The Walking Dead vs. the State

Photo credit: Roland Molnár

Photo credit: Roland Molnár

***SPOILER ALERT: Please, do not read any further if you have not completed watching the entirety, including the season finale, of Season 4 of the AMC television show The Walking Dead and you don’t want anything spoiled for you.***

The Walking Dead TV series, in its first four seasons, has developed an increasingly dreadful and serious tone combined with gripping action and drama, garnering more attention than any show currently on air. But there is much more beneath the horror sci-fi apocalyptic setting itself. The content and message of the show contains a clear allegory to present day reality that bear deep philosophical implications.

For starters, Rick and his group spend the first half of the season attempting to successfully live as a peaceful family of farmers that seem to simultaneously suffer in an unrelenting environment of horrifying violence, forced to defend themselves by any means necessary from a plague of death. Still, the protagonists enjoy momentary prosperity by both respecting individual property rights and behaving communally. As a unit, they are righteous folk who live as they believe is good.

Rick and his people are also tragically under constant siege, not only by undead monsters, but various living human fiends. These immoral people represent the state. They initiate countless threats against our innocent friends. They assault, pillage, betray, and hold hostage. They are the illegitimate government (redundant though that phrase may be).

First, take the vile Governor (a character literally identified by name as the government), who starts a bloody turf war over the farm. Our protagonists offer peace and coexistence, but the Governor instead chooses to invade the territory after killing Hershel and many of his own. Then, after Rick and his friends are split apart by the conflict, we meet a gang of disgusting, thuggish criminals, one of whom attempts to rape Carl, a relatively defenseless young boy. These men purport to abide by a code of justice, but they are really just brutes that murder and deceive both hapless victims and each other. And finally, the finale unveils a new enemy, the cultish, possibly-cannibalistic, totalitarian regime that occupies Terminus. It has lured the protagonists and who knows how many others into its trap, falsely promising sanctuary, and now has taken the group captive.

This season was finely crafted and executed in an artistically, visually, and emotionally raw way. Now we are faced with a situation in which the only hope for our friends to survive will be for one of three things to happen: 1) the Terminus state to ALL be killed or disarmed, 2) the Terminus state to completely withdraw its threats, return all weapons and stolen property, and let Rick and his people go, or 3) for Rick and his people to forfeit their freedom and suffer their own enslavement.

True, The Walking Dead is far from reality in that it is a science fiction horror show about the undead apocalypse, but an important supporting element of the horror is a psychological one. What could be more frightening than to consider that the pain and injustice inflicted by those who wrongfully claim authority, as depicted in the show, is actually something that we experience today?

Miguel Duque
Miguel Duque
Miguel Duque is a retired political activist.