Sunday, April 28, 2013

Season One - Episode Two: Guts

New Authority in Town: Those Rules Don't Apply Anymore

When Rick decides that he is going to drive (ride horseback) to Atlanta to see if he can find his wife and son, he puts on his Deputy Sheriff's uniform.  He had the opportunity to wear any of the clothes in his house, but he chose this uniform even though he wouldn't be paid any longer to be a cop because it
Rick entering Atlanta
is so ingrained in his identity.  What is not addressed though, is the unconscious understanding of how people behave around and follow those who appear to have authority; which will be used to Rick's advantage (and it is important to note that Rick is a very good man with honorable values; I cannot commit in good faith to the idea that he is using the uniform for manipulation).

After Glenn has saved Rick, he is introduced to a group of people stuck in a building in Atlanta.  Merle stands out as the only dangerous and unreasonable character in the bunch because he says things like, "It's common sense to be polite to a man with a gun," he punches T-Dog repeatedly in the face.  He also makes misogynistic comments to Andrea about her "sugar tits" and "bumping uglies."  He's your basic redneck creep.

Merle handcuffed to roof
After Rick pulls Merle off of T-Dog, in the interest of everyone's safety, he handcuffs Merle to a pipe on the roof and leaves T-Dog in charge of watching him.  Nobody objects to his decision to do this, and arguably, other than killing him, something like this had to be done.  After this moment, the dynamic of the group changes.  They all look to Rick as the Alpha after he uses his authority
(handcuffs) to control the situation.  But they also respect him when he begins to ask Jackie, who used to work in the city zoning office, and Glenn, who delivered pizzas for a living, for advice on devising a plan to get out of the building.  Rick asks Glenn how he wants to check out the emergency flooding
system.  Glenn assigns everyone a task, under Rick's authority, and it is up to Rick and Andrea to stay upstairs in case they have to fire weapons against Walkers.

While Rick and Andrea are inside, Andrea eyes a mermaid necklace and begins to talk about how much she wants to give this to her sister when they get back to camp.  Rick asks her why she doesn't just take it and Andrea says, "because a cop is standing behind me." Rick says, "I don't think those rules apply anymore."  Obviously, they don't.  But this symbolizes so much more than just the degradation of the economy.  The truth is, Andrea would have bought the necklace if she could.  But there was nobody to pay for it, and money doesn't have value anymore.  So, nobody would be harmed or cheated in this situation.  But what is interesting to consider is the point to which she was conditioned to wait for the ethical decision, from the cop, for the go-ahead to take the necklace.  So, ironically, the rules still do apply because she is still giving a police officer authority, even though he is no longer paid by a system that no longer exists.  People only have authority when you give it to them.
Wayne Dunlap, organ donor

The plan in the sewer falls through, so the group (minus Merle) decides to hack up a dead Walker and cover Rick and Glenn in guts to create a diversion to steal a truck to get everyone out of the city.  Because Rick is now established as the Alpha in the group, he's the one who is going to chop up the body.  He lifts that axe and at first fails to cut him open.  He puts the axe down and takes out the Walker's wallet.  He begins to talk a little bit about Mr. Wayne Dunlap.  How he died with 28.00$ in his pocket and has a picture of a beautiful woman.  Glenn sardonically adds that he's an organ donor.  Rick felt the need to point out that this body used to be a man and a human like the rest of them.  And that using him to help save their lives is an important role that should be honored and respected.  He needs to be seen as the human he was, and not just a body.  Rick is still trying to preserve humanity by showing values like respect and honor and hoping that those in his group don't lose sight of that.
Rick covered in Guts

T-Dog asks Rick what they should do about Merle, in case Rick and Glenn don't make it back.  Rick tosses him the key and leaves the ethical decision up to him.

T-Dog dropping the key
When Rick and Glenn come back for the group, they are really pressed for time.  T-Dog at first turns to leave Merle on the building but Merle is screaming and begging for his life.  At the last minute, T-Dog turns to give Merle the key, but trips and drops it down a pipe.  He scrambles to his feet and leaves Merle on the roof of the building.  He chains and bolts the door on his way out.  The audience believes Merle will die of starvation or by Walkers.  This begs the question, does it matter that T-Dog's intentions were to save Merle even if he failed to come through?  What makes someone a moral person, actions or intentions?  Merle is a destructive person and not someone you would want in your last men standing party.  But it's unclear whether or not he deserved death, even in this harsh world.  It is very clear that Rick is upset that Merle was unable to make it to the truck.  The group justifies it by saying, nobody but Merle's brother is going to be upset that he didn't make it back; but it certainly wasn't the right thing to do.  It wasn't the human thing to do; and the group, try as they might, feels the repercussion of this thought and the guilt.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Season One - Episode One: Days Gone Bye

Mercy Killing: Preserving Human Dignity

"Little Girl"
This is the only episode (up to the finally of season 3) that the Walkers are personified to a point where the audience feels empathy for them.  We are upset, of course, when characters we have come to love turn into Walkers, but the three I'm talking about are strangers to us, being that this is the first episode and the only time we encounter them.

In the beginning of the episode we have an extended silence to give us a false calm and peaceful atmosphere to juxtapose the eerie terror that is really taking place.  Rick Grimes, our main protagonist, comes upon a gas station and sees a little girl.  Unlike the Walkers we come to know later in the show, the little girl reaches down to pick up a teddy bear to hold.  When she notices Rick, she comes after him and he is forced to shoot her in the head, but not after he calls "Little Girl" to her, driving the point home that she's just a child, Walker though she may be.
Bicycle Woman

The second personified Walker is the one encountered near the bicycle.  This Walker is dragging her body along because she has no more legs and only half a torso.  She has a sorrowful look on her face, and the way she grabs at the ground is like a person grasping the sand in a mirage she thought was water.  Her eyes are oddly soft and Rick doesn't want to kill her at first even though it is apparent he feels very sorry for her and is upset by the scene.

Our final personified Walker is Morgan's wife.  Rick is saved by Morgan, a man who takes him in and learns to trust Rick because Rick generously gives Morgan half the guns at the Sheriff's department.  Morgan confides in Rick several times in this episode, yet Rick doesn't reciprocate too much information.  While the three of them are hiding in a house, we learn that the Walker who is standing on the porch is Morgan's wife.  Rick watches her peer through the keyhole, like she knows her family is inside.  Duane, Morgan's child, is sobbing in a pillow.  There are more than a few moments where it seems like this Walker is somehow aware of her situation.
Morgan's Wife

We learn later that this is not the case.  Perhaps we're seeing these Walkers personified because Rick has only just woken up from a coma, and he is seeing them as something that they aren't anymore because accepting that they are nothing but empty shells is tough to swallow at first.

The Walkers are already dead, I get it.  But just because logic tells us the Walkers are no longer mentally present or the people they used to be, many of the characters have a hard time scrambling the Walkers' brains after their loved ones have turned.  We are just being introduced to the theme of Mercy Killing to preserve human dignity in this episode, so it is imperative that we see them personified.

After he and Morgan part ways, they both have a mission they need to attend to that they do not disclose to one another.  Rick feels compelled to go back to the woman with half of her body and Morgan feels compelled to draw enough attention to his house with one of the rifles that Rick gave to him so he may draw his wife back to the house again with the noise.  Rick looks at the woman on the ground, trying to eat him, and he says, "I'm sorry this happened to you," and he shoots her in the head to mercy kill her.  He didn't have to go back to see her at all.  He might have been safer if he hadn't.  But he felt that in order to preserve human dignity, he had to put an end to her condition.  They can't suffer and they are already dead, so it's not traditional mercy killing, but it is a way to protect the humanity that existed weeks before.  For her former self's sake, and his.  Morgan, on the other hand looks down the scope of his shotgun and just cannot pull the trigger on his wife.  He's completely unable to let go of her and who she was even though he feels like he has to mercy kill her for the same reasons I mentioned above.  The concept of Mercy Killing sets the groundwork to show us how important it is for the characters to preserve human dignity.

Preview on Youtube for Days Gone Bye:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Why This Blog Kicks Ass

Being someone who isn't fond of the Spirit Box, I must admit that I'm a late comer to AMC's hit series, The Walking Dead.  But I began watching it, and like a zombie I sat glued to the screen and finished all three seasons in about nine days.

Every zombie movie I've seen has been totally (no pun intended) brainless and a cheap way to exploit guts and gore to overcompensate for mediocre acting and shitty special effects.  Keep in mind, that I am not really a fan of the horror genre, for all the aforesaid reasons; but this show is vastly different and does not get the proper analysis it deserves--

The Walking Dead uses the concept of "walkers" as a vehicle to explore vast philosophical questions like suicide, abortion, gun rights, utilitarianism, self-sacrifice, active/passive euthanasia, just to name a few.  Not to mention Dale's rad allusion to William Faulkner, themes such as good cop vs. bad Darwin's theory of evolution (of course), the ongoing metaphor for the mindless walking consumers our society has produced, excellent archetypes and more that we will explore as this blog progresses. 

What makes this show more compelling than most is that the characters are faced with the same daily moral questions they would otherwise have in their lives except they now deal with hyperized versions of them and with each of their moral dilemmas, the way they react forces them to choose to preserve the humanity they knew (or never knew?) by using human attributes we revere: bravery, honestly, loyalty, integrity, mercy, etc. or they must choose to digress their species by using attributes we dislike: selfishness, aggression, disloyalty, dishonesty etc.  Each of their decisions controls the outcome of their species and who humanity is as a whole.

This blog will explore this thesis and many other themes, archetypes, symbols, and more.  I will provide some (but probably not all) insight into each episode as I rewatch an episode every week.  If you want to add anything, by all means, comment.