I have in my cold, unfeeling heart a warm spot for post-apocalyptic anything: movies, books, short stories, poems, etc. Adjacent to that is a second, smaller, but warmer spot reserved for zombies. Where these two magical places overlap is my love for The Walking Dead.
That said, I have almost told TWD to call Tyrone several times during our relationship. And since we’re less than two weeks out from the beginning of the end of season 6 AND we left off in the middle of a very high stakes scene where several of my favorite characters are inches (and a ruining-ass kid – not Judith) from becoming an all-you-can-gore buffet, I feel like walking down memory lane (in chronological order).
1. Season 1/ Episode 1
Two minutes in, “Reverend” Shane starts by explaining that his exes and “every other pair of boobs” in the world are too stupid to turn off lights. Because, well, fuck you, Shane. You’re a horrible person, the girl you love chooses someone else, and you die. Which is to say, it’s a great moment of characterization, but it was so immediate and repulsive that I almost never unpaused the DVR after Rev. Shane’s dissertation on the differences between the genders. But then, another great moment of characterization: Shane’s sudden tonal shift when he asks Rick about Lori. He is suddenly serious and interested in his friend (and his friend’s wife). We get a glimpse of Rick’s brooding nature – he’s a “close-mouthed sonofabitch,” with a rocky marriage and a fraternal relationship with Shane.
2. Season 2/ Episode 1
Now I’m no medical expert, but I watched enough House and Grey’s Anatomy to know that when you get shot in the chest. With a shotgun. In a forest. Far, far away from an ER. YOU DIE.
I’m willing to suspend a lot of disbelief. A lot. But, no. No, a kid doesn’t survive that when he’s stitched back together by a folksy doctor, some embroidery thread, and faith. Nope.
3. Season 2/ Episode 4
Every time Beth sang… Drop a mixtape. Get a Youtube channel. Or a SoundCloud. Audition for some bullshit reality television show. I don’t know, but stop singing. Doesn’t sound draw walkers? Stop singing. Aren’t you trying to survive? Stop singing. Don’t you value my sanity? Stop singing.
4. Season 2: When the Showrunners Decided that Lori was a Villain
Some time during season 2 it seems like everyone in the writing room decided that there needed to be a bigger scarier villain – that the zombies roving the countryside weren’t enough. Enter Lori. Or should I say “Loris”?
In S2/Ep 6, Rick says “I know. Of course I know. You thought I was dead. The world went to shit and you thought I was dead.” He forgave her, but for some reason the audience couldn’t and even if they could, the writers wouldn’t let them.
All the awkward Shane/Rick exchanges (like when Shane finds out and grimaces through a “congratulations”) somehow become the fault of Lori’s indecision. When Shane tries to convince a pregnant Lori that Rick isn’t built for this world (and then says dogwhistle racist shit) it is because Lori is sending mixed signals. She became a repository for hatred. Granted some of this was in the show and some was the fans, but either way, it almost lost me.
5. Season 2/ Episode 10: When Rick Didn’t Kill Shane
Um, so I like poetry. And the whole time I was thinking of this Maya Angelou poem, “No Weeper” (which is the politest way I’ve ever read to threaten to beat somebody’s ass).
And then Rick beat his ass.
BUT still let him live. What does this dude need to do for Rick to put him down?
6. Season 3/ Episode 4: When Lori Did Die
So remember how Carl survived being shot in the chest? Yeah. Here’s the thing about the human body — it’s not meant to be pierced by metal and gunpowder. Fun fact: some human bodies are designed to produce babies. Despite the rampant medicalization of the female body, it’s not a malfunctioning male body. So if Carl can survive a violent injury, why can’t Lori survive what is a natural, albeit sometimes gruesome, painful-as-fuck experience?
Now, I understand that sometimes birth needs assistance and, sometimes, it ends in death. For one or more of the parties involved. But not every time. And I’m tired of the birth of a baby equaling death of the mother because childbirth is icky and scary. GTFOH.
7. Season 3: Andrea/Governor Romance
I won’t get into it here, but I’ve loved some horrible people. But none of them were sociopaths, though. That I know of. Or can prove.
There’s a lot things that one might miss in a relationship, but the cumulative impact of all the red flags that Andrea ignored – Michonne’s dislike of him, the fact that she can’t leave, the zombie/gladiator party festivities – was a little too much.
8. Season 3/ Episode 5: Rick’s One-man Show
Not because I don’t think that people have breaks from reality as a coping mechanism – I do. And not because Rick hadn’t just endured some trauma – he had. But because this felt like a caricature of a break. All that exposition and ham-fisted overt metaphor with the phones and the voices and the carrot of “safety.” It was a good episode, but by that time I expected better.
8. Season 4/Episode 4: Carol’s Banishment
Now, I’m on #TeamCarol (until the midseason-finale of season 6 wherein she stops acting like Carol). I’m cool with the fact that she killed/burned Tyrese’s ladyfriend. When Rick was like, “Here’s your parting gift: a POS car. Youwillbefineokaybye.” I was open-jawed. You don’t send away one of your best soldiers for doing a logical thing. Also, when Carol dies (because everybody dies, even us), I’m not sure how I’m going to keep watching.
9. Season 4/ Episodes 10 and 11: Eugene’s Introduction
How did anybody ever believe his story?
10. Season 5: When Sasha was Left to Her Own Devices
Sasha was a soldier. She was presented as strong, competent, and intelligent. This is the traditional strong Black woman archetype that we know. She differed from Michonne in that she was not initially presented as damaged or broken. No, Sasha was keeping her shit together.
Then Bob, her boyfriend, dies. Slowly. As she watches. And she dies a little.
Then her brother dies.
And Sasha starts to disconnect. She takes increasingly larger risks. Volunteers for dangerous assignments. Spends more and more time alone in the woods outside Alexandria.
She’s again outside the Alexandrian fence. This time she’s hauling bodies to a grave. And after slipping in and standing over the pit of (twice-dead) walkers, she lies down on top of them to, I guess, try it on.
Cut to Rosalita and Michonne in the woods, looking for Sasha because she never came back after her shift on the tower. What affected me was not the stunning visual of Sasha in the pit or the way Rosalita pointed out the change in Michonne’s character (she had left Alexandria without her sword).
Instead, I was struck by the image of Sasha fighting the walkers, outnumbered, but indifferent to her own welfare and concerned only with exacting an inadequate vengence. Michonne and Rosalita are, of course, drawn into this battle, having gone looking for her. Swordless Michonne flashes back to her selves: katana in hand fighting for the group, fighting for herself, hooded and alone. Then she joins Sasha in her fight and ultimately saves her life. Sasha is not appreciative: “You can’t help me,” she says. And she’s right. But there they are the only women of color on the show fighting for each other. And nothing is solved. And no one is miraculously healed. But there they are the three WOC trying for each other when no one else is. And I watch dystopian zombie shows to escape reality, not to be reminded of what it is to be a Black woman. Fuck, if Carl can get shot in the chest and survive, then Black women can be supported by more than other women of color. Anything is possible, right?