Browsing: The Walking Dead

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Each week, it seems, we’re reminded that Carl is no longer a kid. Society codifies into its adolescents various benchmarks which, when met, signal another step toward adulthood—really, to sovereignty. Staying home alone. Going on dates. Driving. Driving to those dates. Shooting your mother’s corpse in the head. The ages at which these things happen tend to be determined for us. A nine-year-old can’t walk into his local DMV and request a permit test. While there are legitimate reasons behind those limitations, to the one they affect—to the adolescent—they are arbitrary. Who are you to tell me I’m not mature enough to stay by myself overnight?—I make some Pizza Rolls, then watch some Netflix and pass out, big deal, I’ll even set the TV sleeper. Unfortunately for Rick, his world no longer has any use for the distinction between child and man. He’s been clinging to these ideas of gradual progress for his boy, Carl. Immediacy is jarring. How can a kid cope with the realities of their world if not given the time to absorb the changes in bits and pieces—to adjust? But would kids know any better?

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It doesn’t feel all that long ago that The Walking Dead wore well a penchant for stretching its leads and inevitable confrontations far beyond their elasticity. Admittedly, I didn’t have much faith in the show when Tyreese discovered the charcoaled remains of his love, Karen, and David. Yet the subsequent two episodes respectively dealt with the immediate pair of questions: who, and what would happen to that person. Well, Carol didn’t lie to Rick when he asked her, firmness of suspicion toning his voice, and she didn’t fight him much when he banished her. Never mind that the real psychopath is still in the camp’s midst. But the rats are a secondary order. People are sick. Where there are sick people, there will soon be dead people.

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Pragmatism and the necessity of hope perpetually clash on The Walking Dead. It’s part of the post-apocalyptic world’s identity crisis. What are people to live for? What sort of values are they supposed to hang on to or develop? Over the course of its run, survival in the arms of stoic pragmatism has often appeared to be the dominant morality. Shane often seemed more right than Dale, the series’s patent optimist, and it frustrated Dale to no end (until, well). And though no good deed can go unpunished here, the vessel’s which have advocated for survival, survival, survival also happen to be the characters who harbor the most psychological instability or are deemed disposable.

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The Walking Dead has been overstuffed with people from the beginning. In its more uninspired moments, the abundance of characters has weakened the presences of their counterparts. There are so many people for whom we’re supposed to care deeply, as they’re ever a wrong door or inattentive turn around a corner from catering themselves to zombies. After settling into this dilemma in season one, the show used the following two seasons to exhibition possible solutions.

Television
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For a show whose concept and production are this audacious for television, The Walking Dead has a strange way of easing up. Sometimes it works—the close of last season’s “I Ain’t a Judas”—but more often than not it imbues the show with an unnecessary and repetitive sense of inertia. ‘What’s the point’ is a fundamental question undergirding the series, and it’s one that many shows pose. The Walking Dead does it differently in that it has tethered that question to its most fragile, desperate thread. These characters carry on their shoulders the fate of humanity, in the multitude of meanings, and worse yet: there is no path to victory. Survival is the closest thing you get. At times, the show’s even warned us to not take that for granted. One moment, survival is all we can think or plan for. The next, it only seems a slow bullet.