Oh Zombies, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…
The Walking Dead
The Night of the Living Dead
World War Z
Left 4 Dead
Shaun of the Dead…
I love zombies, yes indeedy I do. The undead have a way of making one feel alive and there is nothing so satisfying as having license to hack away at the heads of your former loved ones, friends and even complete strangers in a completely guilt-free, totally necessary and justifiable way. There’s something tremendously liberating folded into the concept of the zombie apocalypse – no rules, survival red in tooth and claw, the loss of technology and the substitution of raw physical ability and mental cunning (which leads me to the thought that the zombie apocalypse is a metaphor for a rejection of our technological selves – but I’ll save that for another time), the ability for previously down-trodden and marginalized people to shine….
It’s all really great stuff that I only mention to assure you all up front that I really do love zombies, despite what I am about to say next:
AMC’s The Walking Dead is treating its living characters as if they were all idiots.
Now maybe someone at Nielsen or the AMC marketing department has conducted some in-depth studies somewhere and determined that 99% of all survivors of the zombie apocalypse ARE idiots, but having recently aced a Pew Research poll on the sciences, I’ve discovered that I’m not in that 99%. Maybe that means I’m not in the target audience. Maybe it means I won’t survive the zombie apocalypse, spending so much time thinking about stuff that I never notice the walkers approaching.
Maybe my problem is raising the bar too high, but – come on.
According to hints, clues and the after hours Talking Dead show, the 4th season opens “about five or six months” after the close of season 3. Some fifty-sixty people (mostly Woodbury refugees) are now living at the prison. Rick and the gang have secured a reasonable measure of safety for everyone, so much so that they’re farming the yard, have electrical power, are regularly patrolling the area, successfully scrounging, they’ve got a school of sorts up and running, they’re even taking in new people on so much of a regular basis that they’ve developed an application questionnaire (how many zombies have you killed, how many people have you killed, why) and Herschel has an artificial limb for gossakes!.
So why in the name of the Governor and everything else that is unholy in post-apocalyptic Georgia haven’t they done anything sensible about insuring their future survival?
Partial Spoiler: the threat of a horde breaking down the prison fences is pretty apparent to anyone who has watched the first two episodes of this season. Last night we learn that “back in August(?)/April(?)” a horde came through and threatened to push over the fences – just like is happening right now.
The solution? Keep a handful of survivors at the fences to poke zombies in the head with sticks. A labor intensive effort that is potentially dangerous and resource wasteful. Yet all around and in the prison we see possible solutions hinted at or even readily at hand.
It’s pretty obvious from the groups’ higher standard of living in season 4 that the scavenging has been pretty good. Apparently no problem obtaining fuel for their vehicles, wood for their Cheval de Fries. Michone comes riding in at the beginning of episode 1 with both comic books and an electric razor in hand.
Clearly just about anything desired is fairly readily to hand. If nothing else, the scene in the shopping mall liquor department ought to make that pretty obvious.
It’s also pretty obvious that they’ve been learning good techniques for dealing with the walkers. (Putting a boom box outside the military center to draw off the walkers is a prime example of how sophisticated they’ve become.)
Which leaves me thinking that Rick and the gang are being pretty stupid about their defenses.and their planning for the future. Their most valuable commodity – living people – is being squandered in wasteful, labor intensive defense.
Now maybe I just know a bit more about these kind of things (or maybe I’m just spending way too much time thinking about zombie defenses), but it seems to me that someone ought to have found a construction site by now and trundled a backhoe over to the prison. A backhoe that someone would then use to dig a ten foot deep, four or five foot wide trench outside the fence. One guy operating the backhoe, another keeping watch, followed by long periods of time during which no one has to do anything but keep a cursory eye on how rapidly the trench is filling up.
That seems a lot more sensible – and easier – than half a dozen folks in leather aprons poking sticks into zombie heads right at the fence line. (As much fun and therapeutic value as there is to be derived from this activity, I’m sure it gets awful tiring after a relatively short interval.) Keeping your distance from a zombie is a good, common sense, practical approach. Poking sticks into zombie heads – even when it’s through a fence – is a bit too close for comfort so far as I’m concerned. (Keeping away from zombies would also seem to me to be a necessary, learned survival instinct, certainly by this time.)
And what happens when the trench fills up?
Gasoline. We know they have it. We know they have enough of it to waste on torching a pig sty. Some clever fool of a survivor is capable, I am sure, of hooking a storage container up to a hosed delivery system. Spray a bit of gasoline into the trench, drop a match or a road flare in there and after a few hours of snap, crackle, pop, your filled up trench has a fine layer of ash, teeth, assorted metal medical devices, a belt buckle or two, some rings and other jewelry and some charred, brittle bones at the bottom. Perfect for starting all over again.
Bonus. A ten foot deep, five foot wide trench, especially one filled with active zombies, is a pretty good deterrent to living people. And so is a ten foot deep, five foot wide trench filled with active, flaming zombies.
And heck, it’s not like they haven’t done it before. It’s not like they have to discover fire and flammable liquids from scratch.
There’s a lot more they ought to be doing. Gasoline again. Why in gods name have the show producers not set a zombies horde on fire yet? Yeah, yeah, the barn scene. No, I’m talking about luring a mob out on the street into a conflagration. Put some gasoline into one of those spray cleaner bottles. Wet a few of the zombies in the pack down, set them on fire and step back a bit. Watch the now flaming zombies set the other zombies in the horde on fire in a glorious chain reaction of zombie fricassee.
Speaking of which – why are there no fire trucks at the prison? (Seems to me a water cannon would be a pretty effective tool for controlling zombie hordes – not to mention its efficacy following a zombie burn.) And for that matter, how come no one is out at the woods line, chopping it back, giving those inside the prison a larger field of view? I’m positive they could find a good use for the wood – like making a row of giant punji stakes (similar to the ones they’ve already constructed).
Why aren’t they drowning in physical resources? Six months? In six months, I promise you, the prison compound should be over flowing with armored cars (scrounged from a police department), tons of ammo, construction materials, machine tools, fencing and material for barricades and just about every single can of peaches to be had in the whole state of Georgia. Generators. Power equipment. Walk in freezers. Food processing and handling equipment. A corral with horses. Gunpowder, bullet making gear. A PILE of crossbows and a mound of quarrels. Spearguns. An operating theater. Movie projection gear and every single $5 DVD from the bargain bins at Wal*Mart.
We’ve seen a few of the original gang wearing armor. How come EVERYONE going out on a scavenge isn’t wearing armor?
Maybe it’s going to turn out that Rick and the gang ARE too stupid to live….