I want to recap my take on the first few seasons, which may be a rehash of points I’ve made earlier. I think it’s important, though, as a lead-up to my next post on the Alexandria storyline, where I think the themes have taken a turn.
I’ve always said – to friends and relations at least – that The Walking Dead is an allegory for modern times. Rick Grimes is not the Everyman, but a personification of moral ideals and a commitment to society; it is no accident the story opens and is principally told through his point of view. It’s also no small detail that he’s a member of law enforcement.
The fan base, including myself, has followed Rick through his incarnations as an indecisive Hamlet, envisioning ghosts of the pasts and debating courses of action to the self-appointed Ricktator.
Throughout several seasons, Rick is confronted with the question of how to balance his moral idealism and his own humanity against the need to survive and to protect his loved ones and associates in a brutal environment that doesn’t recognize humanity or morals. No one else is playing by those rules. In fact, playing by those rules might just get you killed.
You see a sign that says “Sanctuary,” and in your good, sweet little heart you believe that’s what’s waiting at the end of the long, dirty road, because if you’d made that sign, you’d be telling the truth.
If it was you.
But it ain’t you, honey.
Zombies are the least of the world’s problems. They’re pretty much no different from hungry tigers, lions or bears, oh my.
People, on the other hand …
Rick is lucky – he’s a quick study. Terminus burns. We should all be so smart.
Finally, in a later brutal scene, Rick lets the world know just how much he’s willing to forfeit the last vestiges of “civilized humanity” to save his son. Rick embraces his inner beast to dine on a brute’s neck with no moral reservation. Moral Dilemma solved.
Rick’s not that sweet little thang from long ago that wanted to work things out with the Governor. No, he’s gonna ‘eff you up now and ask questions later.
That’s how you survive in a world where the sentient and the undead think you’re food – moving right along.
To sidetrack and back step and a few other things, I was discussing the Shane and Otis scene last night with someone. Both of us had a position I hadn’t seen discussed online before: Shane’s actions at the school weren’t that reprehensible.‡ What was he going to do? Let an innocent little boy die over the careless actions of a grown man? Let himself get killed in some obviously futile attempt to save Otis and now there’s two poor dead schmucks and a dying little boy?
Otis volunteered. Otis knew the risks. Otis should have known his limitations.
Survival and protection of your loved ones, protection of the weak and helpless even, is paramount. Enough said.
If this is the moral we need to take away from past seasons, then the last part of last season and the first part of this season is a different dialogue.
Once our beloved group came to Alexandria, The Walking Dead became a cautionary tale asking questions a little “closer to home,” as it were.
The harsh reality of survival, the bitter truth of just how much it takes to battle for your right to exist – your right just to live and breathe another day – is the lesson the Rickites try to bring to the sheltered Alexandrians.
They are the “initiated,” the ones “in the know.” The Alexandrians are sheltered, privileged and beguiled by their blissful ignorance. This point is driven home time and time again: Sasha’s outrage that a member of the Welcome Committee is worried about making the right meal; Sasha’s had to eat raw dog. Peter’s indulgence in bourgeois self-destruction and his abuse of his wife and intact family; Rick’s lost a wife and must struggle every day to protect his children. Alexandrians take for granted what Rick and his group have had to claw and fight to earn – only to get less than half as much.
The crucial conflict is between people who actually know about the world “out there,” its unrelenting brutality, the bloodthirst that can surface in the hearts and minds of men and people who don’t believe that such evils exists.
More later …
‡ A friend from my writers’ group, to be known as “TWD Fan Extraordinaire” reviewed this for me. In her comments, she astutely pointed out that after this incident, Shane’s mental decline “sped up.” I agree. I think this plays into the themes as a caution as to what can happen. We later see Rick’s mental health “go off the rails,” as well. Even Carol, who’s perhaps had to take the most drastic and draconian steps in her journey (e.g., Lizzie), is showing some signs of waning mental health.
That said, Shane did what he had to do.