to scriptures about not taking back a wife who has been given to another, but is that really what we question? (Either way, Gary is dead soon enough.) Based on what you wrote I don’t think so. I have had that same impulse, but I do not think those instinctual responses are Christian. Loving her isn’t foolish.

    Of course he should love her. But we all know that loving her does not mean jumping back in the sack with her (eewww!!!). I wouldn’t fault a man for taken back a repented and cooperative wife, but to reconcile with a woman who is not repentant and rebellious is foolish by anyone’s standard (except possible the double standards we are so familiar with from feminists).

    I would say that Raylan absolutely has and demonstrates scruples; just not in regards to women.

    Well okay (but not entirely). I get it, none of us are perfect. But as you say, for me to like it, the guy needs to have some back bone when dealing with the women in his life. Otherwise he’s just another Longmire.

    In all fairness, I’ve only seen the 1st couple shows of season 2. The last one that I sort of watched (skipping through the usual PC BS) was the one about the happily married prison guard who impregnated a prisoner to sell the baby on the black market. I personally thought they were stretching it a bit with that one. I get that there’s no shortage of us evil older white gentlemen around for bad guy material, but could they at least give us a plausible reason the guy would do that and have the inmate mother murdered to boot? That would need to be a guy who has zero ability to emphasize, no?

    I did think the overweight matriarch kingpin using poison in the hooch was a nice touch though (never take a gift offering from a known psychopath). Now THAT woman would have had no problem having her kids knock up and knock off for an even smaller amount than the paltry 100 grand or so (*?) the guard was banking on.

    * I could be wrong about the exact amount of chump change, but I remember thinking it wasn’t enough to give any happily married decently employed non psycho enough incentive (in my book at least).

    Regardless, it’s just a show and I won’t think less of you if you simply don’t like it. Unlike those of you who watch Bones and Castle; whom I regard with deep derision. Ha!

    Bones and Castle??? What’s wrong with you guys?

  9. “The characterizations of the women are more true-to-life than any other show or move that I can recall. ”

    Did you see the movie Mud?

  10. Yeah, I really enjoyed. It was set on the Mississippi River and had shades of Mark Twain, Deliverance and Stand by Me mixed in with an original story.

    It was Matthew Mcconaughey’s best performance since Dazed and Confused. That said, I’ve missed most of his movies, since he often plays pretty boys in romantic comedies/sappy dramas. Although he and Reese Witherspoon starred in it, the movie had an indie feel (without being too weird).

    Along the way there were white knights, divorces and high school crushes, and it clearly showed the flaws of men and women.

  11. @Cane

    I didn’t realize you were writing again! I’m glad to see you back!

    On a personal note, I left active duty and now work for a major petroleum exploration and production company in south Texas.

    On topic: TWD is one of my favorite shows, but I was surprised by this statement from you.

    “I would expect that after some time removed from the decadence of modern life that the women would become more heroic.”

    Why so?

  12. @Oscar

    Thanks, I appreciate it.

    For the same reason my grandma could take a chicken from the coop and put it on the table, but my wife didn’t know how to “process” a “whole” chicken from the grocery store until we’d been married a decade.

    But, bear in mind that I haven’t yet completed even season two, so I don’t know how heroically the women are portrayed.

  13. I think they go overboard in later seasons, but I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll leave that there.

    I will say, however, that it irritates me that so many fans dislike Beth, the farmer’s younger daughter, and more so why they dislike her. They dislike her because she’s a sweet, pretty young girl whose contributions to the group of survivors is lifting their spirits with her singing and caring for children. In other words, fans dislike Beth because she’s too feminine.

    I like (some) zombie stories. Zombies are just an excuse to thrust modern people into a Hobbesian state of nature and see what happens, without having to come up with a plausible scenario that may cease be plausible in the near future. Because of that, zombie stories (the good ones, anyway), present human nature more realistically than most fiction.

    For example, I like your assessment of Rick. Rick is both courageous, and cowardly. He’s courageous with his own life, yet cowardly with others’ lives. Having commanded men in combat, I get that. I found it far more difficult to order my Soldiers to do things that could get them killed (never happened, thank God), than to do them myself. That can lead to indecision and paralysis, which is combat is far worse than making bad decisions.

    Good stuff, man. I look forward to your next post on the subject. Popular fiction tells us a lot about its culture’s mentality.

  14. I watched maybe two episodes when I saw this scene. The women are down at a river hand washing clothes and talking about masturbating. The husband of one of the women arrives and demands that she return to the camp. She refuses with the support of the other girls. He begins to physically drag her away. Some alpha male comes on the scene and proceeds to beat him nearly to death. That bit of toxic feminism was the last I saw of TWD.

  15. @Barnabas

    That bit of toxic feminism was the last I saw of TWD.

    That scene struck me as eminently believable, and in my opinion you have misunderstood the portrayal.

    The alpha male you reference is Shane, and they use that scene to show that he is a wild and dangerous man. It is clear he has lost control, and no one approves of him beating the husband like that. As I say in the OP, a couple weeks after the husband beating incident, he has decided that it’s the right thing to kill any man who opposes him.

    The husband was also a bad man. They exist.

  16. TWD has great and terrible characters. I have not yet finished it because I am not a huge fan of zombie films and generally feel depressed after every episode. I think most of the women play well. Other than Ninja-Chick I think most of the female portrayals are very believable. As those who post here know I’m more of a fan of Rick’s wife than many here. Of course I like Longmire too…so my taste is to be doubted.

    In the stupid fun category I have added Burn Notice. Thinking about it today it hit me that it is a modern take (complete with token Waif-Fu!) of the A-Team. The A-Team brings back memories of grandpa letting me watch things mom and dad didn’t approve of as long as I kept quiet and out of sight. So I like it though it will totally break down in any serious analysis.

    But the thing I’m having a blast rewatching is X-Files. “But Scully is waif fu!” I hear some say. Scully is definitely strong but she is a female lead character that just couldn’t be written today. She idolizes Mulder. She always follows his lead (which is different from never arguing with him). She tends to lose fist fights. Mulder on the other hand teases her at every turn but respects her for her talents. He treats himself lightly but dominates every conversation with her or anyone else. In that game that Cane suggested a while back she would actually do tolerably well for the Good Guys side.

    The show worked because…they were human. Post androsphere it is an interesting realization.

    It is also late…so not all of these posts may make sense…I am trying to comment here more…sleep…work…

  17. MEanwhile, back at the ranch, season 6 of Justified is OUTSTANDING. Like, “easily the best since season 2” outstanding. They’ve brought three new major villains and all of them are just chewing up their screen time. It’s amazing.

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