Z is for Zombies

First, I will state the obvious. I am a fan of zombies. I like (mostly) the entire genre. And it is really not a huge surprise that they’ve become so popular. Zombies cross every boundary – they can be any race, any religion, any gender, any species. Anything that can die can become a zombie.

There are, of course, a lot of different interpretations of zombies – from the mind-controlled not-really-dead ilk, to the rage-virus type (which technically isn’t a zombie, since those infected weren’t actually dead, but eh, I’ll let it slide) to the most common iteration of ‘dead person reanimates due to and wants to eat your brains’. It doesn’t really matter *how* the zombies came about; what is most important is that underlying commonality. They were dead. Now they are ‘alive’, in some form or another, and without proper control, they are very, very dangerous.

There have been a few recent shows on TV whose premise relies on zombies. Let’s start with Walking Dead.

We started watching it, when it first came out, and I admit, the first season was terrific – the story arc following this desperate band of survivors trying to figure out what to do with themselves, now that the world as they knew it is over. The zombies themselves primarily serve as background material throughout the show. The rag tag band of plucky survivors could just as easily have to battle giant mutant killer bunnies, or oncoming swarms of rabid hamsters. It’s just in this case, it’s zombies, and so they have to work around that.

The problem I have with the show, and the reason why eventually I stopped watching it, is because after a while it stopped being a show about people working to survive a desperate situation, and instead morphed into just another a show about people being horrible to each other, with the occasional zombie thrown in for dramatic tension. We stuck it out through the second season, but by about midway through the third, we were done. Even zombies couldn’t make it appealing anymore.

In contrast, and at the urging of a friend, we watched something from across the pond called In the Flesh, which takes place after a zombie apocalypse has happened, and after a cure (of sorts) has been discovered. In this case, the viewer is experiencing the plot from the point of view as the former zombies. As is often the case in shows from the BBC, the characters, and the plot, were allowed to develop slowly. If people were being horrible to each other it is because there were good, understandable reasons (unlike in Walking Dead), based on what had happened during the early days of the zombie uprising. The show allows the characters to work through all the emotions of having to now reconcile and reintegrate with people they had once been fighting, such that even when horrible things happen, you as a viewer can still sympathize with the people doing those acts. The last episode of the first season was done so beautifully that I was crying by the end. Naturally this show has not lasted nearly as long as Walking Dead, because alas, people being horrible to each other for no apparent reason always manages to be more popular (see also pretty much every ‘reality’ show on TV).

And finally, I want to mention a brand new show that is currently in its first season – iZombie. Technically it’s based on a graphic novel series, although having read the first book in that series, I will state for the record that the TV show is a bazillion times better. It’s made by the same people who did Veronica Mars, so if you liked that show (we did, a lot), you’ll likely love iZombie. The basic premise is that a young woman has been turned into a zombie, so she ends up working in a morgue (to gain access to her primary food source, of course), and also helps solve crime. Since she works in a morgue, and because she is not the only zombie, there are occasionally people being horrible to people (because that is usually how someone ends up murdered), but that is only a minor backdrop to the rest of the plot.

The letter Z is brought to you by the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

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