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June 17, 2013 / milesandhisfavorites

Why The Walking Dead Can’t Be Hopeless

I am a decent fan of Robert Kirkman’s hit zombie comic/TV show/game/phenomenon The Walking Dead.  I’ve read the two main compendiums of the comic, and when season 3 hits Netflix, I will watch the whole thing ASAP.  The story (which mostly follows former police officer Rick Grimes and his ever-growing and shrinking band of survivors and their escapades through the zombie-torn wasteland that was once America) covers a lot of different themes, from survival to death to keeping your humanity when everyone else may not be.  But the whole thing is basically: when bleep hits the fan, give up hope.  No, really.  If the group finds a refuge, it’ll be overrun by the dead sooner or later.  Anyone can die at any moment.  Or as one of the characters from the highly acclaimed video game puts it so eloquently:

In the end, the dead always win.

But when I read Compendium 2 of the comic for the second time (the things are GINORMOUS), I realized something: the story can’t afford to be hopeless for its entirety.  I say this because Rick, who at this point is the SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS leader of a community near Washington D.C. called the Alexandria Safe Zone, gives a little speech to justify gathering resources to start farming (not that you really need to justify that when it’s two years after the end of the world).  He points out that, hey, when he and his group were on the road, they had to constantly scavenge food and supplies.  And you can’t do that forever.  One, canned goods and bottled water are finite if you don’t start making them again, and two, they can’t keep.

Also, in Compendium 2, Alexandria gets temporarily overrun by a small herd of zombies, killing several people, including a woman who was having an affair with Rick (and her son-Kirkman knows no bounds).  But they take it back after a couple days, and begin to rebuild.  Not to mention the introduction of other communities, including the Hilltop (built in what is basically Mount Vernon) and the Kingdom (which is based in a former school).  Plus, it seems that as people start getting smarter (or keep getting eaten, either way), the zombies are actually getting emaciated and are losing their strength.

With all these factors: supplies being inconsistent, the dead becoming manageable, and civilization reappearing, it feels like the comic is getting better, and that like with the prison group and Woodbury, the threats are going to be much more human from now on.  Then again, I don’t keep tabs on the comic much, and Alexandria could be overrun in the next issue.  It honestly wouldn’t surprise me.  But if the comic is meant to be ultra-realistic, then the story won’t go anywhere without the characters starving or finding a new place to call home with sustainable food.

The show is something of a different story.  At this point, it’s still Rick’s group in the prison versus Woodbury and the Governor, and it’s maybe seven months post-apocalypse.  So it can still afford to be hopeless.  But the comic can’t necessarily.  Which I like.  In apocalypse stories, there’s nothing I love more than multiple societies starting up, trading, and maybe fighting with each other.  And maybe that’s why people like that sort of thing so much: seeing what the new world might be like is often a bigger thrill than what our world is like.  Mostly because of the zombies.

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