The Walking Dead produced by Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Robert Kirkman, and Charles H. Eglee (Circle of Confusion and Valhalla Motion Pictures, airs Sunday nights on AMC)
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, and Chandler Riggs.
In an effort to proclaim full disclosure, I must admit that I am not much of a zombie fan.
This sub-genre of horror has always seemed low budget, poorly written, and weakly acted. Zombie films typically depict the survival instinct at a basic level. Although this theme is entertaining on a “what if” level, the zombie theme is incapable of constructing the dramatic subtleties that differentiate fantastic movies from standard run-of-the-mill productions.
Where Are We?
Last night’s premier of AMC’s the Walking Dead, however, destroys my preconceived notions about zombie narratives. The story begins with the protagonist, Sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln), receiving the damaging end of a bullet that results in a comatose state. Deputy Grimes awakes to the blinking lights of an abandoned hospital. This portion of the narrative leads me to the first differentiating factor in this show from other zombie stories: the apocalyptic infestation already occurred. Similar to I am Legend, the rise of the walking dead is only influential to the extent that it effects the current time. In other words, the Walking Dead focuses on the result of the zombie inflicted world rather than the cause of it.
Later in the pilot episode and after Deputy Grimes realizes the drastic differences in the new world he inhabits, he begins an expedition to Atlanta, the urban hub of the region. Having heard that the military commandeered Atlanta as a safe spot from zombies and infection, Grimes travels toward the city broadcasting on emergency channels in hopes of connecting with other human beings. Unbeknownst to him, Grimes’ broadcasts are received by a remnant hiding in the woods. Sadly, the group’s pleas for Grimes to avoid Atlanta fall on deaf ears as he treks toward a city not blockaded for safety but instead overrun by zombies.
Can’t Tell the City from the Woods
I found this urban versus agrarian theme fascinating. By densely placing danger at the heart of an urban center and simultaneously suggesting that wilderness is a refuge, The Walking Dead critiques the human tendency to congregate in urban areas. The density of a population forces it to rely heavily on each other for production. One person might boast a prodigious talent for clothes making, while another might grow the best apples. If each person agrees to specialize and then trade the extras, economic theory proclaims that the society is capable of producing more. However, such production trade-offs force society into dependency. If one section fails, the whole economy falls apart.
In contrast, the pastoral view of wilderness transforms human dependency to a reliance on nature. The post-apocalyptic world of the Walking Dead infers the dangers of urbanized human culture and the positive qualities of an agrarian lifestyle.
Episode one of the Walking Dead intrigued me both for its starting point in a world already broken and also its depiction of urban and rural relationships. I excitedly await the second episode and recommend the series to you provided you can stomach the zombie theme.