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In actual end-times, like the ones we’re living in, a horror series like “The Walking Dead” is not just welcomed because it was an instant classic zombie horror from season one. A series like this is very desirable when a nightmare scenario like the one depicted in it threatens humanity. I will explore the validity of the series as a guide to the end-times, in the following expository essay. First I will give and introduction to and background to this essay and the idea of the end game. Then I will enunciate the thesis and after that I will back it up exploring four dimensions of the series as contrasted to a potential real-life endgame situation.
I had great expectations for the Red Shielder Danielle J Strickland’s “The Walking Dead and What it Means to be Human”. I don’t know too much about the Salvation Army, other than having spent one week in one of their guesthouses, and sometimes hearing them chanting their hymns from the street in a Salvation Army church near my home.
The little information I have, earned by my personal experience, about the SA made me think that they might be the most badass denomination of Christianity.
I thought Danielle’s book was going to be some militaristic spiritual warfare guide that was going to draw heavily from the Bible’s books of the apocalypse, but it’s just a peace-loving peace of a book. I think it doesn’t quote the book of the apocalypse a single time.
Here is what she has to say about her book:
“Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t be entertained by The Walking Dead. I’m simply offering a possibility that the show might be a way for you to have a deeper conversation with others about what matters in life. In a sense, it’s an invitation to prepare yourself for the realities of a harsh and broken world. But it’s also much more than that. Rather than thinking of this book as simply a survivors’ guide, think of it as a thrivers’ guide. Remember, the end of the story is that new humanity is possible.”
I read a few of the studies contained in “The Walking Dead Psychology”. They made for very entertaining reading.
If psychology stands a chance of being agreeable to persons who are anti-shrinks, and anti-psychology in general, like me, then more works like this book have to be made.
To put it bluntly, I most of the time think psychology is hogwash, but sometimes comes something that explains psychology from a different angle, and those are the times I’m more open to accept that science and see the “truth” in it. Like it happened to me when I browsed through this book.
I also did read parts of “The Ultimate Guide to The Walking Dead” and “The Platinum Age of Television”. These two are reference books. The guide is a good book to have if you love “The Walking Dead”. The other book, shouldn’t call itself that, because the coverage of the series it has is negligible.
If you care about the subject of endgame you have a lot of paths through which you can have an idea of when the fall of the current civilization is going to happen, and how exactly are the endgame events going to unfold.
Sadly, topics like the actual timing of the endgame and what’s going to precipitate it are mostly unapproachable because of two facts:
You can’t approach the subject without taking a religious viewpoint. But everybody knows that on the internet, there’s a tendency not to touch the topics of gender, race, religion, and politics to keep the conversation civil
Depending on the religion, you can’t divulge and/or improperly interpret sacred content. Not at least without provoking rejection and disapproval from the leaders of the religion in question
A series like “The Walking Dead” gives a lot of food to our minds to think about the endgame and how are we going to react in a similar situation.
It Reminded me of the Bible
Those who took the time to read the Bible’s book of the apocalypse know that “The Walking Dead” can be interpreted as more or less that book of the bible coming to pass.
George Romero gave his twist to the bible’s passages:
“When there’s no more room in hell
the dead will walk the earth”.
Maybe the creators of “The Walking Dead” took this phrase to heart. Maybe they would prefer to be identified with Romero’s quote rather than the bible.
Still, we must not forget the Christian bible when it says how the apocalypse will happen. Because of the imagery of those books of the bible, “The Walking Dead” could be defined as a horror drama with a subtle bible influence.
If I remember correctly one of the bible’s books of the apocalypse says that the dead will rise from their tombs to live in the new kingdom of God.
I’m not Christian, still, I did read books of the Bible as an adult. Watching apocalyptic zombie media thinking that the bible puts forth wild statements on the subject gives the watching process a feeling of being watching a possible future.
When watching “The Walking Dead” even a non-christian person who doesn’t want to have any part in the endgame drama, like me, can feel a nostalgic longing for a time that has not yet come
Background Endgame Information
Because I’m writing this expository essay for my site, and I can put anything in it, I gave myself the luxury of writing this section of the essay you’re reading. If I would have written this essay to sell it, or to submit to another website, then I probably wouldn’t have included this background on the endgame.
If you don’t like philosophic speculation, you can skip forward to the thesis section. First, I need to make an explanation of my point of view on “The Walking Dead”.
I’m an endgamer. I believe in and an end to civilization. I believe it’s coming not too far in the future, like in 100-500 years in the future, and I know (as per my religion) how it’s going to happen.
Now I can’t give any precise prediction and I’m not going to say exactly what’s going to happen other than what I was told it’s going to happen by the books and articles I studied. On second thought, wait, not even that.
I should let you do the homework in this regard. If it interests you, and you want to know what I mean, search the web for these keywords:
- Lord Kalki
What I’m going to say is this, Hinduism is an umbrella term like Christianity, with uncountable sects composing it. Not unlike Christianity’s numerous different denominations into which it’s divided.
Even among Hindus, it’s controversial how the endgame events are going to play out, and when exactly it is going to happen.
Some take the scriptures figures at face value and think it’s going to happen more than 400000 years into the future.
Others, those who approached the numbers scientifically, say it’s going to happen soon, like after around fifteen generations from now.
These are generally the events that extraterrestrials that contact humans tell are going to happen, or what humans that channel alien entities say:
- Meteors hitting the earth and creating a nuclear-winter-like effect
- Pole shifts caused due to having drained the earth of petrol
- Lava lakes and rivers
- Rock tsunamis
I would like to have sources to give about these, but sadly, I’m writing about this topic from memory and can’t remember where I did read what to put all these possibilities together.
How does “The Walking Dead” fit my view of Endgame?
It fits in the sense that the future is not set in stone and when it comes to God, everything, even things that now seem just a fantasy, can happen.
Who knows? As I understand it, if deep inside of their souls a majority of earthlings believe hard enough, or if they decide, that the end will be a zombie apocalypse, the grand scheme of the endgame could even become something that includes that situation at cataclysmic times.
This is my thesis: The segment of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” from season one to eight is an audiovisual guide to the end times.
I’m just beginning to watch season nine. Because of that, I can’t say anything about the other seasons. Still, I think that the 115 episodes of the first eight seasons make a fantastic, self-contained story.
It’s a story about loss, involution, and evolution. They teach the viewer a set of basic skills and virtues that would come in handy in the event of a paradigm shift of such magnitude.
I will put forward why I think watching “The Walking Dead” is a great food for the soul for those that want to stick with the Earth as a human born of a womb, until the end and risk seeing, living, or being reborn into such a scenario.
I’ll do it exploring four dimensions of the series, the social, the physical, the mental, and the spiritual.
To me, the two most primal facts to consider when the moment of truth comes, is “what did this happen to us?” and “how are we going to survive?”
Were we recklessly materialistic and we got God’s rage in exchange? Was it some random bacteria from space that fell with a meteorite? And the list of questions of why it may have happened can go on and on…
The important thing is that whatever caused it, it destroyed the things as they were known before the disaster.
This kind of setting poses a lot of survival and life-and-death questions that will give you some advantage over those that didn’t watch “The Walking Dead” or didn’t stop to think about the implications of such a situation.
To have the kind of questions that “The Walking Dead” poses answered before the rot hits the fan, and to have done something about it is one of the great gifts of “The Walking Dead”.
I’m not saying that “The Walking Dead” is out to make you a prepper for the apocalypse, but for those that have the foresight and/or prepper tendencies, and those that simply worry and care about the end days, “The Walking Dead” is an inspiration and a call-to-action that gives you the list of priorities for the survival of the body.
I know the series may not actively attempt to make you a prepper, but the sensations of the “What if…” it expounds and the thoughts and meditations it can make you have is another reason adding to the stress and worry of those who consider the unexpected possibilities and focus on the worst-case scenario.
This is good because even if we don’t see the end in our current lifetimes, it creates a culture that can go on growing. Preppers and other types of persons that worry about the endgame will ultimately leave their legacies and that is good because it can, and hopefully will benefit the future generations.
You can’t deny that “The Walking Dead” is a great example of what endgame would be, and what it will take to keep on living; if you don’t have the information or the imagination to have a different picture of how life would be during and after the apocalypse.
There’s no explanation as of yet of what caused the walkers. The mental tension of still not knowing what caused the zombies is something that may pass inadvertently by the consideration of many.
Even if you forgot this question, it drills in your subconscious when you watch the series. It’s an especially tense cliffhanger, because as I remember the topic never comes up.
The characters don’t bring the subject up, and there aren’t subplots that touch the theme in the stretch from seasons one to eight.
The only part in which we got teased that a fleshing out of the backstory was going to happen was the part in season four when Eugene, Abraham, and Rosita were introduced.
The series makes you believe that an explanation is coming only to have that opportunity wasted and our expectations shattered with an underwhelming character reveal (Eugene was a lying coward) that kills it.
It annoys me, and at the same time thrills me to imagine what may have happened. If I were to imagine the why of the zombie apocalypse of “The Walking Dead” I would put it this way.
Cataclysmic earth changes wipe the eastern and western seaboards, with millions drowned, missing, or otherwise dead. From these two atrocious losses of life, the people that ended up stranded and trapped by water and debris begin to rot alive.
From a mass of suffering like this, of people in the water that is wounded, sick, and cornered and beginning to rot alive, a virus develops.
But it’s a virus with an unexplained component. Because of that unknown component, it’s not just contagious like say, rabies, or leprosy, but it infects everyone. The bodies of those who die, even if they weren’t bitten by a carrier, develop the symptoms after the spirit leaves it.
There isn’t anything like this during seasons one to eight; an explanation telling what happened and what the zombie sickness is, with no frills.
On top of that, there’s neither any pondering about it by the characters, even if just to voice their ignorance and curiosity about the walkers’ origin.
Sadly, the highest speculation and philosophizing moment in the series was around a campfire to meet with Negan and Lucille.
This darkness about the main plot’s inciting incident may serve a purpose both addictive and narrative, but it’s great at the mental level because
Anyone can create her or his interpretation like I did
It adds a darkness-of-ignorance component to the show that makes it more depressing, despairing and anxiety-inducing
It makes a wild-card out of the global(?) disaster that caused the walkers and opens up the story to many more interpretations
Ultimately, the unlikeliness of it, when you think about it too much, makes you end up where you started.
Let me explain. You start thinking about what could have caused the disaster and all along your mental journey of speculation, you come by different takes on the endgame.
When the mental journey ends, you have visited a lot of possibilities and you are more prepared psychologically.
You end up knowing that whatever brings the collapse, it will change everything forever, and if you are proactive in your thinking, you already decided what you’re going to do to survive.
Even if it was just a mental game it gives you an edge over those who will be caught unaware.
The character-driven, drama parts of “The Walking Dead” teach us something very important. The only way to pull through an extinction event, to survive and be able to tell the story to your grandchildren, is to join forces and share life with like-minded people.
There are no lonely, wandering, individual characters. Many begin as such, but end up either dead or assimilated into one of the different communities of survivors.
To trust in society as a whole, or in a reality of personal freedom that could be maintained by exceptional luck, when there’s not any society anymore or anything normal left standing, just factions of survivors, it is a dangerous attitude to have at a time when civilization has disintegrated.
This fact was put very bluntly by many horror intellectual properties before. For instance, one was the apocalyptic horror novel by Stephen King “The Stand”, another example is the 2009 movie “The Divide”, even if the latter is not about zombies or wholesale death like “The Stand”.
A cataclysm brings out the worst that people have to offer, and most of the time it has to do with, coercion, domination, and exploitation of the weakest.
The series, by showing the dynamics of groups and communities and making patent the consequences of not belonging to one, and especially a fit one, show the logic of a world sunk into anarchy.
A world that has completely changed from what it was and that it’s never going to be the same. By having a clear picture of the courses of action taken by the communities in “The Walking Dead”, one has already had time to think a lot about the social dynamics of surviving in a hostile world.
I think that depending on the viewer, there can be many, many spiritual interpretations of “The Walking Dead”. One that others also stopped to think and wrote about is the inner wars that different characters fight with themselves for fear of losing completely their humanity.
Another spiritual interpretation would be each character’s journey of personal growth.
For me the most overtly spiritual episode of seasons one to eight is episode four of season six, “Here is not Here” and I will take this episode as an example of spirituality in “The Walking Dead”.
For other persons, there may be episodes that are more spiritual than this one, but I couldn’t remember any other touching my soul like this one.
In “Here is not Here”, Eastman, the aikido-practicing hermit that Morgan Jones befriends in the episode, is a spiritual counterbalance to the spiritual death that Morgan had suffered.
Morgan was not completely dead at the spiritual level, but almost.
Morgan was not right in the head after all the trauma he had to go through. Sometime after he met Rick, he descended into a cycle of degenerate thinking, believing that the meaning of his life was purging the earth of walkers. “Clearing”, as he called it.
Morgan finds a cabin after an event in which he kills a father and a son that were going to attack him.
The episode is about how Eastman pulls Morgan out from his spiritual death. Morgan attempts to kill Eastman and also rejects him. Eastman knocks him out and Morgan wakes up in a cell.
While being at his mercy, Morgan begs Eastman to kill him, but Eastman can’t stop bestowing kindnesses on Morgan.
In a moment during his days in the cell, before Morgan realizes that the cell in which Eastman did put him is not locked, Eastman throws Morgan a tiny book “The Art of Peace” through the bars of the cell. Aikido’s alternative to Tsun-Tzu if I’m not mistaken.
I think that how Eastman, a somewhat spiritual man that had lost everything was portrayed is a template for how a good spiritual person could survive in the end times.
But his lifestyle, philosophical stance, and moral stories that he shares with Morgan while valid for a world like the one in the series aren’t the message.
The spiritual message of this episode is a couple of lines he says at the end of the episode after a walker bit him when he saved Morgan from being bitten:
“You can stay here. You have enough food, power, security. For the rest of your life, you could stay here. But you shouldn’t stay here. Can’t expect such a splendid guest as yourself to show up. You stay here, you’ll be alone. You were alone. Everything is about people. Everything in this life that’s worth a damn. It couldn’t be just me. It shouldn’t be just you.”
Eastman is alone and has achieved some functional level of self-sufficiency. He also has aikido, philosophy, and his goat and crops to keep him company. He also has his hobby of carving cross markers for the corpses he buries.
Still, while his spiritual aliveness is shown all through the episode, he wants more. This is shown around the middle of the episode when he plans a trip and tries to convince Morgan to go on the said trip with him.
Ultimately, after he was bitten and there’s no point going anywhere anymore, he reveals to Morgan the reason why he wanted to go on a trip. Because he realized that everything, even spiritual life, is about people.
Even if he had reached self-sufficiency, spiritual peace, and having lost his family to a psychopathic murderer he was on the way back from everything and pretty much already all played-out, Eastman still longed for a relational existence where people was the main reason.
If I should decompose “The Walking Dead” into a handful of threadbare, short statements that formed the story from S1 to S8, then I would say
It’s a story about the survival of communities from a grotesque anomaly, always featuring the obstacles of not just the direct victims of the said anomaly, the walkers, but also the antagonist survivors and their communities
It shows how to leave behind selfishness and start building a new civilization as a group of people, instead of the individualist lack of union of the old world
It’s a horror drama, with a heavy emphasis on the drama. Still, the horror parts are top-notch in production values and, as I see it, very enjoyable for horror fans
It shows a take on the politics of survival that gets your mind thinking, not just in the implications of a world destroyed by a biologic disaster, but about how the descent into unparalleled barbarity of humanity could be
It introduces young viewers, who haven’t lived life-and-death situations yet, to an illusion of the feeling of grief, when one of the characters we love, or root for, dies
It shows that in the case of a radical change of the world like the events happening in “The Walking Dead”, those who simply won’t be born to survive and would not have a cat in hell’s chance of staying alive, must join others who can protect them, and who also will act as a transformative influence.
I see the story that’s told from season one to season eight as self-contained and a guide to the apocalypse because it’s undeniable that the horrors the protagonists live go in a building up to a crescendo, with their lowest point being the Negan storyline.
With Negan, the highest challenge they faced, defeated and rotting in Alexandria’s jail at the end of the eighth season as proof of the power of adaptation and the fighting prowess of the protagonists, I see one to eight as a model to follow for survivors of the endgame.
The Editors of Entertainment Weekly. Hardwick, Chris (foreword). The Ultimate Guide to The Walking Dead. Time Inc. Books, 2016.
Bianculli, David. The Platinum Age of Television From I Love Lucy to the Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific. Doubleday, 2016.
Langley, Travis. Russo, John. The Walking Dead Psychology Psych of the Living Dead. Sterling, 2015.
Strickland, Danielle J. The Zombie Gospel The Walking Dead and What It Means to Be Human. IVP Books, 2017.