Written By: John
If anything, I happen to find the zombie to be one of the more frightening aspects of the horror genre. The finality of death, robbed away from humanity and replaced with the perversion of mindless creatures walking around with the sole goal of recapturing the lost vestiges of their past by consuming the few that remain.
It is a universe that has terrified me ever since I laid eyes on George Romero’s living dead masterpiece Dawn of the Dead and it is a universe that continues to influence me creatively.
So imagine the joy flowing through me when AMC announced that Robert Kirkman’s comic series The Walking Dead would be coming to television. As a zombie fanatic, my first response was hop up and do myself a little happy dance, while the skeptic in me wondered if it would fall flat upon its face, perhaps marking the beginning of the end of the zombie mania sweeping the country.
Instead the little voice of doubt inside my mind was instantly silenced as I sat on my couch, blown away by the pilot episode and its epic nature. This was not only a great adaptation of the comic book, but something that is rarely captured on film or television; a hard look at life after the end of the world.
I bring that point up for one simple reason, the consistent discussion I see on the web regarding the “slow” nature of the second season of the show.
I’ve seen a full battery of complaints, but the ones that continue to resonate with me starts with the criticism that the characters are too dry. Second only to the top grievance…the show is just too damn slow, not providing the audience with enough zombies or gore.
Both of these claims have some merit, but I think pure impatience has given way to these issues being blown out of proportion. When it comes to the characters, their development suffers from the short amount time this series has been on the air. To date, we’ve only seen sixteen episodes of the show, with six of those encompassing the entire first season. Nowhere near enough time to really let these characters grow, especially considering the circumstances revolving around them, an issue that makes that ties together both complaints.
While I appreciate and enjoy the gore that goes into every single zombie film or episode I watch, there is truth behind enjoying too much of a good thing. At some point excessive gore numbs you completely, and in the case of zombie flicks that are nothing but intestines and headshots, it almost detracts from the experience.
Now before someone goes off regarding the amount of violence in the aforementioned Dawn, let’s take a good look at one particular trick Mister Romero implemented to keep the violence fresh and shocking. He gave us a break. The violence gave way to quiet little lulls that allowed us moments of levity and safety, only to have it come crashing down.
It’s a device The Walking Dead uses successfully, and it is starting to pay off in season two. The pause at the farm was a nice break from the horrors of Atlanta and the CDC that wrapped up in season one’s “TS-19” and brought about an important matter that I feel is lost in zombie lore these days, the importance of humanity.
The hunt for Sophia that so many have lamented as slowing down the series was essential to give us what some just aren’t seeing, the genesis of character growth. Rick and his group were now challenged with the importance of maintaining the civility of a world forever lost, and figure out how to survive while doing it.
Even now, with “18 Miles Out” having aired yesterday, that virtue continues to be challenged. Rick himself pointing out that he will do whatever he must to protect his family and his group. This is what horror needs more of, and this is why I stand by the show and as we make a mad dash toward the season finale, these virtues will only continue to be challenged as we eventually journey with these rattled survivors to the prison and the horrors that await them in Woodbury next season.
I hope they stick to the current plan. Give us the steady growth we’re now starting to see, and give us the living dead when necessary. Because in the end these stories are not just about walkers who rip skin from bone, it’s about that which defines us, and the one true evil that lurks in the shadows…man.