On the Bubble: The Walking Dead

Posted on June 13, 2012


Are you kidding? A post-apocalyptic zombie series based on a comic book? Of course we wanted to see it!

We Watched It

A mysterious disease allows the dead to rise and walk the Earth. We don’t really get to see how or why that ends civilization, but it does. Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up in a hospital to find out that the world ended while he recovered from a gunshot wound. He sets out to find his wife and son.


On the Bubble

For the first two seasons, the survivors struggled with two opposing viewpoints. Rick represented the view that we decide who we are, and that the rules that we create and follow define our society and civilization.

His deputy, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) represented the view that we have to change to suit our environment, so our environment decides who we are, and what our society and civilization are like.

As a result, Rick always wanted to take the high road. That often meant trying to talk or negotiate first, taking the time to think or scout around, and trying to reach consensus among the survivors. Sometimes it seemed like Rick hadn’t adjusted to the fall of civilization. He expected there to be courts and jails and hospitals and higher authorities with whom he could consult.

Shane preferred the easiest solution, without considering the consequences. Shane’s responses were based on self-sufficiency and the immediate destruction of threats. He wasn’t irrational or psychotic, he had no hope of the cavalry arriving. He wasn’t looking for Gandalf to ride out of the East at the dawning of the third day. He knew that if anything was going to get done, the survivors were going to have to do it with whatever resources they had on hand.

Frankly, by the end of the second season, I was getting tired of it. The conflict existed because no one addressed it. Shane was descending into savagery because he saw that as the only reasonable response to a zombie-filled post-apocalyptic world. The other survivors took sides on a case-by-case basis, and no one ever addressed the overall conflict in viewpoints.


That all got addressed when Rick shot Shane. Granted, Shane was trying to kill Rick at the time, but nevertheless it meant that Rick had to stoop to Shane’s level to resolve the basic philosophical conflict of the show.

So Season 3 will start with the survivors on the road again. The basic philosophical conflict that structured character interactions for two seasons is gone (which ought to be a relief, but makes me apprehensive about what comes next).

Rick was our protagonist. Because he woke up to a strange new world, he was our POV character for understanding that world. He stood for law, order, mercy, compassion, and family.

For two seasons, the writers have chipped away at that role as the new world tested Rick’s values and resolve. The trouble is, I don’t see a new protagonist coming forward. While there are characters that I like, e.g. Glenn (Steven Yeun), I don’t see any of them emerging as our new focal point.


My buddy, the always awesome JD Wiker, described the 2009 Star Trek as being a bunch of people shouting for two hours, for no clearly defined reasons. While I liked that movie, I see his point, and I’m beginning to feel that way about The Walking Dead. Some people consider it the most emotionally compelling hour on television. What do you think?

Posted in: television