Originally posted 3/4/2013
So last night I posted the following two status updates on Facebook — be warned that they, and what follows, could include spoilers for the current season of The Walking Dead. Do not shamble on if you are not okay with that!
I gave up on the comics series because of the unrelenting grimness – I might eventually do the same with The Walking Dead show. If we saw the triumph of the human spirit… The perseverance of morality… The growth of true heroism in the face of impossible odds… I’d be there. But this is just prolonged torture porn. Well-done but that’s what it is.
Tonight’s episode – they refuse to help the guy with the backpack TWICE… But they sure as hell stop to take his supplies from next to his dead body. Classy, Walking Dead.
Now, I love zombies — Dawn of the Dead being a particular favorite. I read about zombies, watch zombie movies, etc. I’m not down on zombies. And I’ll be the first to admit that 99% of zombie stories are bleak and hopeless — but it’s one thing to watch a zombie movie for two hours and see everyone die horribly, another thing to see it for an hour each week, week after week, year after year. Seeing everybody slowly ground down to their worst possible moments is not fun.
In that first episode, when Rick rode his horse into Atlanta, that was such a great visual. He was dressed as a lawman, the last vestige of Law in a world where that word had lost its meaning. It set him up as the Hero, a figure who would try to maintain his decency and morality in this horrible apocalypse. But in the name of realism, that Hero has been dragged through the mud, done some truly awful things and (for me) lost his moral authority. In last night’s episode, we see him lecturing somebody about how they’ve lost their path and given up hope, when this is the same character who has repeatedly turned his back on people in need this season. Some will say that his speech signifies that he’s coming back to the light but earlier in this same season he was confronted about his madness and his insistence that he was speaking to non-existent people on the phone… and he “came through it.” He showered, cleaned up and seemed to be coming back to the light… only to go nutso again. In a season where we should be defining the differences between Rick and the Governor, we’re instead seeing all the ways they’re alike.
Call me old. Call me naive. But I want to see heroes. I don’t think we need a whole cast full of White Knights… but having one guy, who stands up for what’s right? I’d like that. Daryl is the closest thing we have to that, strangely — in the midst of the chaos, he’s learned to be the Hero and a Leader.Unfortunately, Daryl isn’t the main character — there are whole episodes where he’s not even shown or mentioned. He’s a secondary figure, though a very popular one — and I think one of the reasons he IS so popular is because of an unspoken need on the part of the audience to have somebody who isn’t a disappointment as a human being on this show.
Rick, our supposed main character, is neither a Hero nor a Leader and that’s a damned shame. He should be. He’s the lawman — the old west sheriff riding through the lawless “West,” with nobody but his moral compass and his pistol for backup.
Some say that he can’t stop and help these people he meets because it would be a roll of the dice… they might be bad people, who would try and hurt the people Rick is protecting. That seems like a cowardly way to live and a terrible lesson to impart to his son, who already seems a few eggs shy of a full carton. I like to think that if I were in that situation, I would not turn away from those in need — and I would hope that others would not turn away from me. Compare the way that Rick ignored the hitchhiker (twice) last night to the way that Daryl reacted to the people being attacked on the bridge earlier this season. Daryl helped and refused to steal their items. Rick turned a blind eye and then stole the dead man’s backpack.
Again, maybe that’s just me being naive.
Even in my own writing, there’s always hopes — Rabbit Heart is probably the darkest thing I’ve ever written but (spoilers!) the good guys win. Same with The Damned Thing.
Real life sucks hard enough. Good people sometimes die in horrible ways and sometimes it seems that good doesn’t prevail.
That’s why we have escapist entertainment, right? But The Walking Dead doesn’t qualify as escapist for me. It’s even more bleak and hopeless than the real world and damn, that’s saying something!
I’m not saying things shouldn’t suck sometimes… or that people shouldn’t die… or that our characters shouldn’t sometimes stumble and fall. But I do want to see the celebration of the human will — not simply to survive, but to rise above. I want to see at least one character standing at the gates of Hell and saying that he won’t become a victim of despair or fear.
I want a f’n HERO and The Walking Dead doesn’t want to give me one, it seems.
Which is why I think I might shamble on to something else.
I don’t need to see that much darkness on a continuing basis. I want to see the light.