Things I Watch When I Am Ironing #8: The Walking Dead (Seasons 1 – 5)

The Walking Dead started out as perfect ironing fodder. It didn’t matter if I had to go and pull stuff off the washing line cause all I’d miss was another zombie being spiked.

But as the show went on it gradually moved, like a slowly rotting corpse, into something much darker and grittier. So much so that by the time I came to the end of Season 5 it had become my favourite Thing I Watch When I Am Knitting show – and for some episodes I didn’t get much damn knitting done.

When we started leaving old-world style relationships behind (ie: as soon as Lori bit the dust) it really took off. I couldn’t buy into the love triangle between Lori, our hero Rick and his best friend (who left him to rot in a hospital and then seduced his wife) Shane. The world was imploding around them, they were living in a tent in a layby with a load of oddballs and eating grass. Weren’t there more important things going on down?

Thankfully, despite Glenn and Maggie getting together, and Bob and Sasha having a bit of a sweet thing, there has been no cringe-making lurve scenes (I don’t count Andrea and the Governor. I don’t think they did either). It has been about loyalty, family, filthy t-shirts and very tight trousers.

Michonne turned up to the party with a sword, a hood and two pet zombies. Beats a bottle of Frascati anytime

Michonne turned up to the party with a sword, a hood and two pet zombies. Beats a bottle of Frascati anytime

And talking of the Governor, while he was a great pantomime villain (eyepatch and immunity to death as standard), things were much more complex when the bad guys were the Terminans and the Claimers and those nutters at the hospital who took Beth. They all had harrowing backstories or warped codes of ethics and more nuances than you would expect from a blood-spattered zombie-fest.

In this world, the law of consequences is a killer – literally. Forget karma. If you don’t take someone out when you have the chance you are sure as hell going to regret it. Morgan can’t bring himself to shoot his undead wife – and we find later she is the one who kills his son. Dale’s death is totally Carl’s fault, for messing with a walker, and letting the Governor live wasn’t a good move for anyone, ever. This doesn’t half mess with your humanity.

Another reason it is so compelling is that anyone could die at any time. Except Rick, obvs, because he appears on the posters for Season 6. Knowing you can lose a major character means you never relax – I was fully expecting to see Glenn go down in the finale of Season 5. And you can’t bond with new characters because you never know if they are destined to be a regular or not. Why does Moses have to die when  Tara and Rosita make it?

Kickass Carol. Don't look at the flowers on that jumper

Kickass Carol. Don’t look at the flowers on that jumper

Bits that made me drop my cable needle

  • Finding Merle’s severed, still handcuffed hand on the roof.
  • The CDC centre going into lockdown and then blowing up.
  • Carl getting shot straight after seeing the stag. So there is still beauty in this world? Nope.
  • Shane reanimating without being bitten. WTF? Did I miss something? Combined with the revelation of what Dr Lister had whispered to Rick, this was jawdropping.
  • The first apperance of Michonne, hooded, with a katana and two chained, armless walkers. Bloody awesome image.
  • The Governor killing Martinez, proving he wasn’t redeemed at all, despite calling himself Brian.
  • Beth getting shot. A perplexing surprise.
  • Rick biting out Joe’s throat. He didn’t see that coming.
  • Bob telling the Terminans they were eating infected flesh after waking up to find they’d barbecued his foot. Right back at ya there.
  • Moses dying in the revolving door. This was horrible. He was a great character, with a strong back story. The revolving door was a brilliant idea and Glenn watching him die through the glass was too harrowing.
  • Carol’s flowery jumper in Alexandria. It was hideous.

Bits that made me throw my stitch holders at the screen

  • Lori telling Andrea that ladies don’t shoot, they do the laundry and the cooking. Waytogo Lori.
  • Beth singing miserable songs. How about a version of Knees Up Mother Brown to cheer everyone up, eh Beth?
  • Beth’s odd and pointless death. Why’d she stab Dawn? Why’d Dawn shoot her? (I read later the Beth actress had a singing career to pursue).
  • Everyone believing Eugene was a top scientists despite his cowboy accent and totally unscientific hairstyle.
  • Bizarre domestic violence plotline at Alexandria. Failed to engage or even interest me.
  • Aiden and his crummy chum Nicholas at Alexandria being dangerous arseholes and no-one talking about it or apparently believing Glenn and Eugene. Infuriating plotline.
Terminus - don't go there. Seriously. DON'T GO THERE

Terminus – don’t go there. Seriously. DON’T GO THERE

Bits that made me cry into my tension swatch

  • Carol telling Lizzie to ‘look at the flowers’ before shooting her. I mean, that whole episode. Sob.
  • Tyreese’s death. That whole episode. More sob.

Things that make me lose track when I am counting stitches

  • The superclean, fully stocked chapel of rest where Beth and Daryl stayed. Who looked after it? Where did they get the bargain bottles of cola from?
  • The hermit in the woods who threatened to call the cops. Had he really been asleep all those months, with a dead dog in the room, and no idea there was a zombie apocalypse going on?
  • The hitchhiker outside the prison they ignored, then stole his bag once zombies had taken him down. He had managed to get that far, alone, and they let him die. That still bothers me.
  • The one-eyed dog at the chapel of rest. I hope it’s ok.

Why zombies are the new ‘Red Indians’, Nazis and Zulus

Just started on season four of The Walking Dead and loving it. It’s grimdark without the fantasy – anyone can die at any time in any number of horrible ways (except Rick Grimes. Like Tyrion Lannister, crafty ol’ Rick has made himself unkilloffable).

I spent the first half of 2014 playing The Last of Us – the best-scripted, utterly compelling and most beautifully rendered gore-soaked head-smashing game I have ever played. Last summer, my son and I spent weeks on Project Zomboid, fortifying our-blood soaked suburban house and making nerve-wracking sorties into town in search of carpentry books. And I recently iPlayered I Am Legend, the 1954 novel by Richard Matheson which helped kick-start the whole post-apocalypse zombie virus genre.

Why do we love the zombies so much? Part of it is the post-apocalyptic thing. Driving down an empty motorway, taking your pick of abandoned cars, pushing a trolley through a deserted supermarket and helping yourself to whatever loot your fancy from your neighbour’s houses – what’s not to love?

There is also something utterly compelling about trying to survive in a world without wi-fi, a police force, government, mains water, electricity, fresh food and antibiotics. Like winning the Lottery, we all have plans on how we’d manage it (mine involves looting the nearby solar panel farm and harvesting wild raspberries).


Meet the family – now chop their heads off

But what’s the other, deeper, reason we love our zombies? It’s because we can kill them, and it’s good to kill. The quick blast of endorphins you get when you pull off a perfect headshot on Call of Duty, the sense of achievement at running over half a dozen gang members in Grand Theft Auto, right down to the simple pleasure of clearing the screen in Space Invaders (one for us ancient gamers there).

But it is better when it is actual people we are killing – killing them without consequences.

Zombies aren’t strange aliens – they were once people, like us. They look like us. For a lot of story plots, we knew and loved them. To kill them, you have to bash or blow their brains out. How satisfying is that? You haven’t been able to get away with it for a few thousand years, but as a race, what we really like to do is kill other members of our race.

At one time we did this anyway, as we fought for land and spoils. Then we became civilised, and had to get our killing kicks via the media – books and films. For a while, ‘Red Indians’ were fair game (American films) and Zulus (British films). In the 1940s and 50s, it was safe – desirable even – to wipe out as many Nazis as possible.

But the wholesale killing of actual people isn’t the done thing anymore, and while we have flirted with killing aliens it just isn’t the same. We want to decimate things that look like us.

zombie getting an axe to the head

It looks like a gory murder, but you couldn’t be more wrong

The morals are simple – killing the zombies is not only guilt-free, it is laudable. If you don’t kill the zombie, it will kill you. Not only that, if it kills you, you become a zombie as well. You have a duty to bash the rotting brains out of every zombie you see. There is no zombie police, no Crown Prosecution Service deciding whether to take you to court. You did the Right Thing. And even if you didn’t, who’s gonna prosecute you anyway?

Is is a bad thing to feed our blood lust like this? Is this just a modern way of shooting an arrow at a straw-filled dummy? I reckon so. In the meantime, I’m off to B&Q to stock up on axes and baseball bats.

how to kill a zombie poster

Don’t try this on the living