NOVEMBER 10 ― You know a TV series is good when you get so absorbed that you forget where you are.
For me, it was the iconic series The Walking Dead. The heroes had to sneak in somewhere to get supplies or something and I made a slight noise placing my cup of coffee back onto its saucer.
I actually uttered “Oh my God” thinking I had blown it for everyone before I realised I was not with them.
That I was safe in a zombie-free world. That’s how absorbing the series is. That’s how much the producers made the audience care about the story and more importantly, the people in it.
TWD is a series about survival in post-apocalyptic America after an outbreak which turned people into zombies. We follow a core group of survivors as they drift from situation to situation, trying desperately to survive.
I was pleasantly surprised to find two famous British actors in the series. One is Andrew Lincoln who plays Rick Grimes, the main role in the entire series. Lincoln was in a very iconic British movie, Human Traffic, said to be the last great British film of the 90s. The other is Lennie James, also from iconic movies such as Among Giants and Snatch.
Why are the characters so compelling? This will obviously be a subjective answer but for me, it is about how adversity brings about the goodness in people.
Rick Grimes is one of those people whom others would call “sickeningly good.” He simply cannot live with himself if he does something bad.
He chained a person on a rooftop once for being dangerous and he could not return to him. This was after all amidst a zombie invasion, remember?
Yet he still went back in order to retrieve that person later despite the fact that he may never see his wife and son again. This is only one example but you can see why his character keeps people watching.
Another element I found that made me keep watching was the human dynamics. The characters are not absolutely good or evil.
Even the “evil” ones have some underlying motivation which evokes a kind of sympathy from the audience. The “good” characters, even Grimes himself, occasionally go through meltdowns where they lose it.
It is also very heartening to see the characters evolve. After all, they no longer live in the cushy comforts of our world. Rather, they live a nomadic, frontier life. They have to scavenge for food and supplies like refugees do now.
The writers of the series, like those of Breaking Bad, are definitely the philosophical type. They display an acute sense of different philosophical issues:
― Ethics ― is it wrong to kill someone before he turns into a zombie?
― Teleology ― what is the purpose of a community, is it merely to huddle up and batten down the hatches?
― Politics ― should leadership be based on a democracy or a highly capable dictator?
― Linguistics ― how new human experiences manifest themselves in the variations of language. The monsters are called “deadies”, “biters”, “walkers”, “sick ones” but never zombies.
Yes, philosophy is a key element in this series, I feel.
But of course there is the sheer roller coaster of emotions as well. One simply should not, despite the impossibility of it, grow attached to any character.
They simply will disappoint you by doing something bad or worse, dying!
It’s the same with their lifestyle. They simply cannot stabilise their lives without something happening. And it’s always the humans who undermine each other. That their destruction is at the hands of the zombies is simply incidental.
I am one of those people who come to any TV series very late (TWD is in its eighth season now) and I am glad because I would not have been able to contain myself if I had to wait every week to see what happens next or worse, the following year after a season cliffhanger.
But the writers know how to keep us going.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.