The Walking Dead: Lessons Learned

From the very first day when The Walking Dead premiered on AMC, I fell in love with the show. It brought together two main themes I enjoyed reading about yet seldom saw on the small screen. First, zombies. How can anyone not like these beasts of the undead? They’re virtual Tamagotchi. Second, a dystopian future. Who can say tomorrow will be all unicorns and rainbows? I can’t. That’s why for Monday Mayhem I’d like to explore the lessons I’ve learned from watching The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead Cast
The Walking Dead Cast

I have friends of mine who wonder what could possibly attract so many viewers every week to a show about monsters eating the insides of a person’s head. The whole premise is silly. So, I usually ask:

Me: “Have you ever seen cop shows?”
Them: “Yes.”
Me: “Ever see The Silence of the Lambs?”
Them: “Yes.”
Me: “Did you like it?”
Them: No answer. [Of course they did.]
Me:Hannibal Lecter eats people’s brains. He’s worse. He’s human. He should know better. Zombies don’t know better. They eat because it’s in their nature. They can’t help themselves.”

Here is my first lesson. The Walking Dead is not about zombies. Surprised? For you fans who just started watching the show, it’s about people who are stuck in an incredible situation and don’t know what to do next. Every facet of society they once enjoyed no longer exists. They’ve lost everything. Whatever they believed prior to the apocalypse is gone. Even rudimentary things we currently take for granted like running water, clean undergarments, electricity, bread, ice, a comfortable place to sleep, a safe place to live, movies, theaters, concerts, restaurants, ball games, museums, the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of beautiful music have disappeared. Gone. Never to return.

Yet in that misery, lies hope—my second lesson. The survivors of the dreaded destruction of humanity hold on to that single shred of light. That if things should not return to the way it was, they would cling to the anticipation that one day they will once again enjoy their lives in peace and understanding.

The wall of zombies
The wall of zombies

Unfortunately, my third lesson tells of an otherwise different tale. In the midst of hope comes betrayal. Loyalty means nothing to the survivors. If two should leave for supplies and one comes back, the crowd should question who is next. If anyone shows any signs of a change, no matter how subtle, they will die. Either by that which renders them a walker or by the hands of their closest friends. They will die. It’s a certainty. No one is safe. No one will escape. Should there be an argument between survivors and the group exiles a member, that member will die. The sad reality is that friendships are of no importance in a future where society has collapsed from its fundamental moral pillars.

For in those days, there will be no friends. Only those to take advantage of.

The final lesson? As brutal and as honest as The Walking Dead is, it’s all fiction. We don’t know what the future holds. You know why? Right. Because it hasn’t happened yet. We’re in yesterday’s future. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Should we worry about what might not happen? No. But we should prepare. You can peruse the list that I had grabbed from the CDC site featured in my Zombie Emergency Kit post. That’ll tell you what to do in case the zombies come after you.

In the meantime, The Walking Dead will start a whole new season in October. I really hope everyone’s just as excited about the event as I am. It promises to be a game changer. I can’t wait.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

If anything, what have you learned from the show The Walking Dead? Would you recommend it to your friends?

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32 thoughts on “The Walking Dead: Lessons Learned

  1. I have seen a grand total of 1 episode! I enjoyed it though. It’s dystopian. It’s zombies and there are some characters I already loved hating. It’s in my queue, It’s just that there are a lot of items in my queue! I’ll get there, probably as soon as Netflix has more episodes for me to OD on!

  2. That’s what I love about horror and I’m a big horror fan – it’s not about the horror (though that’s fun), it’s about people in desperate situations and how they survive them (or not).

  3. It’s pretty interesting how it ends up being more about the people, their interactions and their different ways of dealing with the crazy situations they find themselves in. Plenty people think it’s just gross to watch a show about zombies but it’s actually about a whole lot more. Thanks Jack 😀

  4. I think I’ve already expressed my love for The Walking Dead here, but I’ll definitely do it again. 😀 Season 3 was tough to get through (thanks, Andrea’s misguided libido), but I think the stories have boiled down to a really interesting place in terms of smoking the characters out of the ruts they’ve been stuck in.

    On a grander scale, I think my favorite thing about the show is that the word “zombie” is never said once. (I’ve never read the comic books, so I have no idea if it’s the same there.) It makes everything way less self-aware and easier to hop right in with the characters rather than the pre-conceived stereotypes of the plot.

    As for what TWD has taught me… I think it’s that my post-apocalyptic Walker-slaying weapon of choice will be a machete, lol.

    • I think you’re bang on the money with Season 3. So many challenges and so many changes. Andrea was something else this season, for sure!

      Funny, the use of the word zombie is a premeditated act by the producers to not make the show feel “camp”. I think it’s great to lending credibility to the storyline, but at the same time, a part of me thinks different. I don’t know if it makes much of a difference nowadays. I mean, I don’t think using the word vampire hurt the Twilight series. In fact, if anything, it made vampires the in vogue monster for coolness. Nonetheless, The Walking Dead rocks regardless if they use walker or zombie for the undead!

      Machete is good against walkers. I prefer the shotgun though! 😉

  5. Everyone raves about this show. I’ve never seen it and…I don’t know, I just have no desire to see it. Trav and I used to watch that show called Life After People, we loved it! I love how you take these shows and can see so many lessons in them. 🙂

    • My wife’s the same way. She will not watch The Walking Dead with me, even when I tell her of all the awesome things I learn from it. My sentences usually start with, “Did you know you can kill a zombie with…” and then end with a household item I wouldn’t have thought possible in using to disperse of the undead. Nevertheless, the zombies are really incidental in the show. They could be goats gone wild. The idea, though, is how humans would react in impossible situations with others. I’m not quite convinced we’d turn into animals, but I do think our human compulsion to self-annihilate is a key to the show’s success.

      Ha, I’d love to see the show end in Disneyworld where they’d find the zombie apocalypse has left that place virtually untouched!

  6. Amazing piece, I loved it 🙂
    And the lessons learned are true … especially lesson 3. You can see it even now, in any extreme / out of the ordinary situation.

    Great work!

  7. Hello Jack

    I like your subject matter for this week’s post. Very interesting. Unfortunately those of us in the UK with only Freeview and Netflix are only on season 3 of TWD. Not that I’m worried about spoilers, I’m guessing there’ll still be zombies 🙂

    I’m not entirely sure lesson 3 is entirely valid – except maybe in TWD but as I say I’m not up to the episodes you’ve seen. I am also a fan of Sci-Fi in the traditional form, not the fantasy stuff that has subverted the pure approach. Anyway I digress, the point is that a lot of Sci-Fi paints a rather dismal view of the future, the end of the world as we know it, people ratting on each other, selling each other out for a crumb – in fact a very close analogy of Nazi-ism in the ’30s before the war, and look at what happened to that negative approach to life – it got its arse kicked but good – by the side that operated for positive (and the industrial-military complex, of course). The zombie genre is in danger of doing the same. At least Sci-Fi written in the ’40’s & ’50’s had reason to be dour – the A-Bomb, Soviet oppression, the Cold War and the spread of communism seen as all pervasive as any contagion that turns people into zombies.

    What it tends to ignore are the marvellous acts of heroism in the face of adversity, the underground forces fighting oppression. Someone has to be in these groups. They did have friends for whom they would die rather than sell out. You should watch the “Secret Army” series from 1977-9, you’ll love it. Even Communism had its Achilles heel in the form of Glasnost – made of beautiful people.

    I know the human race is full of fickle people (I’ve met 1 or 2 I wouldn’t trust as far as I could kick them), it is also full of beautiful people who would only become more beautiful (don’t read weak for beautiful) come the apocalypse. Trust me, I’m a cynical bastard at heart, but I think the only real reason for the human race to be called a race is to have good as well as bad. They will rise come the apocalypse.

    Just my thruppence worth 🙂
    Have a lovely week
    David

    • Hey David, Season 3 was a wild ride for me. I’m not going to spoil it for you, but I was of the thought that heroism would prevail, the good will triumph and all that other stuff. Ha, but like I said, Season 3 really threw me for a loop. And that’s good. A good show will do that, and will make us question our moral compass to think in terms of those who are going through the events depicted in the show!

      Thanks for the Secret Army reference; I’m going to have to check it out. I really enjoy watching programs with a slightly slanted view of society. It’s the only way I can make sense of things as they happen when they happen!

      Enjoy the week as well!

  8. Loved the t.v. show and am just starting to read the comic books. I’ve learned that living in the apocalypse will make people do what they normally wouldn’t do – e.g. Shane, the gov, etc. – I doubt the gov had a fish tank full of heads before.

  9. We cannot wait for the Walking Dead, American Horror Story, and Shameless to start. We just finished True Blood and Under the Dome will end tonight, so September will be a dry month. Love the picture you posted of Rick on horseback. If you didn’t know, I used to ride horses before my injury and I was tickled pink to see him ride head on into that horde of zombies. There will usually be horses for sometime after an apocolypse.
    I have learned through The Walking Dead that you may never know the hard choices you may have to make if when your loved ones turn. It is either you or them at that point, especially when you have it in your blood to automatically turn at death.
    Great post. Thank you!

    • I love horses. I think they’re the coolest beasts on the planet. Majestic, humble creatures. A hero on horseback is an amazing sight. When I saw Rick riding one, I thought I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use the photo.

      What you said is as much true today as during an apocalypse. Everyone is happy when things go their way, but once things go bad, everyone’s in it for themselves. Take a look at the mob mentality when going online to purchase tickets to a popular concert.

      Anyway, great comment. Thanks!

  10. You deserve an award for figuring out how to reference Tomagotchi in a post about zombies! I think I’ll probably do the same thing with The Walking Dead that I’m doing with Breaking Bad, which is to watch it once the entire series is available via online streaming. I love your comeback to the anti-zombie types, too – so true!

  11. I love The Walking Dead, the comic book, the TV show stunk in the second half of season three, stunk real bad, worst than a re-animated flesh eating corpse.

    Still, I really enjoyed this post, and your site in general.

  12. I still haven’t started watching The Walking Dead. I know, I know! It’s on my list! This post makes me want to start the series even more.

  13. Okay. I confess. Zombies hold zero appeal for me. Dystopian concepts, however, are high on my list of awesome. So. This is an intriguing post. Thank you. 🙂 I haven’t paid heed to this show because the zombies are in it. Maybe I should watch at least an episode before I crunch up my face, eh?

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