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Moral Ambiguity and The Walking Dead



Last night saw the 3rd season finale of AMC's The Walking Dead zombie apocalypse series. Although its ratings will no doubt be massive, the episode appears to be garnering some dissent among fandom (at least if you read the online reviews, comments and message boards). Personally, it seemed lacking as a season-ender, even if it had its moments. I'm about to delve into a morality issue regarding certain aspects of the episode so, if you haven't watched it, turn back now.

Ok, here we go...

It can be argued that there was a through-line of morality played-out during last night's Welcome to the Tombs episode that, at its core, is of the 'kill or be killed' variety. This is actually espoused by the program's main villain, The Governor, at the start of the show. Later on, it is echoed by pre-teen Carl Grimes (supposedly one of the good guys), after he guns down a teenager attempting to relinquish his weapon.

When Carl justifies his actions to his dad, he rattles-off a litany of poor choices made by himself and others, when they didn't kill someone and that someone later-on caused the death of another. It's fair to say that this credo can be applied to the hapless Andrea and Milton. If only they'd killed The Governor when they'd had the chance, then perhaps they'd be alive today. Rick Grimes and preacher Hershel are, thankfully, disturbed by their little Governor-in-the-making.

The problem with thinking the way that the Governor, Carl and, perhaps, some of the viewers may want to, is that it's a form of guiding your morality via hindsight. Now, on the one had, this makes sense. We learn from our mistakes, right? But the lure of hindsight can also be a dangerous thing. After all, if we decide only to allow the people we trust to live, and to kill others who may or may not be a future threat, then we would never gain new trustworthy allies. We might as well start up a Pre-Crime Unit, ala Minority Report.

It has been argued by those who are in favor of this harsh world view that The Walking Dead takes place in a world hampered by a zombie apocalypse, and therefore the rules of normality are out the window. I'm a dissenter from this point of view. Harkening back to Dale (who was killed in season 2 of the series), if we lose our humanity, then what is the point of staying alive? I, for one, believe that when the going gets tough, then it should more incumbent upon ourselves to be good, not to lose sight of our beliefs.

It's easy to be kind and trusting of others when everything is hunky dory. That doesn't necessarily take much fortitude or strength-of-will. It's when times are hard that we are truly tested. So, what is our response? Do we lose sight of our character, of what makes us who we are? Or do we embolden our humanity? It is, after all, the one thing in this world that separates us from other creatures, including -- and especially -- zombies.

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