The Walking Dead: Down Among the Dead Men

Opening the morning after the camp is invaded by a large group of zombies; this episode quickly lets us know that morale is at an all-time low. As piles of the dead (both zombie and former camp members) are disposed of, Andrea kneels over the lifeless body of Amy. She’s been there all night, standing vigil over her sister in complete silence. When Rick tries to speak with her about disposing of Amy before she reanimates, Andrea pulls her gun on him. With her newfound ability to turn off the safety, Andrea stares Rick down with a burning rage that few will ever experience. At that moment, The Walking Dead encapsulated everything you need to know about it. In a world torn apart by senseless and primal violence, people are changed, but not always for the better.

I look at Andrea and think about what her life was like before the world went to hell. It’s hinted at that she was a lawyer and that she was fairly well off. She grew up in a family where her father spent time with her and, even though she was 12 years older, she loved Amy very much. In this new world, she struggled to survive AND reconnect with the person who is probably her only remaining blood relative. As a guy who is close with his younger brother, I know that Andrea wants to nothing more than to be close with her sister, because that relationship represents security. Unfortunately, the universe decided to send Andrea the memo that security no longer exists.

Among the dead (both figuratively and literally) the survivors are, as Rick says, ‘…on the raggedy edge.’ While dealing with the fallout of the attack, the dead are piled and disposed of. When two people grab a fallen survivor and plan on tossing them into a fire reserved for their undead assailants, the usually friendly Glenn becomes enraged. In an uncharacteristically serious manner, he stands firm in his assertion that they not burn their friends. This was a moment that really got to me. As I stated earlier, people are changed by the state of the world. In this case, Glenn, a former screw-up with few cares in the world, has found some semblance of honor and loyalty. The world has taken away his security and, in doing so, activated a latent sense of community and heroism. Sadly, these new found character traits are put on display during the worst of times.

Moving on, the survivors continue clean up and discover that Jim has been bitten by a zombie. They quickly turn to arguing over what should be done and Jim is confined to the RV, where his health rapidly deteriorates. Seeing this, Rick makes the decision to get the group on the move to Atlanta to the Centers for Disease Control. His reasoning is that, as Morgan stated in the series premiere, the CDC was working on a cure. It’s the best hope of helping Jim, a man who valiantly stood in defense of his fellow survivors, so the survivors make the risky move of heading back into the hell that is ATL. While I can see why many would argue against it, it’s a move that makes sense. The camp is obviously no longer safe and they are in need of help for an injured ally. Realistically, what other options are there? Unfortunately, Jim gives into the pain and asks the survivors to leave him on the side of the road.

Knowing his fate, Jim decides to lighten the proverbial load. One by one, the survivors bid hum adieu. Rick offers him a handgun for protection, but he turns it away; knowing that to take it would lesson the resources of those trying to survive. The group slowly makes their way back to their vehicles as Jim slumps against his tree. He speaks of wanting to be with his family again. Odds are that he will never see his family again as he’ll reanimate soon and be one of the Legion of the Unliving. Despite Jim’s decision, the group continues onward to the promised land of the CDC.

Upon arriving in Atlanta, our group of not-so-merry survivors are quickly knee deep in the dead. Hundreds of bodies litter the area immediately around the CDC and metal shutters bar entrance into the facility. Once again, it’s a scene that speaks to the dire situation faced by Rick & Co. Surrounded on all sides by the dead, they have no place to go. Unfortunately, this is where the episode slowly goes off the rails.

In a scene that is vaguely reminiscent of the introduction of Desmond on LOST, we’re introduced to Jenner. Apparently, he’s a CDC scientist that is locked away in the facility that the survivors are trying to get into. He is studying tissue samples in hopes of finding a cure for the unknown disease that is causing the living to turn into flesh-munching undead. The kicker? He’s completely alone. That’s right, apparently Jenner is the only surviving member of this facility. When his research literally goes up in flames due to an automated contamination containment protocol, he sits alone. His goal? To get drunk and possibly commit suicide in the morning.

Upon seeing the survivors on a security camera screen, he quietly prays for them to leave. Noticing the camera move to get a better look at them, Rick bangs on the security door and yells to the unknown person on the other end of the camera. As he yells ‘You’re killing us!’ it’s obvious that the situation will end one of two ways. Either the good doctor will let the survivors in or they will have to contend with the mounting horde of  Walkers gathering around them. I was hoping for option two, but Jenner apparently decided to put off his suicide attempt for a day or so.

The episode ends with the door opening and the survivors standing, bathed in the cool blue light of the uncharted territory before them. They think security lies within but, if the show sticks to the spirit of the comics, they’ll find nothing but horror behind those seemingly safe security shutters. I’m not a fan of moving in the direction of discussing the origins of the plague, so I’m hoping that the show surprises us and twists the situation into a season finale full of horrific events. I mean this in the best possible way. Really, I do.

The show hasn’t done much wrong thus far. The narrative hasn’t been split by checking in on the duo of Morgan & Duane and the missing Merle Dixon didn’t show up, as everyone expected, to wreak havoc on the camp. The show is seemingly leaving some plot threads dangling to heighten the tension and possibly provide some storylines for the recently greenlit second season. I can already see that this season won’t end in any way close to how the first story arc of the comic did, but I’m ok with that. The show continues to provide quality drama by not bowing to convention or giving us exactly what we expect. The heroes of this story are full of flaws, but the show itself couldn’t be any different. It’s like a diamond. A big, shiny…um, rotting flesh covered diamond. Ok, I’m tired. See you all next week.

2 Responses to “The Walking Dead: Down Among the Dead Men”
  1. Robert Lee says:

    Hey! Good walking dead piece. Great blog over all too. I look forward to exploring it further. With regards to the walking dead abandoning plot lines, the comics did the same constantly. If done like the source material the show will continue in the same manner. It does not need to wrap up plot threads neatly. This is not your typical tv show. It’s writing will be more stream of consciousness rather than three act structure.

    Look forward to your thoughts on the finale!

    • rickcarrion says:

      Thanks for the kind words. I’m actually a big fan of the comic and have been reading since around issue 6 or 7 originally came out. I LOVE the fact that plot threads have been completely abandoned or deferred for issues at a time. it’s really representative of the chaos they face in the world. while i don’t want them to address every dangling plot thread, there are repercussions in terms of character development. all events are cumulative, even if we don’t directly see what happens. anyway, thanks again!

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