It didn’t get better, it got laughable. The gun festival continued unabated. The zombie doomsday scenario might mean being short of food but not of artillery. The action scenes still lack tension. They are interspersed with “let’s pretend we’re deep” dialogue that makes you wish humanity was indeed doomed to extinction. Some characters, principally Carol, Daryl and Rick, are changed without having gone through any character development. Carol (Melissa McBride), who was the meek wife of an abusive husband, is suddenly tough and ruthless, while Rick (Andrew Lincoln) plays farmer for a while and puts the gun down. There is no development in terms of group dynamics either.
Democracy, where art thou? At the end of season three, Rick realises that it’d be better if decisions were taken collectively (better late than never), except ‘Council’ meetings are more like a ‘tea and biscuit committee’ at the office. When something important happens (Carol kills a couple of people infected with a nasty flu virus, or TB?), Rick takes the decision to oust her without even discussing it with her, let alone the group. The Governor (David Morrissey) manages to set up a whole town and yet nobody even thinks that elections and scrutiny might be a good idea. He decides to attack Rick’s camp and sways a whole group to fight and die for the enterprise by making the crappiest speech in history. There is a tinge of post-9/11 anti-terror rhetoric, but it lacks poignancy. There is not a trace of democracy and liberty in any of the groups. Had the Governor’s town been a democracy, the series could have shown its fragility as an outside threat is used to infringe democracy, the rule of law and civil liberties.
Survival of the fittest: The myth of brutal force in order to survive anarchy is reinforced by the pseudo-Darwinian mantra of the survival of the fittest with a touch of Abu Ghraib, which is now de rigour in today’s action series. Survival of the fittest does NOT mean survival of the strongest or most brutish. It only means that those who fit their environment best survive. This may include being weaker, but more intelligent. For instance, walking on our two feet made us much slower, cooking meat made out teeth and jaws weaker. Darwin never meant that the fittest were the strongest or the best. Human beings are cooperative. After all, compared with other species, we can’t run fast, we are not strong, and take forever to become fully grown. The rural mystique plays to the romantic love for wilderness, nature and survival, although seeing the countryside so packed with zombies, one wonders about population density in rural Georgia.
The Family: doctors are male and nurses are female, of course. In a trite misogynistic scene, Lori (Rick’s wife) dies in childbirth. Just in case you missed that women are essentialised as mothers, here’s a reminder that the heroic act for a woman is to die giving birth. Michonne (Danai Gurira) is at first a cool ninja-like character, but she quickly drops the Tarantino mystique to become a safe mother who lost her baby. Seasons 3 & 4 are a little less patriarchal than seasons 1 & 2 (see previous post), but not less sexist. The sanctity of the family of American TV (see post) is ever present in The Walking Dead. Heart of Darkness-‘The Governor’ is also (in part) redeemed by fatherhood. His thirst for power, however, wins over and is punishment with the death of his adopted daughter.
Morality: the series has the ambition to touch on moral issues, but fails miserably to deliver any reflection on morality or, indeed, any situation that is morally ambiguous. The thesis is that when things are bad, you need to kill. The problem is that they’re just fighting for their lives or resources, not to create an alternative to anarchy. No group is really better than the others. I’m cheering the zombies now.