Monthly Archives: March 2012

And Amazingly, None of Them Are “Why Hasn’t Someone, Preferably Rick, Smacked Lori in the Mouth Already?”

12 Nitpicks and Nagging Questions That Came To Me While Watching the Second Season Finale Episode of The Walking Dead

1. Where are all the flies?
By the end of Season 2, not much has been revealed about how the walkers came to be, how long we’ve existed in this post-walker world, or how society broke down so quickly after they appeared. But three things seem fairly certain: (1) There are a lot of corpses lying around; (2) the walkers themselves are ambulatory bags of dead flesh and (3) the dead bodies, mobile and otherwise, appear to outnumber the living. Taking those observations into account, there should be a heckuva lot more flies, carrion birds and other scavengers flying around. Like, obscuring-the-sun clouds of them. But the worst infestation we ever see is a single insect inserted here and there used for dramatic effect. If a city the size of Atlanta is overrun with tens of thousands of rotting corpses, you can pretty much guarantee you would have a hard time seeing your hand in front of your face for all the flies (and don’t get me started on the lack of maggots on the walkers’ bodies, or the number of walkers we’ve seen with their eyes intact). Not that I want to see the cast covered in bug bites and swatting all day, but the lack of any real signs of death and decay really bugs. No pun intended.

2. Who’s trimming the lawns and hedges?
When Rick arrives in Atlanta, we can see miles of abandoned cars heading out of the city (just as we see cars on the highways looking as if everyone sitting in them just bolted). This suggests that whatever decimated the population happened so swiftly that it hit everyone in the Atlanta area at roughly the same time. This works against what we know about how most pathogens are spread (and we’re led to believe that’s what caused the walker outbreak, as opposed to a supernatural cause), but let’s suspend our disbelief on that for now. Instead, here’s another question: Where’s all the kudzu? Known as “the vine that ate the south,” kudzu is a non-native plant that grows all over the U.S. South, and a huge effort is invested in containing it. The Walking Dead is vague on timelines, but we can assume several months has passed since the walkers appeared and society broke down. That should be enough time for kudzu, which can grow up to a foot a day, to overrun a lot of the abandoned buildings and highways we see. Heck, even the grass on the lawns in Rick’s old neighbourhood should look a little more unkempt. Instead… nada. A bit of trash in the streets of Atlanta is the closest we get to seeing any kind of infrastructure breakdown. If it really is the end of human civilization, you’d think things would look a lot messier.

3. Why isn’t anyone freaking out about getting blood and guts all over themselves?
Speaking of messy. Think back to when Rick was in Atlanta with the others trapped in a department store by a mob of walkers. They knew the walkers were attracted to the smell of their live bodies, so they hatched a getaway plan that involved Rick and Glenn putting on overcoats  and smearing themselves with the innards of a dead walker — the theory being the stench would allow them to walk through a horde of walkers undisturbed. When Rick started chopping up the body, they were very careful about not getting bits of blood and gore on their exposed skin and clothes — a reasonable precaution, since they had every reason to believe the walkers carried a communicable disease. (This is backed up by the scene in “Tell It to the Frogs” when the humans find an animal carcass bitten by a walker and consider cutting around the bite marks, but Shane says they shouldn’t risk it.) But somewhere along the way, the survivors just stopped caring about that. Look at all the scenes in which they’re smashing in walkers’ heads with their hands and feet, plunging their hands into the innards of loved ones who have just been bitten, getting hit by spraying blood and brains during walker attacks… and they don’t even bother to change their shirts afterward. (And don’t tell me “they’re walking about with only the clothes on their backs” because we see some of the women do laundry and complain about how, even after society collapses, the chores still get divided along traditional gender lines.)

4. So, the walkers: do they have special powers or not?
In “TS-19,” Jenner explains the mechanics of how the walkers work: the infection kills the brain and then restarts it, but only the parts of the brain that control basic urges; the parts of the brain that make them human (memory, personality, etc.) stay dead. The only superhuman ability the walkers gain, if you want to call it that, is the ability to shrug off any injury short of a shot to the head. But the writers of the series seem to have an unclear idea of what other special abilities the walkers have. In one episode, they’re able to detect living humans by their smell; in another, they walk right by humans hiding just a few feet from their position. In “18 Miles Out,” Shane is able to whip a herd into a frenzy by smearing a drop of blood on a door, suggesting they have a sharklike ability to detect blood… but somehow a whole mob of walkers pass by T-Dog, who’s hiding behind a vehicle with his very wounded arm gushing blood everywhere. Then there are the many scenes in which we see the survivors holding walkers at arm’s length or keeping doors closed against the efforts of one or several walkers… and yet, when Dale falls victim to one walker (who somehow managed to fell a cow with his teeth), it only takes a few seconds for the walker to disembowel him. Skin is a pretty tough material to rip, and there’s no way a human with normal strength, let alone a dead one, could do that to someone who’s actively fighting them off. Maybe the true nature of the walkers’ powers can be boiled down to “whatever the writers want them to be.”

5. Why isn’t everyone, including the kids, armed with something at all times?
I’m not saying Carl should have a handgun on him at all times. Hell, I wouldn’t even trust half the adults in this show with anything more lethal than a slingshot under normal circumstances. But these are not normal circumstances, and everyone, without exception, should have some kind of weapon with them at all times. How many times have we seen one of the characters wander off, without so much as a sharpened pencil in their pocket, and get ambushed by a walker or two? Or think about the scene in “What Lies Ahead,” in which Andrea is cornered in the RV’s washroom by a walker and needs Dale to drop a screwdriver down to her through an air vent because her gun was in pieces on the floor. How hard can it be to make sure everyone has something heavy or pointy with them every time they go outside?

I mean, seriously. I’m not a big gun fan, but even I can see the need for some guns in this new reality. Problem is, these yahoos seem pretty eager to use them in a lot of situations where a crossbow or machete would probably be a better choice. One of the more consistent features of the walkers on the show is that they are attracted by loud noises — even to the point of mindlessly walking in one straight line for miles because they heard the sound of a helicopter flying overhead. So knowing this, (BANG!) our survivors’ obvious course of action (BANG!) is to minimize the amount of (BANG!) noise they make while they search (BANG!) for safer surroundings and (BANG!) HEY, RAMBO! I’M TRYING TO MAKE A POINT OVER HERE! CAN YOU STOP WITH THE BANG-BANG FOR JUST ONE… oh, too late, here come the walkers now. Sigh.

7. So everyone’s infected, and everyone who dies becomes a walker within hours of death. Sounds like a nursing home is not the place to hide out.
At the end of Season 2, everyone finds out what Rick learned from Jenner at the CDC: everyone in the world is infected, and everyone who dies becomes a walker, regardless of whether they were bitten by one. Pretty dramatic revelation (at least for those viewers who haven’t read the comic series), for sure, but it overlooks one small detail: wouldn’t Rick and his people have known about that long before Jenner told him? Think back to “Vatos,” the Season 1 episode in which we meet a street gang that has taken over and fortified a nursing home to protect its elderly residents from the walkers. Which, you know, good for them, but… well, who’s going to protect them when the old people start dying and come back hungry? We’re talking about a nursing home in a war zone without reliable access to electricity, food or medicine; are we supposed to believe none of the residents died in the time between the outbreak and Rick’s team’s arrival? That none of them were attached to life-saving machines, or didn’t need regular access to medication, or didn’t suffer life-threatening injuries, or didn’t succumb to the emotional and mental stress of witnessing what amounts to Judgment Day?

8. Why do all the zombies look the same?
We’ve seen a couple of kid walkers — Rick shoots one in the first episode, and of course there was Sophia (“SOPHIA!!!”). But for the most part, all the walkers seen on the show so far appear to be the same youngish adult age, thin, and overwhelmingly white. The latter is a bit of a problem, considering how this show is set in and around Atlanta, a city with a significant African-American population, to say nothing of the other ethnicities we should be seeing more of in the crowd shots. Even among the “name” zombies — i.e., the zombies you could recall with just a short description (Hanging Zombie, RV Zombie, Tank Zombie, Well Zombie, Stuck-in-Mud Zombie), they’re invariably white, the exception being Morgan’s dead wife from the first episode. It’s likely there’s a mundane reason for this involving the type of actors who tend to show up for work as background actors, but it’s one of those small details that make it hard to get lost in the show when you start to notice it.

9. How does someone keep zombies under control with just a barn and some crippled chickens?
Think back to the farm, and how Herschel and his family — believing the walkers to be sick people in need of treatment — kept rounding up walkers to add to their growing collection in the barn. A few logistical issues here: Are they going out and seeking walkers, or are they just rounding up any that stumble onto their property? How is it they’ve been able to corral and contain these walkers with nothing more than rope and sticks? How do they get them back safely without attracting attention? How do they get the walker inside the barn without the ones inside rushing the door? Aside from feeding them chickens, what other “care” did they give these walkers (who, note, Herschel and his family saw as people with illnesses and therefore deserving of care)? How were a dozen or so zombies kept satisfied fighting over one chicken when they could theoretically smell dozens of fresh meat-bags on the outside? What was the long-term plan — was Herschel working to find a cure? Considering how demonstrably dangerous the walkers were, why didn’t Herschel have any safeguards in place to prevent their escape? How is it no one in Rick’s group heard any moaning or signs of movement from inside the barn until the plot required them to do so? And how is it the barn — an aging structure with obvious gaps between the boards — was able to keep those walkers inside when the same barn doors couldn’t keep another group of ravenous walkers out? So many questions, so few answers.

10. How do the walkers’ bodies work, physiologically?
I’m not going to get into all the scientific reasons why it’s physically impossible for  zombies to exist; there are other sites that get into that kind of detail, with this one at particularly illuminating (if you can handle the, er, lovely mental imagery brought up by discussion of dead bodies filling up with gases). But what the show (and the comic) doesn’t do very well is explain why the walkers crave living flesh, how they’re able to move and respond to outside stimuli if their brain functions are limited to basic primal urges, what energy source powers their muscles, or where the food goes when they eat. If the walkers deal with excess food the same way we do, then we should see a lot more of them with soiled clothing (not that we would want to). And if they don’t defecate, then there’s the uncomfortable question of what happens then a walker reaches “critical mass.” And the occipital and temporal lobes of the brain must still be functioning because we see numerous examples of walkers processing sights and sounds, which blows up the whole “only the brain stem is working” theory, so… maybe I’m just thinking too much about this.

11. For the love of God, how is anyone in this group of survivors still alive?
They camp out in tents in the woods, within driving distance of a major city filled with walkers. They end up in a farmhouse with other survivors, and no one thinks of boarding up windows or fortifying the property until they hear word of other human survivors. They go out for midnight strolls alone. They consider rebuilding their lives on a piece of property surrounded by a wooden fence and within driving distance of a high school, small town and public works yard all crawling with walkers. They venture out for supplies on highly delectable and easily spooked horses. They make multiple trips for backpacks full of supplies instead of driving the RV to the nearest abandoned big-box store for one big supply run. They have sex in abandoned drugstores without securing the perimeter first. They head to bars in hostile territory to drown their sorrows and don’t tell anyone where they are. One of them panics because her husband’s gone missing and so she takes one of the cars to go looking for him, only to end up in a crash and attacked by walkers. They go traipsing through the woods at night in search of an escaped prisoner who’s as good as dead. At the battle on the farm, their only strategy is “drive in circles and shoot as many as you can.” When they escape from the farm, they drive their vehicles as far as they can (neglecting to siphon gas from the other cars on the highway) and then decide to camp outside until morning (and have a loud argument while they’re at it). And don’t get me started on the number of times Carl wanders off on his own and Lori starts screaming frantically about where he is. By all rights, these people should have died a long, long time ago. P.S. Lori — do your damn job and put a leash on that boy.

12. Why is Glenn still hanging out with these people?
Seriously. Dude could have been halfway to Canada by now without these losers holding him back. Assuming Canada is a safer place to be in the Walking Dead world. Probably is — can’t imagine the walkers being too swift in the snowbanks. And way fewer guns for idiots to shoot off every five seconds.