I don’t get the zombie craze

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

All the zombie movies — I am not clear why this genre is so popular now. Typically when Sci-Fi has some popular breakthrough its because of events happening elsewhere in society. Invasion of the Body Snatchers was a hit when Anti-Communist hysteria was at its peak. Star Trek was a hit when the USA government was actually trying to get to the moon. Planet Of The Apes was a hit when white America no longer felt free to speak openly of their fear of blacks, and so went looking for metaphors to express their racism.

So, what about Walking Dead? Is this how the public processes The Great Recession? Apparently the show is getting better:

The last four episodes of The Walking Dead have been the best since the series’ inception. For too many episodes to count, fans were subjected to shoddy dialogue and shallow character development—even the dramatic twists, like the Governor’s aquarium of heads or the Terminus cannibals, seemed like thin, broadstroke symbols meant to convey post-apocalyptic horror like a club to the head. They were the script equivalents of b-grade special effects make-up. We all kept with it because the zombies, and the killing, were so awesome. But somehow, midway through this season: The Walking Dead has gotten GREAT. Not just great for The Walking Dead, but actually excellent television on its own level. What the actual fuck?

I’m about to drop some serious [SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS] so if you haven’t watched and keep reading do not complain to me later, okay. So right before the mid-season break, viewers were plunged into the depths of horror and sorrow when the singing chick, Beth, was accidentally murked out by a gun. If one thing can be said for the writers on The Walking Dead, it’s that they do know how to end a season or mid-season finale with a bang. (Remember long-lost Sophia, ambling out of the barn? Horrifying.) Beth was one of the few characters on the show that symbolized an abundance of hope; her willful naivety, dreamy eyes, stupid folk music and unwavering belief in humanity (if only we could love!) were traits that kept the entire crew going, even when they were like, what the fuck Beth, humanity is screwed, you tripping.

So when Beth died for her beliefs, it was the perfect set-up: the season would return in a deflated daze, with all hope that there might still be good in this ruined world as decimated as the flesh on a walker. The first episode of the resumed season was a fever-dream like no other, with the beloved Tyreese caught in the space between heaven (death) and hell (life), speaking to his dead homies (Beth!) in a sort of acid-trippy sequence brought on by blood loss. It was shot in a humid delirium, a bit confusing and almost Lynchian, to match the varying stages of physical pain and confusion Tyreese was experiencing. It was a fucking awesome episode, and mind-blowing insofar that we never knew The Walking Dead had it in them. They took a show whose script and direction we just tolerated and made it artful, a piece of television cinema that could stand on its own even without the dark thrill of zombies and gore. There were freaking beautiful shots of the goddamn sky, for god’s sake, just for the sake of the storyline! The pacing was insane!

Tyreese himself was also representative of a sort of bygone human trait, that of peace—traumatized, he often refused to kill—so with him gone and buried, the group was at the very end of its wits. They clung to Rick’s brute instinct for survival, and little else. The group scrounged for water, and it was a metaphor for their parched souls: so beaten down by recent events they just looked dry, especially Lauren Cohan’s Maggie, whose face registers spiritual deflation more starkly than probably any of the other characters. Her lips were cracked open; her eyes had no light. For the first time in the history of this show, I wondered how they all got along without coffee. (I suppose they have bigger concerns than a lack of caffeine.)