Monday, 4 June 2012

I am Daryl Dixon’s Crossbow

There are many like me, but I am his.

Daryl Dixon's Crossbow in The Walking Dead

I am Daryl Dixon’s Horton Scout HD 125 compound crossbow.  That may not mean much to you, but just my name tells you a lot about Daryl and a lot about our relationship.

If I was single (i.e not with Daryl), I’d enter the following information on a person/crossbow dating matchmaking site so you could tell if we’d be a good match:

My measurements:

Model Number: CB721 (but everyone calls me “Scout”)
Weatherproof synthetic stock and barrel, MicroFlight™ arrow groove (tight)
Talon™ CUSTOM field-grade trigger with ambidextrous safety (up for anything)
ToughBoy™ wide-body limbs with CamoTuff™ Limb Shield (toned and buff)
Precision aluminium riser, Machined aluminium alloy wheels (I drive fast)
ICAD cable system, Dial-A-Range® trajectory compensator, steel stirrup (kinky)
Draw Weight: 125 lbs,  Total weight: 5.5 lbs (zero percent body fat, built for love)
Length: 29 in,  Width: 25 in (36, 24, 36)
Power Stroke: 10 1/2 in,  Arrow Length: 17 or 20 in (let your imagination run!)
Velocity: 250 fps,  Energy: 250 ft lbs (I go all the way, every time)

Extras I bring to the relationship:

25-mm Red Dot Sight, Hunter® Elite Lite 3-arrow quiver (look into my eye)
3 practice arrows, 3 practice points (practice makes perfect)
So that’s me.  Well, the boring details anyway.  There’s a lot about me that’s subtle, and those little subtleties explain why Daryl takes me everywhere, and we are never apart for more than a moment.

One of the things you may not know about me is that I’m a “youth” model.  See, Daryl and I met when he was younger.  We fit together better than any other pair-up, and we know each other’s moves so well by now that we’re almost a part of each other.  Daryl knows to expect one of my bolts (what he calls my “arrows”, and that always makes me giggle because we both know he knows they’re bolts, but he always says “arrows” just to get a rise out of me) is going to drop about 5 inches for every 10 yards of distance to the target.

There are two styles of a crossbow, the “recurve” and the “compound”.  The recurve is the simplest type, with just a string, stretched between the two ends of the bow.  Recurves are easier to maintain in the field but more difficult to cock since you are fighting the full weight of the string’s pull.

Cheap, slutty recurve that Daryl DIDN’T choose!
Compounds, like moi, employ a pulley system where the string is leveraged using a block-and-tackle cable arrangement to minimise the cocking effort and give maximum speed to the arrow with the least amount of bow energy.

About My “Arrows” (tee hee)

Daryl used to have several of my original Horton Carbon Strike bolts with practice tips:

He even had some broadhead hunting tips which can replace the practice tips, but he never really used them once the Walker plague hit.  I think I know why, too.

Broadhead Tips (razor sharp!)
Practice Tips (tough as nails!)
See, broadhead tips are meant to penetrate the flesh of living game (like deer and hogs) and create a significant blood channel so the game animal will bleed out quickly if it doesn’t drop immediately.  Well, walkers don’t bleed out, and they don’t even respond to flesh hits.  And since my practice tips are considerably stronger and lower maintenance than the razor-blade-edged broadheads, Daryl just uses those.

He’s even made some new bolts from some ash tree limbs he whittled down and chicken feathers he made into “fletchings” at the back of the arrow (tee hee).  I don’t know if those will last more than 1 shot, but 1 shot to the head is all it takes, so we’ll see…

Daryl Dixon makes his own crossbow arrows

Nock Nock, Who’s There?

For improved accuracy, Daryl uses “half moon nocks”.  These are the string-contact part of the bolt and attached to the rear end of each bolt.  The half-moon style allows the string to engage the arrow at a very consistent angle, making for very accurate shots.  Before everything went to hell, these were made in green, orange, and even illuminated models

I’m All a’Quiver

Since more than one bolt can often be required in a hunting or fighting situation, I have a quick-detach quiver which holds 3 bolts.  This is mounted perpendicular to my stock so the arrows are parallel to my limbs.

Daryl giving me a piggy-back ride – see my quiver with 2 arrows?
I Only Have Eyes For You

Sighting a target is done using my illuminated 25mm diameter red dot sight.  If you’ve never used a red dot sight, you’re in for a treat.  First, you keep both eyes open.  Second, select the intensity of the red dot illumination (from 1 to 10) that makes the most sense for your current lighting conditions (evening or night, 1, dusk maybe 3 or 4, daylight, 10).  Finally, place the dot where you want the bolt to strike, and squeeze me gently until that moment of sweet release…

Aiming the Horton Scout crossbow
This pic is a little fuzzy and the dot is a little arc because Daryl was moving when he shot it, but you get the idea.  See the quiver, 2 arrows, cocked string, and limbs?

Our relationship

Daryl and I have known each other since long before the zombie apocalypse.  See, that’s why he chose me.  Like I said earlier, I’m a “youth” model, with all the power and smarts of a full-size crossbow, but less weight and size. Daryl knew that when you’re hunting for meat to save your life, you feel every ounce you’re carrying out in the field, and every inch of something sticking out makes you that much more likely to snag a branch or otherwise get caught on something.

So I’m everything he wanted, and I give him everything he needs.  Sure, there was that one incident in front of Hershel’s barn where he was flirting with that shotgun, but it meant nothing to him.  It was a one-time thing, and I know it won’t happen again.

Scout and Daryl, walkers, him, and me, S H O O T I N G

Thursday, 12 April 2012

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Merle Dixon and his relationship with his brother Daryl Dixon.
Merle Dixon... where are you?
I want to take some time and talk about Daryl and his relationship with his brother Merle. Daryl’s a fan favourite of The Walking Dead, and I’m glad he his, (I thought I was the only one!). As such, I think it’s best to study the character, find out what makes him tick, and where Merle fits into all of that.

Now we’re not given the gritty details, but we can infer quite a bit about the two brothers:

Merle’s attitude proclaims his racism; he says what he wants when he wants, and he’s more than willing to fight any who oppose him. He’s crass, belligerent, and regrettably obstinate. I mean, you’d pretty much have to be to sever your own hand to survive!

Merle is a crude individual who looks out for número uno para siempre, (roughly translated to “number one forever”). If someone was on fire, Merle’s the kind of guy who would put it out only if he had to piss. An opportunist through and through and Daryl knows it.

Conversely, Daryl is a good-hearted man. Daryl is the guy who would watch a bar fight out of the corner of his eye, interrupting only if it wasn’t a fair fight. Under his tough exterior is a saint, (see what I did there?).

Daryl is defensive, he’s self-reliant, but he’s generally a loner. He appears aggressive as a defence mechanism because he doesn’t do well with emotions. Everything is logical and has a purpose in the cold world. He’s observant, contemplative, and deep down, someone longing for a place.

Daryl knows that his brother is good for nothing; in Chupacabra, Daryl confronts a fictional Merle that represents his psyche. He fights his survival instincts that tell him Rick is no good; the group is a ragtag bunch of city folk that look down on him; he’s nothing but an errand boy, worth less than the dirt they walk on. He fights these thoughts just as much as he fights his guilt for “abandoning” Merle.

That’s what the episode was about. Hell, that is what the search for Sophia is about. To Daryl, finding Sophia will absolve him of his self-inflicted guilt. Guilt that he carries, not because he failed to find his brother, but because he gave up willingly. He gave up because he knows Merle is a liability. He left Atlanta with Rick, Glenn, and T-Dog in Vatos because he knew in his heart that Merle wasn’t worth the trouble.

But here’s the rub: all of the progress that Daryl’s made these sixteen episodes is about to be put to the test next season with the return of Merle Dixon. If we assume that Merle is indeed alive, there’s no telling what kind of havoc he will wreck on the group, but more importantly, how he will affect the crossbow wielding survivalist.

As much as he believes his brother to be a bastard, Daryl is a man of honour, conviction, and most of all loyalty. He is a man head and shoulders over Merle, Shane, and in some instances, even Rick. This endearing and admirable quality could spell demise for Daryl; on the one hand, he has his loyalty to Rick and the group, a loyalty that was restored by Dale; on the other hand, Merle is still his kin, and Daryl will be the better man to a fault for that blood bond.

So will Daryl embrace his brother with open arms, or will he finally beat the cold bastard at his own game, in order to protect what’s his? My greatest fear for The Walking Dead is losing Daryl. Especially to his demons, and to Merle.

Monday, 2 April 2012

When One Door Opens, Another Closes

This is a twist on the old adage meant to give hope and inspiration to people whose lives have taken a turn for the worse; to give the illusion that opportunity is always just around a corner. In The Walking Dead however, it seems that every time a new face turns up, one of the core group is irrevocably lost.

Before I explain the examples of this thought, let me first clarify my restrictions for choosing them. I do not include the Morales family because to our knowledge they have not been killed, but rather chose to leave the group and head out on their own. Those I do include are people who have become a part of the group, with the exception of Otis, who would have been a part of the group (as a member of Hershel’s group he would have merged with the original Atlanta group) had he lived.

The first example of this idea comes when Rick meets up with the survivors in Atlanta. Unfortunately, he is the new face in this instance. With his arrival, we see a horde of zombies attack the camp the survivors had staked out, which causes the deaths of Amy, Ed and ultimately Jim. Next we have Jacqui’s death. This occurs after being allowed into the CDC and discovering that a cure has not and likely will not be discovered within the United States. She chooses to stay in the building when it explodes as part of the emergency safety measures. When the group moves to Hershel’s farm after Carl is shot, we have Otis killed by Shane. In this instance, I’d say he was both the new face and the death that followed, which is an unusual circumstance in the pattern. After meeting and getting to know Hershel’s household, we discover that Sophia is indeed dead, and was one of the Walkers kept in their barn. Finally, Randall is brought to the farm in an effort to save him, Rick decides to let him live, and then Dale is killed by a Walker.

After seeing this pattern, I couldn’t help but wonder why it happens that way? I brought up this topic with fellow writer Amy Gugerty and she pointed out that there is a logistical reason for this: too many characters to follow means not enough attention devoted to them. People don’t remember who they are or what they’ve done. I am guilty of this myself. I had forgotten who the Morales family was, who Jacqui was, and that Jim was a part of the show. This makes sense, but I think there’s more to it than just logistics.

I think that the line of who has died mirrors not only the deteriorating humanity of the group (Thanks Amy for that bit), but also their deteriorating hopes and morale. With each death, something vital is sucked away from the company. Obviously a life is gone, but each death indicates a loss of chance, of future opportunities that would have existed had that person survived. With Amy, it was a chance of familial bond for Andrea, which at the time she felt was the only reason she had to keep going forward. It’s difficult to see this kind of opportunity present with Ed and Jim, as their ties were tenuous to the group. Jacqui’s death corresponds with the death of the hope for a cure, and has members of the group wondering if suicide is the better option than survival. When Otis is killed, we see the death of decency in Shane – he has become a creature that will do whatever it takes for its own survival. Sophia’s death indicates the end of childhood; not even children are sacred or safe in a world where the dead rise again. And finally, Dale’s death expresses the finality of the group’s concern for safety superceding the untried killing of an individual. His is a symbol for the death of justice as we’ve known it, and the death of civilization and the qualities of goodness that make people greater than the sum of their individuality. Even with Rick’s turnaround, the fact that Dale is killed gives a sense of too little, too late, and there’s no going back now. An irrevocable act, a door closed.

My thanks to my friend Joe for giving me the idea for this article, without his comments I wouldn’t have had this brainstorm!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Five Reasons Why Daryl Is STILL My Favorite

My very first article on this site, many months and miles ago, was a fan girl love fest called Five Reason Why Daryl is My Favorite. After Season 2’s finale, Beside the Dying Fire, I have found that I just gotta’ go there again. Even though I’ve been down this road before, Daryl was, as a character, still in its infancy. He is more of an adolescent now. He’s grown and matured a bit; he’s learned from some of his mistakes; he seems on his way to becoming a responsible, respected member of society. (We only wish we could say this about all REAL children, don’t we?)

My previous reasons for liking this character so much were:

Daryl is a wild card;
Daryl is Mr. Practical;
Daryl calls it like he sees it;
Daryl is decisive;
Daryl has feelings, but he doesn’t let them control him.

Most of those still stand, with slight adjustment. Although he is less of a wild card and his actions are not as unpredictable, he still surprises us frequently. He is still very practical. He still calls things like he sees them. Decisiveness is still a key part of his character, although he is now somewhat less likely to shoot first and ask questions later. He also still keeps control of his emotions, well mostly. He still has some issues with that anger thing.  But having now seen Daryl in a variety of situations and been given clues to his budding friendships with the others, we have a better picture of the man he truly is.

So, I now give you Five Reasons Why Daryl is STILL My Favorite.

Daryl in woods

1) Daryl’s observation skills are exceptional. Several scenes in Season 2 have shown that Daryl notices damn near everything, even if he doesn’t feel the need to share. The perfect example is when he deduced that Shane killed Otis. Daryl told Dale in Judge, Jury, Executioner that he knew Shane had probably killed Otis because Shane “showed up with a dead guy’s gun” after the expedition to the high school. My husband, Jeff, with his own brilliant observation skills, quickly pointed out that detail when Save the Last One aired. As Shane wrenched Rick’s Colt Python from Otis’s hand, Jeff commented “So how is he going to explain having the gun?” We were both disappointed that no one in the group seemed to notice. Indeed, if events had played out the way Shane claimed, there’s no way he would’ve had the Python. It would still be in the undead claw of walker Otis. But the writers were only biding their time and we eventually had a payoff: someone HAD noticed. I’m very glad it was Daryl, because it added an air of intelligence that wasn’t apparent when the character was first introduced.

Although he seems by nature to be a suspicious guy, more than that makes Daryl’s observation skills so keen. His ability to see what others overlook comes in large part from his skills as a hunter. (Granted, he must be some kind of super tracker if he can notice – in pitch darkness – two sets of tracks, blood on a tree, and that “a little dust up occurred here,” but this is what suspension of disbelief is all about. If you can accept Andrea as an instant sharpshooter, you can accept that Daryl has freaky tracking skills.) Hunters must quietly observe their prey as they stalk it; to make the kill, they must pay attention to minutiae others would miss. It was nice to see Daryl’s tracking skills translated into his catching details about Shane’s story that the others didn’t catch. Both his ability to track things – be they escaped prisoners, missing little girls, or game animals for dinner – and his habit of noticing things about people that others don’t, Daryl’s skills of observation are HIGHLY valuable to the group.

 2) Daryl’s ability to read people and situations is almost uncanny. This goes hand in hand with his observation skills. If you pay close attention to someone’s body language or improbable details in a story someone tells, you will often be able to figure out what people are really thinking or that there are things they aren’t telling you that they should be. In the conversation mentioned above, Daryl tells Dale something that shows he easily identified Rick’s inability to see clearly things about Shane. Regarding Rick’s not picking up on the likelihood that Shane killed Otis, Daryl says “Rick ain’t stupid. If he didn’t figure it out, it was cuz he didn’t wanna.’” Wow… a pretty damn good call on how Rick viewed Shane. Rick, so blinded by what Shane used to be, could not see what Shane had become. Daryl saw that Rick’s long held feelings clouded his perception of his best friend. Daryl also saw that it was Rick’s own fault if he couldn’t or wouldn’t adjust his view of Shane. Daryl just didn’t feel the need to point this out to Rick.

He was not shy however about making it known that he thought Shane was lying in Better Angels. When he asked Shane how Randall was able to get the jump on the former deputy despite only weighing “a buck twenty-five,” it was pretty obvious he could read Shane and the situation for what it really was. Didn’t mean he knew what Shane was up to, only that something didn’t smell right about Shane’s description of events. It also reinforced the fact he calls it like he sees it and he called “bullshit” on Shane’s story.

3) Daryl is willing to help Rick with the “heavy lifting.” In both interrogating Randall and shooting Dale, Daryl showed he is capable of carrying out unpleasant tasks if they need to be done. This is something that others – and yes, I’m talking about Shane here – have not been either willing or able to do. I suspect that even if Shane had remained alive, Daryl would still have become Rick’s wingman and Shane’s role in the group’s leadership would have diminished significantly.

I’ve seen many comments online recently describing Daryl as “Rick’s enforcer,” but I disagree with that assessment. Daryl is not an enforcer by the classic definition of the word. According to Miriam Webster, my favorite dictionary, “enforcer” is defined as “1.) one that enforces 2.) a: a violent criminal employed by a crime syndicate; b: a player known for rough play and fighting.” (There are other definitions, but only one of the 10 or so I could find would fit Daryl’s role as “one whose job it is to execute unpleasant tasks for a superior” and to me, that is a definition by usage, not a meaning that comes from the actual word history. It’s a minor academic point, but I am a minor academic!) An enforcer’s role is to ensure compliance with rules or help maintain rule over a group. Daryl does neither. An enforcer’s role is to be a violent man. Daryl is not. He is simply a man capable of violence. There is a difference. Daryl doesn’t necessarily LIKE violence; he is however very good at it, when he has to be.

4) Daryl gets some of the best lines. If it is smart-assed or sarcastic and delivered dead-pan with a dash of piss and vinegar, chances are Daryl is the one saying it. My favorites in Season 2 include:
“Climb out of my ass, old man!” to Dale when he ask asks if Daryl let Lori go with Maggie in Triggerfinger.

“It ain’t the mountains of Tibet; it’s Georgia!” to Andrea when she asks if Daryl thinks they’ll find Sophia in Save the Last One.

“Look at him. Hanging up there like a big piñata.” To Andrea when they find the tree walker in Save the Last One.

“That’s the third time you’ve pointed that thing at my head. You gonna’ shoot me or what?” to Rick in Chupacabra, followed of course by “I didn’t think you’d do it” when Andrea actually takes a shot at him.

“Shoot me again, you best pray I’m dead” to Andrea in Secrets.

“It’s as good a night as any” to Herschel in Beside the Dying Fire when Herschel tells him “It’s my farm; I’ll die here.”

Daryl and Carol
5) Daryl is part of the group, again. Early in Season 2, he accepted direction from Rick in the search for Sophia. As he put so much of himself into that search, we could see Daryl slowly becoming more a part of the group. He opened up a bit to Andrea and Carol. He defended Rick to his hallucination of Merle. But let’s face it; if they planned to keep Daryl in the series, the writers had to give him greater depth and more back story. They had to give him more emotional ties to the group. (Sadly, they have yet to do the same things for T-Dog, but that’s another article!) To say Daryl withdrew emotionally and physically from the others after Sophia was discovered in the barn would be a huge understatement. Daryl got the bitterness and pain out of his system the only way he knew how: he got mad; he yelled at people; he blamed the innocent; and he stalked off to pout and cool down. But, eventually, he dealt with the situation and his anger about it lessened.

Daryl was still standoffish, but he slowly reintegrated. For example, he told Dale in Judge, Jury, Executioner that the group was “broken” and that he was better off fending for himself, but he didn’t leave. Daryl was also willing to accompany Rick to remove Randall from the farm in Better Angels, even though he was unconcerned with Randall’s fate. His only voiced thought on the situation was that once they were done “this whole pain in the ass will be a distant memory,” adding “good riddance.” A moment later, when Rick specifically asks if he’s “good with this,” Daryl replies “I don’t see us tradin’ haymakers at the side of the road; nobody wins that fight.” This provides a subtle reminder that Daryl, unlike Shane, won’t question Rick’s decisions or challenge Rick’s authority. He showed that despite being a loner who was perfectly capable of surviving without the group he was willing to be a team player. When the group comes back together on the highway after the farm is overrun in Beside the Dying Fire, it was especially heartening to see Rick and Daryl lock hands like they did. To me, that action showed Daryl’s growing connection to Rick as did his defense of Rick to Carol later beside the campfire when Carol appeared to be trying to talk him into either taking control of the group or leaving it. Daryl isn’t interested in her suggestion. Now that it is now longer a democracy, maybe Daryl will become Rick’s enforcer instead of just Rick’s doer of difficult and dirty deeds.

This last point brings me to a very important question: What happens when Merle returns? Merle is said to be returning at some point in Season 3. Daryl, in his new position as Rick’s wingman, you know, the position that Shane, uh, vacated, will undoubtedly be torn between his brother and the group. Yes, Merle is kin, but the group is becoming more of a “family” to Daryl then I think the older Dixon boy was ever capable of being, shared DNA be damned. Hell yes, there will be fireworks between the brothers, that goes without saying. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: watching Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus on screen together is well worth the price of admission. Hell, it’s worth the cost of two tickets!

As the writers explored Daryl’s character over the course of Season 2, Reedus continued to use body language to provide his own clues about Daryl’s personality. At times, Daryl’s inner struggle with being a part of the group versus keeping himself on its periphery – a key element for the character’s development – was almost painfully obvious. We often saw him off to the side of the group, unengaged, which showed us two things: 1.) he was still a loner and not comfortable connecting with people or forming close friendships; and 2.) he was always watching and evaluating his fellow survivors, trying to determine if they were worth his time and effort.

His mannerisms and facial expressions also provided insight into Daryl’s thoughts. Sometimes that vision was cloudy; other times it was as clear as an August morning in Georgia after the haze of dawn has burned away. As Shane told the story about Otis’s last moments, we saw Daryl in the background, saying nothing, just squinting as he listened. Was he skeptical of Shane’s tale or just bored and ready to get the whole affair over with so he could continue the search for Sophia? As the story played out, it appeared to have been both. But when he questioned Shane about his story regarding Randall, there was no confusion over what Daryl was really thinking. His wrinkled brow and “that just don’t make no sense” expression emphasized the fact he wasn’t buying what the other man was trying to sell.

Finally, another important element for the character’s development, the amount of anger he displayed changed minutely. Daryl still had a couple of verbal explosions, but all in all, he seemed to have mellowed somewhat, perhaps because he is more distanced by time from Merle. In Season 2 there were no squirrels thrown at anyone, no knives pulled, fewer veiled threats and angry, arms-folded-across-his-chest stances, and much less glaring. Okay, so there was still a LOT of glaring, but for the most part, it felt less… hostile. Which brings to mind a comment that I once heard Reedus make; he said that giving people dirty looks “kind of turned into a career” for him. Good thing too, because trust me, dude, we fan girls LOVE those dirty looks! Keep ‘em coming.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Angel and Devil on Andrea's shoulder

As the countdown to the Season Two Finale begins, fans of The Walking Dead wonder which cast members will fail to survive and fight on in Season Three. For the first time since the group left the CDC in Atlanta, I find myself hoping Andrea is not part of the upcoming body count.

Oh, I still don’t like her much. I also don’t like Lori, to the point I almost cringe typing my own name. The argument the two women had in the kitchen of the farmhouse a few episodes ago drove me crazy, because I agreed with every single rotten thing they said about each other. I sort of hoped a walker would lurch out of the pantry and have a bitch buffet.

But now I feel as if Andrea is on the cusp of something, and it could be very interesting. She’s made a lot of transitions in the first two seasons, perhaps more than any other character. She started out trying to be tough, going into town on missions. Still, despite being a civil rights attorney with – presumably – a life of her own, she in many ways remained the daughter who fished with her father and wanted to make up for ignoring her younger sister.

When Amy was attacked and awoke as a walker, Andrea dug deep, searching for the inner strength to do what had to be done to prevent her baby sister from continuing in that dark existence. It was undoubtedly the most difficult thing she’d ever had to do, but that decision came from love, not calculated, strategic violence. The act changed her profoundly, making her doubt her will to live in this new reality.

Dale wouldn’t let her “opt out.” Seeing him as her surrogate father, Andrea saved herself to save him, and eventually regained her will to go on. But in order to protect herself from further emotional and psychological damage, she started pushing Dale away and stomped all her emotional sensitivity down, adopting a stoic, practical persona. And who guided her and nurtured this mercenary attitude? Shane. He taught her to shoot, and he encouraged her to tap into her repressed rage to find the cold, dead attitude he believed she needed to survive.

As the debate raged about deciding Randall’s fate, Dale reminded her of her former role as a civil rights attorney. She cared about fighting for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. By the time a decision was reached, she was wavering, asking if they could find another way to eliminate the threat the boy posed, short of killing him.

Dale was the angel on one shoulder, whispering in her ear about humanity, fighting for what’s right, and not letting the daily horrors change who she is on a fundamental level. Meanwhile, Shane was the devil on the other shoulder, urging her to shed her emotions in favor of a hard, calculating, merciless approach, focused on nothing but survival.

Now, in the space of about twenty-four hours, Andrea has lost her two primary influences. Her angel died, his integrity intact, even if his innards were not. Her devil also died, victim of his own murderous plot and the error of underestimating exactly how far Rick would go to protect his family.

Andrea has alienated herself from much of the group. The remaining men don’t really see her as the warrior she tried to become, and the women see her as a slacker or a cold, distant, delusional guardian wanna-be. Who will become her new stabilizing or destabilizing influence, if anyone? Will she become even more isolated and bitter in the absence of Dale? Will she become more ruthless, stepping up to fill the void left by Shane? Or will she remember her connection to Dale and recover her emotional balance, perhaps even developing into a unifying force in this traumatized, fractured group?

If she isn’t among the dead (or un-dead) at the end of the Season Two Finale, she will be a fascinating character to watch in Season Three.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Walk on By

** SPOILER Disclaimer – In my articles I talk openly about things that happen in older issues of the comic series, The Walking Dead. I think for the most part this is extremely fair as the series began in 2003 so it’s unreasonable to gag events from 5 to 8 years old. Know that I will tend to be closed mouthed about specifics for up to 20 issues back from current (meaning #94 is current so I’ll try hard not to spoil anything after issue #74). If I feel I have to I will put a Spoiler warning in the article. Everything else is fair game. All images property of their copyright owners.**

Walker in field 18 miles out
I was so excited to see this lone “walker” shambling through a field tall with grass. The evening sun casting long shadows. It was a very tranquil moment, almost a spoof of some National Geographic documentary. I’m referring to a scene from the Walking Dead TV episode, “18 Miles Out” of course. I was so excited, but even more for the “non-reaction” of our two survivors, Rick and Shane.

It is unclear whether Rick ever saw the zombie, but I like to believe he did. I took driver’s ed classes so I was trained to constantly scan everything. That on top of my post-traumatic stress and I just couldn’t miss a large detail like that. But, maybe Rick is one of those “focused” drivers, or his head was full of Lori, Shane, and poopy diapers. Shane saw it all though, and it is his total, unflinching silence that I love. He doesn’t instinctively reach for a gun, or hit Ricks shoulder for attention. He just watches this zombie, like a viewer watching a lion walking across the Serengeti in a lazy rest from stalking antelope, in contemplative silence. And if ever a silence spoke volumes it was this silence. And because of this, in my mind Rick saw it and had that same non-reaction.

You see, this type of scene has now happened many times in the graphic novel, or comic, or whatever term you prefer. I don’t think ‘nonchalant’ is the correct word, but in some ways it is… The lone roamer, or even a couple lurkers thrown in, 40 or 50 feet away doing whatever zombies do in their down-time has become this secondary issue for survivors. As long as a lone zombie is not at this very moment attacking, and she is “over there”, then we can get on about our business as long as we keep an eye on him. And so, I’ve been waiting patiently to see how this might come to pass in the tv show.

Walk on ByA little terminology lesson for those who are just discovering the whole TWD thing. In the graphic novel (comics – also referred to as GN) the word “zombie” appears very early on. It isn’t used often but it exists. There are two types of zombies: zombies who are constantly in motion are called “roamers” and zombies who find some place to sit or lay are known as “lurkers”.  The word “Walkers” does not exist in the GN. Lurkers seem to have found undeath just too tiring. You have to at least get within a couple of feet before they will even acknowledge your existence. Some you have to actually kick, and then they might find the energy to try and eat you. The two TV walkers I can point to as lurkers would be the woman in the car that Glenn wakes up (played by a really nice lady, Sonya Thompson – who has a Facebook page btw) and the lurker in the tank with Rick. These two kind of show the range for lurkers. Roamers have a bit of a range also, but it never reaches the physical and mental range of the walkers on the show.

As kind of a critique of the show, I have seen TWD zombies use rocks to smash windows which is a bit more tool usage than I prefer. In the show I have seen them reach speeds equal to a run. No, they did not have that classic form, and no you cannot say they were running. But you go back and watch those roamers keep up with Shane and Otis, who were running. As far as I’m concerned, even if you are jerking and shambling, if you are keeping up with someone running then you are pretty much running too. My point is this though, you are not going to get outrun by a walker in the GN. The zombies here are very much like those in George A. Romero’s ground shattering “Night of the Living Dead” and this is the way I prefer my zombies, thank you.

Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead, has stated in interviews and letters that the zombies are very secondary. This becomes so apparent in the graphic novels as the characters have longer interaction with them. Scenes of the lone walker in the grassy field are common. We can debate the effect of this, whether it is bad or good for a long time. And it comes down to two basic camps: Terror lovers –v- Creepy Eerie lovers.

I for one prefer the eeriness, the surreal-ness, of the living moving through an undead world in an uneasy truce. “Man” always adapts… we do this with deadly spiders, and lions, and snakes around the world. Recall the extreme story of Timothy Treadwell, environmentalist/film maker,  who lived with bears for 13 summers until he and his girlfriend were finally eaten. Why should the walking dead be any different? I was heartened to here Glenn saying how he had forgotten how dangerous they were, that it’s all become another round of Portal. With that “comfort” comes new dangers to the survivors as Kirkman examines how we humans just cannot help ourselves. We HAVE to find some comfort level, some radical acceptance, of the world around us or we go mad. Hence, my personal preference for the creepy-surreal over the constant horror/terror.

Walking Dead comic "yeah..they do"I think, in closing, that there is a hidden seed of hope (or the need for that seed of hope) in Kirkman’s vision. He wants us to see the zombies as merely the earthquake, tsunami, or sinking ship. But these are all events with which we must merely endure, find a way to survive. There is no cutting the head off an earthquake, no sticking a screwdriver in the eye of a hurricane; we can only seek shelter. Intentionally or unintentionally, The Walking Dead exposes that need for the human to fight back. With knives and guns we fought to keep bears and lions from eating us. With tools and shelters we fight the weather from freezing us or cooking us. With all of our arts and sciences we fight an uncaring universe for our right to breath. And through the lens of a silly little comic and tv show I can see that “we” would only find a zombie apocalypse a speed bump and nothing more. We would eventually watch a roamer stumble  through the sunlit field with as much excitement as we watch cows chew their cud. In this we are not the Walking Dead.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Death of Innocence

Rick Grimes Family Photo - Rick, Lori and son Carl.
Rick, Lori and Carl
Lori Grimes‘ perception of Carl Grimes is one of innocence on the cusp of corruption. This is a sad, but true assertion. It’s evident in Chandler Riggs’ portrayal of the character, especially in episodes like Secrets and Pretty Much Dead Already.

In the opening of Secrets, we find a completely recovered Carl helping his mother feed chicks on the Greene farm. After some light banter, Carl comments about the location of the mother hens. Lori, in an attempt to reassure her young son, replies that maybe they are off somewhere, implying a necessary and inevitable return.

What Carl says in response surely caught his already ailing mother off guard: “Maybe they got eaten.” Immediately Lori reveals a sense of mingling shock and surprise at her son’s words; no doubt this walker-filled world is beginning to rob her son of his innocence and happiness. What is most surprising is not the accuracy of that thought, but the answer Carl provides to his mother’s worried countenance. “Everything is food for something else.”

That singular statement reveals Carl’s awareness of not just his current surrounding, but of life in general. Whether he lives in zombie land or reality, he is not wrong in his assertion. He is maturing at a rate not yet understood by his parents; now whether or not that is in correspondence with the current crisis in which the world finds itself is debatable.

But what we can be sure of is his desire to prove himself, and to not remain a helpless victim. We see that again in Secrets, after he promises Lori that he understands the gravity of possessing a firearm. Carl is growing up, steadily coming into his own and asking for the opportunity to do what he feels is right for his family.

Carl Grimes looking at the deer
Carl staring on in amazement at the deer
We can’t forget however, that he is still just a boy, and one far removed from his comic counterpart at this point. It’s this innocence that people like Shane look to manipulate in their favor, a tactic seen in Pretty Much Dead Already.

Shane knows that Carl looks up to him. It was a bond he attempted to break early in the second season, though that failed miserably when Otis shot Carl. So when Carl confronted Shane about his reluctance to search for Sophia, calling it “bullshit,” Shane saw an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone, (metaphorically of course). If Shane could turn Carl over to the dark side, so to speak, he could potentially win Lori as well. Shane used his charm and power over Carl’s remaining innocence and convinced him that saving Sophia meant securing their place on the farm, at all costs. How could Carl disagree?

He couldn’t because he sees the hardship his father has to endure as leader of their group. So Carl wants to prove himself capable of protecting what is his. He is maturing in a world that is all but corrupted by pain, sorrow and death; a world his mother views as being without joy. She struggles daily with the very idea of letting him live in this world because of the havoc that corruption may wreck on his impressionable psyche. We see it already at work on those of considerable experience: Shane, Andrea, even Rick.

Especially Rick, the man that Carl adores and worships like a god among men. When Rick killed Sophia, Carl immediately backed his father’s decision, saying he would have done the same thing himself. What a thing to say to your mother; that you would readily kill your best friend’s walking corpse without a second thought.

It must be difficult for Lori to watch her son lose his innocence this way. How painful it must be for both Rick and Lori, the knowledge that they are unable to protect their child from the horrors of the “real world,” and let him resume his childhood care-free. Sadly, it is a pain they must embrace in order to move on and truly protect him from harm. In zombie land, he could just as easily become a casualty like Sophia.

Now from a parental perspective, especially a Western parental perspective, Lori does not want Carl to grow up this way. She does not want her baby boy to brandish a weapon, let alone a loaded firearm. She does not want him to live in fear of an uncertain death or of debilitating loss.

Carl and the swamp walker
Carl almost met his end with the swamp walker
The problem is that neither Rick or herself can protect him the way they could in the old days. Hell, even in the old days it would prove difficult to preserve his innocence. The main difference between then and now, is that those that are corrupting her son are the same people that wish to protect him.

Children are very observant; it’s a trait we all pick up early because we are a social animal. We want to understand what is happening around us, to take part in it and have a hand in our destiny. We listen and we learn. Sometimes we pick up bad habits or overhear negative conversations. Since children lack the mental capacity to truly understand “adult” situations, they are left to perceive any given situation as best they can.

Carl sees the nervousness of a group unable to carry weapons; he sees the slow degradation of his father’s indomitable spirit; he sees the anger the grips Shane’s heart. He sees his family dynamic slowly dissolving, and he wants to help fix it. Would you deny him?

Carl tells his dad to shoot Randall
"Do it Dad!"
Admittedly, he has a long way to go before he actually proves himself useful for killing walkers and not group members.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Daryl’s Ascendency

Daryl Dixon in Judge, Jury, Executioner. Daryl about to torture Randall.

In “Judge, Jury, Executioner” we fully see for the first time the new role Daryl is taking within the group. The episode opens with him torturing Randall for information. There is no indication of enjoyment in this repugnant task for Daryl, but instead a willingness to do what is necessary to protect the group, which he has come to view as a surrogate family despite all his protestations. Trusting him with this task shows Rick’s increasing trust and reliance on Daryl to get things done. After all, Rick is waiting in camp to base his entire decision of Randall’s execution on what Daryl has to say. This lets us know several key things.

Firstly, Rick is confident in Daryl’s abilities to get the information out of Randall without going too far and killing him. It would be easy to be caught up in the violence and cause mortal damage. Conversely, if he did not have the stomach for the calculated infliction of pain, the prisoner would gain the upper hand and ruin any chances of getting real intel on the hostile group. That Rick is unable to do this task himself is an interesting thing. Despite his insistence in “18 Miles Out” that he is no longer a good man, Rick shows conflict throughout this episode between the police officer he used to be and what he has to do now to survive.  Shane has proven to be capable of violence, but Rick did not look to him for this.

Secondly, Rick knows Daryl will not be fooled by disinformation or be suckered in by a sob story. We have seen from the beginning that a lot of people underestimate Daryl’s intelligence, whether due to his accent, appearance, or “redneck” background. However, as the show has progressed, it has become quite apparent that Daryl, while socially awkward and emotionally stunted, is very observant of others and we see in this episode especially that he knows a lot more than he lets on.  Daryl was never fooled by Shane’s rather weak story of how Otis died and knew before anyone else that he was not to be trusted.  That he did not share this information with anyone reinforces how isolated he has felt from the rest of group.

Lastly, and most importantly, Rick trusts that Daryl will be honest. Daryl lays out plainly exactly what kind of threat this other group is and what will happen to everyone should they attack. If Daryl was really some psycho he could have lied or left to join Randall’s people, but Rick obviously knows that Daryl is not that kind of guy.  The expressions on the faces of everyone else in camp when they realize how Daryl acquired the information show how little they understand his motivations and it is a slap in the face to Daryl, yet again.

Daryl and Dale
However, Rick is not the only one to show Daryl a new level of respect in “Judge, Jury, Executioner”. When Dale is going around trying to convince others to keep Randall alive, the first person he goes to see is Daryl. Instead of launching right into a spiel, Dale expresses concern and conviction that Daryl is more important than he believes himself to be. Despite claiming to want to get away from everyone, Daryl listens and does not become combative with Dale. Carol is the only other person that has said something like this, but Dale takes it a step further by saying that he is in fact a better man than Shane. Daryl’s frustrated, bitter insistence that he does not have Rick’s ear, that Rick only listens to Shane, shows how much Daryl really likes and respects Rick. He wants to be that right-hand man, but feels inadequate and shunted to the side.  He desperately wants to be part of the group, but by saying it is “broken”, exhibits the fear that it will turn out to be the disaster his real family was.

At the end of the episode we see Daryl’s true colors and they are beautiful. When Dale screams, Daryl does not hesitate a second in sprinting to his aid. Daryl literally throws himself at the Walker to get it off of Dale. There has never been so much emotion towards another of the group from Daryl as in this scene.  Jumping and yelling for the others to come and help, he drops to his knees beside Dale and says an agonizing “Hang in there, buddy”. It is then we know what a profound effect Dale’s earlier words had on Daryl and how much he truly views the group as his people. The angel wing vest has never been more appropriate than at this moment. Daryl is willing to be the angel of mercy in place of Rick, willing to take on the burden of putting Dale out of his misery when no one else could. The compassion and sacrifice Daryl exhibits is heartbreaking.

Daryl shoots Dale
This is the turning point. There is no denying now that Daryl, though rough around the edges, shows the qualities of a genuine leader, a much more fitting second-in-command to Rick than Shane has ever been, as we once again see Shane not step up when the times call for a true leader to do so. It is interesting to note in the trailer for “Better Angels” that Rick is taking Daryl to set Randall loose, rather than Shane. Despite what Rick said to Lori about Shane no longer being problem, he obviously trusts Daryl more to have his back on this issue than Shane, considering that both Daryl and Shane wanted Randall dead. In the coming episodes, I fully expect Daryl to assume more responsibility and become Rick’s go-to guy. How this will play into Shane’s power struggles remains to be seen.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Lone Walker

The Lone Walker shuffling through the field in Season 2 of The Walking Dead
The Lone Walker in "18 Miles Out"
The Lone Walker is a cold, distant figure moving through an empty field. We see it as Shane does: gazing through a car window, sitting next to the man who should be his best friend, following a day filled with regrettable actions. It is far enough away to make distinguishing any features impossible.

The Lone Walker is anonymous and unknowable, but it is difficult to not feel sadness rather than fear while gazing upon it.

This is a mirror for what Shane has become. He has finally been told, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Rick’s family is just that: Rick’s. He has relentlessly beat on the man he calls brother. He has attempted to murder two people and subsequently been rescued by them both. When Shane is looking upon the Lone Walker he feels a kinship. He was alone before, but it is painfully obvious now that there are so few people in the world. He has no more purpose than a mindless corpse shuffling through the dying grass.

This moment in the car is perhaps the first time we see Shane look utterly defeated. In what is a moment of synergy, the song playing over this crisis of mind is “Civilian” by Wye Oak.

I don’t need another friend
When most of them
I can barely keep up with
I’m perfectly able to hold my own hand,
but I still can’t kiss my own neck

Shane Walsh observing the lone walker in Season 2 of The Walking Dead
Shane observing the lone walker roaming through the field
In a different man, this may have been the turning point back to humanity. However, like the Lone Walker, Shane will not remain an object of pity for long.

He has become a creature driven by survival and possession. The enormity and emotions of the day in “18 Miles Out” tapped him out, but his slide into something less than human began long before and shows no sign of stopping. Once he has a chance to regroup, Rick’s unequivocal claiming of Lori, Carl and the baby will be taken as a gauntlet thrown and Shane’s efforts to wrestle control of the group will be renewed with a sense of vigor.

The Lone Walker is not merely a lonely traveller.

The Lone Walker is the harbinger of the threat of Walkers to come and the danger of Shane’s continuing deterioration.

It is the calm before the storm and the sky is starting to look awfully cloudy.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Don’t Open – Dead Inside

The Walking Dead comic series. You either already know it, or you don’t. I guess this article is aimed at those who don’t.

I’m assuming that you have watched the TV series on AMC and finally heard that it was based on a comic series of the same name, written by the incredibly talented Robert Kirkman. Maybe you saw them on the shelf at the Barnes & Noble. It’s slowly calling you; someone you know has recommended reading them. Before you go and buy that first issue there are some things you should know. And there is a warning you should take seriously.

Let’s Start with that Warning

You may not be ready for this comic. You may not be “tough enough”. I know you’re scoffing, but you have to know strong “John Wayne” types have broken down and written Kirkman to tell him what a cold bastard he is. You laugh, but you’ll find out. I’ve had people come back and say, “You told me, Dave. And you were right.” I can just nod in understanding.

Are you ready for the comic? There is a simple test you can give yourself. In Season 2, Episode 7, “Pretty Much Dead Already,” (also known as the mid-season finale – whatever that is), it is revealed that poor little Sophia has indeed been bitten and is now a zombie. Lori grabs little Carl tight and tells him not to look as his friend Sophia is kindly and humanely put out of her zombietude by Rick. There are joke images floating around the internet ridiculing Lori for telling him not to look, but not covering his eyes. But there is little debate that poor little Carl needed his innocence protected.

Test Question: Should Lori have covered 8-year old Carl’s eyes so he wouldn’t have to see Sophia (about the same age) get put out of her misery?

If you answered an instinctive, emphatic “yes,” then you are not ready for what Kirkman has in store for you in those awesomely illustrated pages. Trust me. There is no “wrong” here; you’d just be happier spending your money on something else and remaining ignorant. Just know this, whatever happens in the The Walking Dead TV series, no matter how “rough” it seems, it is the kinder, gentler kid brother of the comic. If the TV series is Glenn, then the comic series is at least Daryl. Or, maybe it is Merle and Daryl on a Friday night with too much beer and nothing to do. Get the picture?

Don’t Cheat Yourself

Having warned you out of kindness; having said, “If you are a kind, gentle soul then don’t open, there are dead inside,” I can now say, “DON’T miss this! Don’t cheat yourself out of an American literature masterpiece.” I know, comics are mind rotting junk. Kirkman has transcended that image (often justly deserved), and transcended the genre as a whole. Reset this all in your mind as “graphic novel” instead of “comic” and experience an incredibly brutal and brutally honest examination of the human spirit under the ultimate duress.

No Spoilers, Dang You!

The Walking Dead Issue 19
One really important thing to know about the comic is that you are not going to spoil your enjoyment of the TV show, nor are you going to “spoil” some event. Likewise, your love for the show won’t mess with your enjoyment of the graphic novel. Kirkman has stated that his story is in an alternate universe where the idea of zombies never happened so people had no clue. The show is another alternate universe entirely.

Obviously I’m going to save some stuff for other articles and they’d need lots of room to discuss, but I can give you examples. Shane never makes it out of the camp where Amy dies. (Yeah, that’s a little spoiler, but it in no way prepares you for the where, how, or why.) Daryl doesn’t exist, but other characters just as great do. Characters are different in so many ways that you will experience a little vertigo. Carol is a little hottie; Andrea a strong, competent sharpshooter; Lori is pretty likeable. Even the zombies are “different.”Dale is the only character who remains the same in both mediums and I wonder if even Kirkman knows why.

Certain things never happen in the show, like Wilshire Estates, which will actually add to your suspense. There is a special issue, “Rise of the Governor;” who is he? Good? Bad? What? And once you know, you’ll be waiting. Will he be in the show? Is he coming? And if he does, how will he be different? Everything that does happen in both happens very differently. Yes, Carl gets shot by Otis, but in totally different circumstances. No, you cannot spoil either the show or the graphic novel by experiencing the other.

Conveniently Packaged for Your Schedule

The Walking Dead Compendium One
One thing that is nice is that you can get it sliced in bites that fit your schedule. The single issue comic books are about 20 pages, easily taken down on your lunch break if you turn off Twitter. There are the 6-issue trade paperbacks (which I am buying). I like these as you get a really good punch in the face yet time to rest (I’ll explain later). There are the 12-Issue hardcover books and the 48-issue compendiums. If you like to get in bed, pull the sheets up, and really get in a good read, then the compendiums are a good bet. Another advantage to these formats is you can match your budget. You also can find electronic formats on Amazon and such.

Wrap It Up, I’ll Take It

I’m going to do the editorially stupid and tell you now to just ignore the first half of this article. Go. Buy. Become addicted. You can cuss me later if you feel like it. You will definitely cuss Kirkman at some point.

Kirkman stresses at every chance that the whole point IS the human condition. Zombies are just the weather, the tidal wave, the sinking ship. How does one person become stronger and another break? When civilization has shattered what social morals still apply? He dances his characters through an amazing, brutal series of events where absolutely no one is safe. That alone should be a warning. Everyone is so used to Hollywood shielding the hero, protecting the popular. Kirkman shows that all humans are truly equal to a zombie hoard or other “stressed” humans. You will want to call him evil, but that is like calling a lion or a hurricane evil. It just doesn’t apply, especially when he is just holding up an honest mirror.

Walking Dead Issue 45
I had the flu when I first read the graphic novel. I had all 91 available issues on my laptop… waiting for me patiently. I’m not a comic reader. I read a lot of them when I was a kid, but nothing in the past 20 years for sure. But I had the flu and the bed and nothing else to do really. “What the hell? Let’s take a look at this”, I naively thought. Suddenly a few moments/hours later I realized I had read 50 issues, then 60. I just couldn’t stop. In the end, I read all 91 issues in a 14 hour marathon. I loved it and I think this is the only way to really “experience” the intensity. The characters get no breaks from the horror and as a reader you don’t either. But I also felt like I’d been mauled by a bear, eaten by a lion, crapped out, and then buried in the sand… and that wasn’t the flu talking. I had been through Kirkman’s vision.

Six months ago I would have boldly said, “Hell ya! You cover Carl’s eyes! What the hell are you thinking?!” But today, I know.

I know that, in the case of something so world shattering as a zombie apocalypse, I was wrong. This isn’t a “John Wayne” reaction. I’ve come to realize that Kirkman’s vision is sharper than mine and more honest. In the graphic novels Carl experiences a life that censorship laws and soccer moms and Child Protective Services won’t let on the silver screen. But it is those censorship laws and soccer moms that are out of sync when the reality is the dead eat the living.

Kirkman’s vision is sharper, more accurate. I only read about the zombie apocalypse through his eyes and I have changed. For the better I hope. And when you “know” we can get together and chat.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

The Cure is Worse than the Disease

Hershel Greene
Hershel Greene
Up until recently, the defining aspect of Hershel’s character has been his staunch belief that Walkers are in fact sick people who could potentially be cured some day. Although he has come away from that way of thinking following the barn incident, the idea of a cure is one worth pondering. On the surface, finding a cure would seem to be the best possible outcome of such a terrible situation. People no longer having to live fear. Walkers becoming human again. The world beginning to rebuild itself to some fraction of its former glory. However, this idealistic vision thinly veils what truly would be a horrific reality.

The most basic problem is the severe deterioration Walker bodies undergo in the time since they have died and been reanimated. Millions of former Walkers would be short digits, limbs, chunks of flesh from all over their bodies. The best case scenario is the group who could live without the parts they are missing. The worst case scenario are all the ones who would suffer in agonizing pain before dying because their bodies are so far gone. It is a safe bet that by the time any sort of cure is discovered Walkers would vastly outnumber the uninfected, so the logistics of simply providing medical care are unimaginable. Considering how we are always hearing stories of nursing shortages here in the United States, and that without any global-wide disaster, there is no way adequate medical care could be given to all that would need it.

Even though a significant number of Walkers would survive the transformation back into being human, from there the problems just grow. Assuming that they regain use of all of their faculties, these former Walkers would have months, even years, worth of memories of brutally murdering innocent people and engaging in cannibalism. Many, if not most, would be unable to live with themselves knowing what they did. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder can be seen in those having experienced a wide range of trauma, from house fires to sexual abuse to war, so it is a sure bet that incidences of PTSD would skyrocket to unseen heights in former Walkers and surviving uninfected alike, both having experienced such horrific events. Cases of depression, violence, self-medication, and flashbacks (among others) would also crop up, whether as a result of PTSD or independently. As with the physical maladies discussed, the shear enormity of the psychological care needed would be insurmountable.

Another volatile issue in a world with the cure is handling the relations of uninfected and former Walkers. Reintegration would be a nightmare. Can you imagine living down the street from the person who tore apart your best friend with their teeth? Or moving back in with the spouse who ate your children alive? Violence between groups would be commonplace, as uninfected sought revenge for a loved one’s death or even just a way to release all of the anger. It would be the Truth and Reconciliation of Rwanda, but to the umpteenth degree.

As much as Hershel seemed to think that a cure would solve all of the post-apocalyptic word’s ills, in reality it would just create a whole new set of problems. Problems that could not be dealt with through a simple bullet to the brain. In the end, it seems the only sort of cure that would suffice is one that put Walkers out of their misery.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

The Influence of Lori and Andrea

The big brawl between Rick and Shane looms on the horizon, and at the center are two of the show’s most polarizing figures.

In this post-apocalyptic word, most of the skills and jobs held before are completely irrelevant. For someone like Lori, who has no outstanding capabilities to fight walkers¹ or survive in harsh conditions, the only option is to attach herself to someone who is capable of those things. Enter Shane who, if inferences made from their conversation in Triggerfinger are correct, has had a thing for Lori since long before the virus happened. He is strong, a fighter, and willing to do anything to keep Lori and Carl safe, even if to the detriment of others. Then there is Rick. Her husband, also strong and capable, and a natural leader. Both of these men, although different in approach, are very much the alphas of the group.

Under these circumstances, it would be difficult to find a sense of self-worth, as Lori’s entire existence depends on another person. This all has led me to believe there is a part of Lori that enjoys having two alpha males fighting over her. It may be disingenuous to say it is a conscious feeling, but there is at the very least a sub-conscious pleasure to be had from the turmoil. Lori’s helplessness and neediness has fed into both men’s love and desire to protect, who then spend most of their waking energy on her. The majority of their decisions, especially of late, have been based in some way on Lori and, to a lesser extent, Carl. It would be difficult not to get an ego boost from such hyper-aware attention from the two most desirable men around². Despite being the one protected, Lori wields a very real power over them, and seeing as she has little control over the rest of her life, it is little wonder that she would sub-consciously revel in it.

Despite clinging to certain pre-apocalypse societal norms, such as honoring marriage by sticking with Rick, Lori shows a new level of ruthlessness in Triggerfinger. Shane’s increasingly aggressive way of handling things and obsessiveness towards Lori finally has her worried, and the way she approaches this situation is really what cemented my belief on Lori’s enjoyment of wielding power. She pulls a Lady Macbeth and essentially tells Rick that he needs to kill Shane before Shane gets him first. Although this showdown has been a longtime coming, Lori provides the tipping point for Rick.

The other player in this tableau is Andrea. She was in the same boat as Lori, but showed from the beginning an intense desire to be able to fight and has been reckless in its pursuit. Andrea has alienated herself from most of the group through the attempted suicide and endangerment of others by using a weapon without training, so when shown the least bit of consideration from Shane, she grabs onto it with a death grip. He has provided the means for her to finally be a contributing member of the group, as well as validation that she has some worth. Because of this, Andrea has been willfully blind to any indications that Shane is unstable. It of course doesn’t help that Dale is the one attempting to convince her of Shane’s duplicity, as she remains resentful of his interference at the CDC.

shane and andrea
Andrea is not the only one getting something out of their relationship. In Andrea, Shane gets outside reinforcement in his belief that he is the only one that really takes care of the group; that the actions he takes are the correct ones. Although Shane does not need nearly as much outside influence as Rick does to come into conflict with each other, Andrea unwittingly provides it. When Shane says that their group is being put in danger and Andrea replies “Well, then we need to stop it”, she undoubtedly means making sure that Randall’s group does not find them. However, in Shane’s mind the real danger, the one who is standing in his way, is Rick. This constant affirmation from Andrea for his every action just cements in Shane’s mind that something needs to be done about Rick, both to protect the group and so he can claim what he believes to be rightfully his: Lori and the baby.

Based on the previews and sneak peaks for 18 Miles Out we will most likely be seeing the big confrontation between Rick and Shane and I for one cannot wait to see how it plays out.

1. Obviously Lori had her first Walker kills in Triggerfinger and did so fairly competently. However, I will postulate that this happened because there was literally no other option. She has shown over the course of the show a distinct unwillingness to learn survival skills. In any other situation we have seen where Lori come into contact with Walkers she has let someone else take care of her. The biggest instance of this was when the heard attacks camp in season one. All Lori does is scream “Shane” and hide behind his back. Perhaps with these recent kills we will see her evolve into someone that is not content with being saved, but as of now she is firmly in the role of the protected.
2. Although Daryl is the most capable of anyone in the group to survive, he is still viewed as a second class citizen by most of the group and not as a leader. At least, not yet!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Best Friend or Barky Liability?

In a world ruled by walkers, survivors must surround themselves with those they trust and who can help keep them safe. Bad choices are often made, leading to betrayal or fatal mistakes. With my slightly skewed priorities, this makes me ask one question: Where are the dogs?

The Walking Dead Dogs
In our reality, every time a major natural disaster occurs, there are people who refuse to evacuate because many shelters don’t accept pets. Others leave behind nearly everything else, but pack their vehicles to the dome lights with animals.

So far in The Walking Dead, we’ve seen virtually no dogs. I believe there were a few shown slinking around the streets of Atlanta, but the only ones I remember being the focus of anyone’s attention are the “little-fluffies” tucked in their doggie bed at the nursing home protected by the Vatos. Is this how it would be?

Many dogs would fail to survive the early days. Their owners might be unable to return home, and some would flee without their pets. If the dogs were unable to escape their houses, they would eventually perish. Some pets who were outdoors or able to find a way out would become prey to other animals. We’ve seen walkers eat horses, rats, woodchuck, and (sadly) at the beginning of season two, dogs. (Thanks Iain for finding that reference – and disturbing photo – for me!) So perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised not to see many dogs wandering about, but I would have expected to see more.

Guard Dog on Patrol
In urban areas, where wild game doesn’t exist and food sources are dwindling, survivors would eventually begin to hunt dogs. I imagine they’d be relatively easy targets, given their ingrained inclination to trust humans. In fact, I wrote this element into my own apocalyptic novella. I hated it. You might not believe me, but I’ve given this way too much thought. I would honestly starve before I would kill and consume a dog. Still, I recognized it as a likely scenario in the story, so I included it.

Cats are another story. Feral cat colonies exist nearly everywhere, in both urban and rural areas, but they are way harder to catch than most people realize. Which makes me also wonder why we aren’t seeing more feral cats slinking around.

Felines aside, I’m a true-blue dog person, and I know you can never discount people’s devotion to their canine companions. Shouldn’t we see at least some dogs accompanying groups of survivors? I would certainly try to bring my dogs with me and keep them safe. Yes, I’d have to find a way to feed them, but it would be worth it.

Wouldn’t it?

On one hand (or paw, as the case may be), dogs could be a huge liability. In addition to feeding them, most dogs bark. In the case of my dogs, they bark a lot. We know walkers are attracted to sound. What would the primitive survival instinct sparking in their brain stems tell them about barking? It could be “Yay, sound! Let’s eat!” But in their human lives, walkers would have known the sound of a barking dog served as an alarm. This might continue in their primitive reptilian brains as “Uh-oh. That sound means our snack-packs know we’re coming, so we should shamble as fast as our decomposing joints will allow in the opposite direction.”

That being said, babies and small children make noise and are hard to control, too, yet everyone seems determined to haul them along through the countryside.

On the other hand, dogs could be a significant benefit. Sure, not a crazy, out-of-control yap-monster…but perhaps a more cooperative canine? Dogs are our companions, giving us comfort and acceptance when no one else does. But they also evolved to work by our side.

Dogs have senses which greatly exceed ours. Their eyes are sensitive to movement, their ears are far more acute than those of humans, and their noses are so much more advanced it’s hard to calculate. Many breeds, especially if trained, could be of enormous benefit in the quest for game.

A dogs sense of smell would be extremely useful
during an apocalypse
In the area of security, their eyes would detect a rustle in the woods or the flicker of movement between buildings which would be invisible to their bipedal companions. This would be especially true at night, when people are nearly blind. Their (adorable, scratch-worthy) ears would pick up the distant shuffling of festering walker-feet while they were still far enough away to allow the luxury of escape. If the humans were attuned to their dogs and paying attention, this early alert system could save many lives.

And those wonderful doggie noses! I must assume walkers don’t smell all that great, what with the rotting and absolute absence of personal hygiene.

This brings me to a quick side note. Where does all the flesh the walkers eat end up? Does it just sit and rot in their stomachs? They’re dead, so I’m guessing “no metabolism.” I’ve never seen a walker, um, eliminate digestive byproducts, so I’d expect them to eventually swell up and burst from all the yummy, bloody goodness they’ve consumed. But enough about that, as I’m grossing myself out.

Back to those dog noses. The advantages of having these marvels of evolution working for you would be immeasurable. Dogs would quickly develop an aversion to the undead, especially if their people knew anything at all about training and reinforced appropriate responses. Imagine approaching a building full of food or supplies and knowing well before you enter whether there are “Dead Inside.” And, as previously mentioned, dogs would be valuable when it came to detecting and locating delicious, roastable wildlife.

I’ve been surprised by the lack of dogs in The Walking Dead, even on Hershel’s farm. It’s true the wrong dog might get you killed. But the right dog might be the thing that tips the survival scales in your favor.

What do you think? How else might dogs be beneficial (or detrimental) to a group of survivors? Larger dogs could be used to help carry things, like water. Could they be trained to attack walkers, taking out the legs and hindering their ability to reach you? Could they guard injured people or small children, giving an alert if walkers ventured into the vicinity? Would you take your dogs with you?

I certainly would.


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