As I have made abundantly clear in posts past, the idea of zombies in general scare the proverbial out of me, and I have, until now, with the exception of the brilliantly crafted 28 Days Later and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later, avoided the undead like, well, the plague.
But The Walking Dead, which kept glancing across my viewing schedule courtesy of my zombie-obsessed housemate, who likely owns most forms of zombie-esque entertainment ever brought to death by the minds of men, has convinced me, by sheer dint of its sheer dramatic prowess, that some zombies, and those they pursue, deserve a place in the long and growing list of shows I watch.
Which is why I am eagerly awaiting, along with many others, the arrival of season 3 on October 14.
The season promises a racheting up of the action as our intrepid band of survivors, still dealing with the loss of several key members including Shane, the belatedly delivered news that they are all zombies-in-waiting (the virus is already in them simply waiting to be activated) and the dramatic announcement by Rick that he is their new dictator-for-life, fight their way into the prison they saw at the end of season 2.
It is naturally infested with zombified prisoners, and the trailers for this season have shown the lead up to what will no doubt be a series of pitched battles inside the faciluty as the group seeks to secure the prison as their new zombie-free pied-a-terre.
But as the season’s tagline intimates, it is not the undead inmates that will pose the most trenchant threat to our plucky band of survivors.
Rather, they have more to fear from those still living souls who have decided, in the wake of the apocalypse, that the quaint niceties of civilisation are a luxury mankind can ill afford. At least the substantial ones that really matter, that is.
The Walking Dead‘s showrunner, Glen Mazzara confirms this will be a prevailing theme in this season:
“[The zombies] are always a horror but as our folks learn to live with them, the new horror becomes what people will do to survive and to protect each other in this world.”
Of course, this means that all the basic tenets of humanity that Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn) was urging everyone in his group to cling to even as his own life slipped away from him, are in danger of becoming products of a bygone era as everyone contemplates resorting to a gruesome and bloody survival of the fittest.
It is a theme echoed in many of the current crop of apocalyptic dramas, with the 2nd Mass. in Falling Skies, also seeking to hold fast to the core human values they hold dear even as the world they knew goes to hell in a spaceship around them.
Here is a vitally question they must ask themselves.
How much of what defined civilisation do you cling to, and how much do you dispense with, as you face unimaginable threats where you don’t have the time to reflect or react with anything like measured thinking? You can hardly consider the measured words of Plato or Voltaire when a zombie is threatening to separate you from your intestines with brute animalistic force.
A debate of this nature is made all the more difficult to resolve however when figures like the Governor pop up, who come bearing promises to restore all the trappings of civilisation lost, all gussied up in a Stepford Wives/Leave it to Beaver suburban purity of his zombie-free enclave of Woodbury.
On the surface it is everything that an apocaylpse-weary soul would welcome, initially at least, with open arms. But as Andrea (Laurie Holden) who was saved from a living death at the end of last season by the katana-wielding Michonne (Danai Gurira) and her pet armless zombies discover all too quickly, what is the worth of window dressing with the vestiges of civilisation if the values of humanity no longer underpin the manicured lawns and perfectly painted frontages?
It is this sting in the tail that will cause soul searching aplenty in this season as Rick’s brand of dictatorship, cleverly dubbed by some as a “Ricktatorship”, which is at least clear and open about its intentions comes hard up against the snake-in-the-grass realities of the Governor’s brutal rule by stealth.
Many may well conclude that it might be preferable to take your chances with the zombies than deal with a Betty Crocker-esque exterior of humanity which cloaks mankind at its most violent and survival hungry.
Whatever the group decide, they will face the loss of another major member of their “family” early on the season, the return of the pathological redneck Merle Dixon (Michael Rooker) who was last scene on the roof of a department store in Atlanta chained to a pipe (where he had to be abandoned by Rick and T-Bone; when they returned for him all that remained was his severed hand), and a safe haven that may turn out to be anything but.
No one said that the apocalypse would be easy, a fact underlined in blood more often than not by the survivors and their desperate will to survive in a world gone to undead hell.