I’m not sure why I have always liked horror as a genre, I remember watching my first modern horror film in the late 1970’s when at the age of about 5-6 I sat with my mother one night and watched the original Halloween film. It was scary, I won’t pretend that it wasn’t and for a while I had a fear of serial killers hiding in wardrobes but it is something I quickly got over once I reached my thirties! Since then I watched every scary show that I could and frequently my mother and I would be the last ones to bed watching something scary.
It doesn’t seem to have too much of a negative effect on me, I haven’t thus far ever come close to pushing someone let alone chase after anyone with a carving knife. The last decade or so though it has been hard to give satisfying scary material. I can take either gore or pshyclogical but I find that more and more of it is very substandard and done tongue in cheek and so it was with great pleasure that I finally got to watch The Walking Dead recently.
The first 4 seasons are on Virgin Media catchup which gives me the opportunity to immerse myself in the show and catching up before my new recordings of season 5 fill up my digital tv box. I’ve written before in a light hearted way about zombies and it seems fitting that at Halloween and with Ebola sending the more excitable people into an end of the world scenario to why I love this great show.
The Walking Dead centres around a small group of survivors of a zombie apocalypse in the American State of Georgia. It follows their survival story in the toughest of circumstances. There are many reasons I love this show, it is shot in Georgia during the summer and its dried out imagery makes it somehow feel a little more authentic. What really sets it apart though is its honesty and determination not to shy away from what life in such circumstances could be like and how ingenious people would be in giving their all in trying to survive.
The main characters include Rick, a cop who wakes from a coma to find the world in chaos. His partner Shane who his more pragmatic and less moralistic and has been in a relationship with Shane’s wife Lori for months, unaware that Rick was alive albeit in a coma. There are a wide range of characters from children to peace-lovers to anti-social hill billies.
Obviously the zombies or Walkers play a big part in the show. They are of the 28 Days Later variety, dumb but relatively quick and with a nasty bite. The only way to kill them is to destroy the brain which can be achieved by gunfire in an emergency. However they are attracted to sounds and ammunition isn’t unlimited so the use of crossbows, axes, swords and almost anything else available.
The show deals with the day to day problems such as attaining food, clean water and medication but as much as the zombies are fun, what the show is really about is the motivations and relationships of humans. This is evident within the main group where there are power struggles and disagreements with the best strategy for survival.
During Season 1 the first few episodes are very much about day to day survival and getting to know the characters. It quickly becomes apparent that just like my previous favourite gory show, Spartacus, that almost any character can die at any moment. Whilst the Walkers are deadly enough, it only takes one mistake or one vindictive human survivor to cause the deaths of many. There are two particularly tough characters in the group, Darryl and his brother Merle who is so despicable that he is left handcuffed on the roof of an infected building.
Season 2 of The Walking Dead largely takes place on a farm. This allows the production team to save money on this very expensive show but also for us all to get breathing space and get into the heads of the characters. The isolated farm is an oasis under the ownership of the kindly old man Herschel and his surviving family. Unknown to them, the farm barn contains a large number of walkers which Herschel has kept under the forlorn hope that they can be revived to human-kind including some of his family.
Herschel doesn’t want our heroes to stay on the farm and they are only there at all because Otis accidentally shot Ricks son, Carl. The group begins to fall apart as Shane becomes hostile to Rick and wants to take a more aggressive path, sometimes not unreasonably so.
To me Season 2 has had some of the most genuinely scary moments when the group are stuck on the freeway when a crowd zombie walk past and they are forced to hide under the dead bodies of of Walkers and hope they aren’t noticed which thankfully they aren’t as Walkers are attracted to the living by the lack of the smell of death. Another top moment is when on an urgent mission to get medical supplies, Shane deliberately shoots Otis in the foot and so slowing him down causing his death to save his own skin. It says a lot about Shane that I half expected this to happen.
As the show progresses we are introduced to a new enemy, not Walkers but other survivors. I find this element fascinating as the small groups of survivors range from being injured and scared hobos to quiet, civilised folk, to normal people hardened by the extraordinary circumstances and who do what it takes to survive and are desperate for others to help them if it improves their circumstances. Then there are the violent minority who revel in the lawlessness and opportunity the situation gives them and who cause senseless death and misery beyond what is necessary in this awful scenario. Generally speaking, every interaction with any other human gives less and less reason to trust other survivors though there are always exceptions.
Season 2 ends with a bang, as do plenty of other episodes and the farm is over run by hundreds if not thousands of walkers and our group is split up with the majority ending up in a high security prison. The prison is filled with Walkers but after a dangerous clear-out is at least secure except for the odd rogue and trapped Walker and dangerous prisoner come to that.
Near to the prison is the town of Woodbury, a fortified but apparently serene town of around 80 people amazingly living out a civilised normal life. However it is illusory and comes at the price of living under The Governor who keeps his zombie child locked in a cupboard as experiments are carried out to find a cure. The Governor is also a highly immoral murderer though it would be hard to tell. He and his henchmen kill anyone in the area, even soldiers, if it means he can get more weapons and consolidate his power. What’s more Merle Dixon is here and with just one arm, having cut off the other to escape, he is more vicious than ever and when he finds out his old group are nearby he gets back to his old game of killing, double-crossing and being downright evil!
One of the more shocking moments of Season 3 is when one of the prisoners unleashes Walkers on the unsuspecting group leading to the near death of Hershel and the actual deaths of T-Dog and Lori who trapped from the rest of the group is forced to undergo a cesarean section without medical aid which causes her death.
With Rick distraught and literally haunted by his wife, he becomes the hardened man that Shane once was… oh yes did I mention that Shane tried to kill Rick and so forced Rick to kill his friend? I didn’t ? Well I did now. The Governor loses his zombified daughter when Rick and his group come and rescue Glenn and Maggie who are being interrogated by Merle and at huge risk of murder and rape respectively.
That all leads to a major show-down between the two groups, all the while their tenuous ties to civilisation ever lessening and little progress made on finding a cure and any safety from Walkers is ruined by the actions of traitorous and vengeful survivors. That is pretty all that I can say as I still have a few episodes of Season 3 to watch.
I must say that I am loving the show. It is well plotted and everything ties together but there is always the risk of some random event happening that causes chaos and imminent death.
I really like the characters. I particular like Rick, his character is on an interesting path and I like his outlook on life. Funnily I found Shane to be more right in the early years although I appreciate Ricks morals. Latterly, Rick has turned into Shane and though I can see why it is necessary, I don’t like him so much. The actor who plays Rick Grimes is Andrew Lincoln and he is actually British along with others including those who portray The Governor and Maggie. To my ears though Andrew nails the accent and is up there with Hershel and Darryl for sounding authentic and I’ve been watching the show so intensely the last few weeks that I can do a pretty fine Georgian accent myself, based on Rick Grimes of course.
Another character I like is Darryl. He has grown from an outsider and generally unlikeable to being a key part of the group, brave and fearless but also caring with only his brother Merle overshadowing him.
The old farmer Hershel is another favourite of mine. He is kind-hearted and loves his family and has grown to respect Rick and trust in the others. Being elderly I am always worried he might become Walker bait and indeed got bitten in the foot once forcing part of his leg to be amputated.
The other character I really like is Maggie, Hershel’s daughter. She is tough but normal and her relationship with Glenn shows how given half a chance, life goes on. Indeed one gets the feeling that the groups would find a way to survive and even prosper no matter what if only given half a chance but so far that hasn’t happened.
There have been one or two characters I didn’t like. Dale for one, he quickly irritated me and was overly moralistic for my liking. He was adamant he wasn’t going to lose his civility despite Shane telling him that this would pretty much mean he wouldn’t be long for this world. Ironically he walked out of the group after failing to convince them not to hang an “innocent” man incase he informs his friends of the groups location only to get bitten by a Walker.
Currently The Walking Dead is just a few episodes into its 5th Season with at least one scheduled and who know how many more to come with a spin-off show all ready in the works. I am only 95% through Season 3 but can recommend it wholeheartedly, as a scary and tense show that plays true to its setting without going overboard on the gore.
For what it’s worth the single individual gory moment I liked best wasn’t the guys disecting a a Walker looking for Sophia being inside or even the c-section practices on a zombie. No it was the gross out that was entirely predictable but hugely disgusting when T-Dog pulled up the water swollen, obese Walker from the well only for him to get stuck on the rim and split in half. Oh yuck and I was eating at the time. Nice one.
Below are a few charts that fans should enjoy.
Below is an incredible list of Walker kills in chronological order.