Posted on December 23, 2010 by Eric Pollarine
Hope and Confusion
Before I go off on how wonderful I thought the season finale of AMC’s The Walking Dead was, how the series has changed television, how it may or may not be one of the most relevant social commentaries of the 21st century in media right now, I want to thank all of you who have read and shared these reviews. You make typing these little posts something to look forward to.
Now that, that is out of the way, let’s begin.
So, here we are, we’ve come to the end, that was it, for now. I hope you paid attention. because if you didn’t then this is going to be a little confusing. I want to talk about the “reality” that is portrayed in the series, especially in the the season finale. It’s a sticky subject, reality that is, as everyone produces to a certain extent their own version of it. Not in the way that they can interact with the physical world on a scientific level, you couldn’t interpret the laws of physics in your own way. Say with a suspension in the belief of Gravity, and live to tell about it. No matter how many happy thoughts you think, you’re going to plummet off the top of a building if you jump, you simply can not get around that reality.
No, the reality that I am talking about here, is the one that has to do with hope and the human spirit. The belief in yourself, the notion that you can fight the future. That sort of reality. But first…
Mandatory Plot Spoiler: caution read on at your own risk!
The episode opens up with a flashback to the fall of civilization, Shane is in the hospital with Rick in a coma. Shane tries to plead with his friend to wake up, but the conflict is boiling over into the room. Shane hides under the bed as to not be seen by the military, who are Willy Nilly shooting both infected and uninfected civilians in the hospital. General chaos does ensue, heads are completely blown apart.
Cut scene, move to the group in the lobby of the CDC. Dr Jenner has opened the door and holds the band of survivors at bay with a large AR-15. Asking them what they want. Rick replies “A chance,” there is drama. Dr Jenner asks them to submit to blood tests, the group agrees. After Dr. Jenner checks everyone’s blood, he tells them that he is all that is left of humanity at the CDC. One lone doctor who was searching for the cure. The group takes it in stride after having showers, Andrea pukes.
They celebrate at dinner by getting rotten drunk, Shane, in his usual melancholic manner asks Dr. Jenner what happened to the rest of the scientists. Everyone hates Shane for killing the mood. Throughout the course of the evening, everyone drinks too much, Shane corners Lori in the rec room of the center, he tries to tell her what happened, that he loves her, that he wants her-then moves in to try and rape her. Lori fends off the attack. Rick admits to the doctor that he had his doubts that the group could have survived much longer.
Everyone is very hungover the next morning and Dr. Jenner shows them the mystery of life, and how the “walker” disease affects the brain. A moving scene ensues. But the group is too curious and Dale asks what a countdown clock on the wall means. It has one hour remaining, until the building will self destruct. There is a huge freak out, people want to kill Dr. Jenner, Rick asks him to let them out. They go around for what seems like longer than half an hour, but apparently isn’t and then Dr. Jenner let’s the group leave the main control room, but not before he whispers something inaudible to Rick. Andrea and Jacqui decide to stay with Dr. Jenner who will be “going down with the ship.” The group grabs their things and try’s to make a break for it. Dale forces Andrea to rethink her position by guilting her into coming along. The group is held off by bullet resistant glass, until they find the one lone grenade from when Rick showed up at the original camp. They blow out the side of the window, fight off a few “walkers,” with Dale and Andrea narrowly escaping the explosion of the CDC.
The episode ends with the group making their way out and onto the road as a caravan.
The meaning of…
The Walking Dead. It’s an interesting title, it’s an interesting show, it was a ground breaking comic. But it’s more importantly an interesting way to describe us. We. Humanity. We are all the walking dead, if you think about it. We are living, breathing, biological experiments for the lack of a better description. And all religious arguments aside, you can not deny that fact. We have a natural rhythm, we ebb, we flow, we think, we feel and ultimately, in the end we all die. Nobody get’s to live forever. Sorry if this is news to you.
I had the conversation, with someone I love, that the show was a little hokey, because in the event of an actual apocalyptic, end game, extinction event, like crisis; I don’t believe that there would be people like Rick and the rest left. Because they are the best of humanity. I have the strong belief that only the worst would survive, because they are selfish enough to do so. But isn’t hope, really, the most selfish act. You may want to say no, but then again-think about it.
You hope for things in your life, both abstract and concrete, ethereal and mundane. You believe in hope, hope drives you and keeps you moving forward, but why? Because deep down inside you want to feel as if you’re not like the rest of humanity. You’re not the walking dead, you’re something special, unique, like a snowflake. So hope spurs you on, but for purely selfish reasons. Sure, you may pass a little hope on to others, you may have a greater good in mind, but the road to hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions, and in this case- that intention is hope. So then it stands to reason then, that Rick and Shane, Lori and Dale, Daryl, Andrea and the rest are all the most selfish people, the worst people on the earth in “The Walking Dead,” which may explain why they survive.
Because they are selfish enough to believe in themselves, to believe in hope. Their intentions are good, they may have even tricked themselves into thinking that they are surviving for others among their group, in the case of Rick it’s his wife and son, for Shane it might be because he wants Rick’s wife and son, in Dale’s case it might be because he can’t stand letting go and being alone, Daryl wants to find his brother, etc.
But it’s all selfish. It’s all hope.
Which is exactly what makes this show the most relevant social commentary of the 21st century. Because, if you look around, if you see the world for what it is, inhabited by we, the walking dead, who have somehow lost our hope, our selfishness, our will to move forward. To make the tough decisions, to define right and wrong, to look inside ourselves instead of at “pundits,” and news “commentators,” religious leaders and public figures for our answers. To take responsibility for our own actions. To make our own way.
So where does that leave us then?
I don’t know, I can’t tell you. That’s the idea. That’s the grey bone and fatty marrow of the matter, the brains and the blood of the story. It’s your world, your life, are you selfish enough to hope? Or are you content with being the the walking dead?
Review by Eric Pollarine