I really enjoyed the season finale of The Walking Dead, which I finally caught today on Amazon as I don’t have cable. I think it tied up what was an excellent season on all fronts and left us, as viewers, wanting more, which is exactly what a TV show that has more to go should do.
What I love about The Walking Dead is that first and foremost it is entertainment of the highest order. It creates a largely believable alternative world and gets us wrapped up emotionally in what goes on there. Anyone that loves the show will tell you that it keeps you on the edge of your seat. The characters, for the most part, are well written, with their own interior lives. You care about these people and what becomes of them. It is exciting and it is emotional. I would watch the show for these reasons alone.
What makes The Walking Dead even better, and keeps me thinking about it after viewing it is over, is the intelligence that lies behind the entertainment. Music should be great music first, television should be great television first. That is the first order of any art form. If it can do even more than that, that is what sets the greats aside.
There are many ways that you can interpret this show. Here is just one way you can interpret this season. I’m not saying this is an original interpretation, or that if I had more time to think about it that I wouldn’t think of a better one. The fact that it posts up ideas without definitive conclusions is the mark of a good drama. This is not our world. It allows us to reflect upon it, but there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong way to interpret it. It is complex and complexity in entertainment is a good thing.
The zombies pose a threat to people. Different people respond to this threat differently. Some become inhuman themselves, and some, like the citizens of Alexandria, respond to it by almost ignoring it. They are safe behind their walls and are haven’t had to adapt in any great way to the new world and the threats that are a part of it. The Grimes gang, meanwhile, have had to live among the terrors of the world. They have a realistic viewpoint of what is going on, even if what is going on throughout the season is in danger of making them lose their humanity.
In the season finale it looked as if events were going to prove the Grimes gang correct, even if they essentially have been all along. Rick and his people were even considering killing certain members of Alexandria for the good of the whole. It looked as if this was going to be needed. Meanwhile the citizens of Alexandria were mostly content to keep living in their bubble, even if there was literally “wolves” at their door. (I would argue that the people of Alexandria aren’t really doves in the political sense, but delusional. Doves will still go to war when necessary, they just try to make it a last resort. Though like any political group there are variations. Compared to those of Terminus or the Governor, the Grimes gang are doves. For the sake of not making this article incredibly long, lets just keep the political tags somewhat simplified.)
The season finale was called Conquer. It looked as if Rick and his gang were going to have to use violence to conquer Alexandria. Often in real world events there are hawks and doves. There are people that believe in peace and people that believe that violence is a way to achieve and end. It looked like the show was setting things up to make the doves of this scenario and episode look foolish while the hawks looked like they were right.
However, the Grimes gang was able to peacefully take over Alexandria not through violence, but because of their compassion. Yes the episode ended with an act of violence, but this was directed by one of the members of Alexandria, even though Rick carried it out. But all of the main characters demonstrated that they had held on to their humanity at the end, and this at least left the viewer with the impression that they were going to be the leaders of this new society. At the same time, they were able to bring the members of Alexandria to understand the world that they were facing and bring them closer to their world view.
What the writers of this episode seemed to be saying was that although we must be willing to look at the world as it really is, it is essentially holding onto our compassion in the face of threats that will allow people to build a better world. Many of the people that have resorted to nothing but brute violence in this show may survive awhile, but they are not as strong as people that also possess compassion for others. So far they have all been wiped out eventually. Meanwhile those that completely ignore real world threats will essentially find their time coming to an unpleasant end as well. Although different people, in reality, can argue that the show is taking one side or the other, as it is interpretive, this is how I interpreted this episode. I am also fully aware that this is only a midpoint in the series as a whole, and that anything may change based on further episodes.
However, I think, even if you philosophically disagree with different ideas on the show, this is an interesting point to contemplate. One must face the world as it really is, even the worst of it, but trying to hold onto one’s compassion is essential even in the face of the darker truths of the world.
One of the really great things about this series is that if you read about it on the internet, there are a whole host of different ways to interpret different plot points and story arcs. Again, I think fiction that gets people thinking in different ways is always a good thing.