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Only one way to keep you alive.


The Walking Dead 
3.1 Seed

One of the big problems I have apocalypse scenarios, where survivors eke out a back-to-basics lifestyle choice, is that writers are forced into selectivity regarding the practicalities of the situation. Most of the time the immediate threat is the one that brought about the end of the world. So, in a zombie apocalypse, you’re likely to be pretty much fine as long as you can avoid the hordes of the undead shuffling (or sprinting) about the place.

Scant regard is usually paid to the probability that most of the unzombified would succumb to radiation sickness in the months following the outbreak (or, even if there aren’t any zombies, would those in Survivors or Revolution have more than medium-term chances?) The answer, clearly, is to present a period movie zombie apocalypse. Either that or rely on friendly E.T.s to neutralise the radioactivity.

I’ve raised my doubts about the viability of the scenario (assuming zombies are viable, and we all know they are a very real threat, right?) before and have been confidently regaled concerning reactors’ automatic shutdown processes. But with no staff and the need for the cooling process to be maintained, not to mention that of the spent fuel pools, I’m less than reassured. Apparently there are more than 900 nuclear reactors across the world, of which more than 400 are power plants. It would be surprising if this weren’t as imminent a threat as being chowed down on by a deceased neighbour. Zombiepedia certainly seem to thinks so 

But Where the Wind Blows of the Dead probably wouldn’t be much fun. In it’s favour, it would probably all be over for us much more quickly than in Where the Wind Blows. A blessed relief as if you weren’t feeling suicidal before watching it, you soon would have topped yourself. The Walking Dead understandably eschews a rigorous depiction of what happens when the scientific age stops working. Instead it opts for a less expansive Ray Mears’ World of Survival, with substantially less knowledge of flora and fauna. The insight from this week’s episode; owls aren’t very filling.

The Waltons with Zombies of Season Two has been banished from the (ever-changing) producers’ minds, if the opener is anything to go by. The series still flounders on its soapy elements, since it’s difficult to care about characters’ conflicts when they’re walking clichés. It’s an appropriate irony that the dead are more interesting. Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes is the only character that the writers approach with any aspirations towards complexity and to his credit Lincoln has banished all memories of his former life in This Life.

But last season the OTT machinations of Shane were only digestible because of the gusto Jon Berthal brought to the character. Poor Sarah Wayne Callies seems to be afflicted by a string of unsympathetic wife/girlfriend parts, first with Prison Break and now here. Only Daryl (Norman Reedus) gets a free pass, because it’s difficult to go to far wrong with a self-serving anti-hero (with a heart of gold).

The Walking Deadis so robust in the face of predictable writing (Season Two, at least) that it may be closest thing there is to an unbreakable formula. All you need to do is stage an attack or skirmish at some point every episode and the pervading tension will do the rest of the work for you. The characters could spend an entire 42 minutes playing charades and we’d still watch for that moment where one of the undead interrupts what the second syllable sounds like.

I know the prison setting of the third season evolves from the comic book, but there’s a two-way logic in seeing it as a safe haven. It’s right there in the name. However much it may keep the enemy out, when the tables are turned there couldn’t be a more escape-countering scenario. So that’s one to look forward to, then. The first episode makes the most of the possibilities for tension, particular as the motley band ventures into the recesses of the prison. Quite why they take old coot Hershel on their zombie hunt is beyond me, particularly as he ends up semi-legless. I’d hoped David Morrisey would show up, but it looks as if I’ll have to wait another couple of weeks; still the reveal of the non-transformed prisoners makes a good end of episode.

They’re very, very dirty are Rick’s band. Grimes-y, even. It set me wondering about the issue of hygiene and infection. Since everyone seems concerned only about bites and scratches, one must assume that, however illogical, being covered in zombie blood and then getting it on with your beloved (Glenn and Maggie) poses no threat.

Season One’s revelation regarding everyone being infected came back into focus at the end of the second run. It’s a cheerfully nihilistic idea, I’ll give them that. But it also serves to complicate the hows and whys of infection in a way that, with the shuffling production personnel and variable quality on display, you just know is going to be seriously messed up at some point (if it hasn’t been already, with amputations proving surprisingly effective, given how fast blood circulates, and Daryl putting dirty arrows in his mouth). The unbitten come back as zombies when they expire and, if bitten, either the nasties of decaying disease kill them and reanimate them or the dormant virus is activated by the rampantly active infectious agent? I don’t really know. It matters to an extent, because there need to be clear rules and consistency, but the series isn’t really preoccupied with smart, cerebral concepts and plotting.

But it’s addictive, even in its weakest state (most of Season Two was like Kim and the cougar in24). At least, unlike Lost or Battlestar Galactica, it doesn’t offer the ever-distant hope of satisfying answers. The flipside is that it meanders on as a more visceral version of The Littlest Hobo for another four or five seasons, which could become a bit tiring.


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