The zombie craze has engulfed movies, literature, and now…television. There have been many explanations offered for our recent love of the undead. Some believe the love affair is stemmed from an unconscious metaphorical perception of our society. And others simply believe the genre is having its time.
I have always personally enjoyed zombies – not an avid supporter as many, but a fan nonetheless. I still remember watching Night of the Living Dead on Creature Features (A local Horror Showcase program in Northern California) at a young age with my mother. I remember pulling the blanket over my head when the undead mob rushed the house of the living. But since George Romero’s introduction of these flesh craving beasties, my interest always teetered between slight amusement and indifference. And then it happened – The Walking Dead by AMC. I admit it. I’m hooked on this show something awful. By no means do I knock the previous zombie-like films. Afterall, George Romero is the King of the genre, and there have been a host of other wonderful zombie films throughout the years. But what The Walking Dead offers is much more than flesh tearing monsters. There is a cast of wonderful actors portraying complex characters amidst a sea of blood craved beasts. We have Rick, who by default leads the group and constantly questions his own decisions. There’s Daryl, the stereotypical redneck. Dale, the fatherly meddler. And of course, there’s Shane. Part hero, part villain, with a plethora of sociopathic tendencies that make all who watch struggle between loving and hating him.
What makes this show work is the careful balance between the intensity of relationships and their exposure with their undead adversaries. It’s a not a show where we watch zombie brains get blasted every few minutes. There are fulfilling subplots that twist the characters into uncompromising situations. The balance between gore and drama is wonderfully done. I have personally made it a point to do the same with my own work. In my upcoming book Shadows of Kings, I’ve purposefully leveled the field by dowsing the High Fantasy elements of my novel with medieval grit. But in my opinion, to achieve a balance in the zombie genre is more difficult, and the writers of The Walking Dead have pulled it off.
This is a fantastic show, and if the writers can maintain the level of drama that has been evident during the series thus far, I see no end to this show’s appeal. Watch out for the zombies!