Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Zombies Are Back In My Home: DISH Settles With The Walking Dead

According the Associated Press, satellite TV provider DISH Network Corp. “has settled a lawsuit with AMC Networks and its sister company Cablevision Systems Corp.” for “...$700 million in cash...”  I have no idea what this corporate tiff is about, but it meant that I missed the third season’s premiere of The Walking Dead.  I cursed DISH for this tragedy.  When seeing magazine covers with AMC’s zombies at Barnes and Noble, I ignored them.  I avoided any online discussions.  I didn’t want any spoilers to cross my path.  I went to bed with thoughts of switching to satellite provider DIRECTV.  But I knew that I could always see the third season at a later date.

After all, I missed the entire first season and had to set my DVR to record reruns.  I had foolishly paid no attention to the The Walking Dead when I saw a commercial with a sheriff’s deputy awaking in an abandoned hospital. What a cliché!

In 2002, two movies established this abandoned hospital trope.  Resident Evil ended with the protagonist Alice strapped to a hospital examination table.  No one is left in the hospital, or the city outside.  Abandoned cars are everywhere.  The same goes for 28 Days Later.  The protagonist Jim awakes from a coma in an abandoned hospital.  He goes outside down the empty streets of London as if the city were deserted.  Now with Rick Grimes waking up alone in yet another hospital, I didn’t want to see the same old formula at work.

But I unfairly judged the show by its commercials.  Of all the zombie material I’ve watched over the years, including the classic Living Dead series, I think The Walking Dead is the best of the lot.

Whereas 28 Days Later is a morality play with British soldiers using a radio broadcast to lure civilians to their outpost in order to have sex with women survivors, The Walking Dead takes morality to the next level.  For instance, should you slaughter your own relatives if there is any possibility of a cure?  Season two examines this question.  The rag tag party from season one finds refuge on a farm, but Hershel - the owner - and his family are imprisoning infected family members in a barn.  The traumatized survivors want to exterminate the “walkers,” but Hershel insists on keeping them alive.  When Shane opens the barn to begin the slaughter, out comes Sophia, the lost girl from their group.  Shane can’t shoot her.  It’s easy to kill strangers, but not someone you consider family.  Unlike the Resident Evil series which is just a shoot-em-up extravaganza, The Walking Dead has true insight into the human condition.

Recent zombie movies have had a focus on the virus that causes humanity’s apocalypse, but The Walking Dead goes back to basics.   Beginning with 1968‘s Night of the Living Dead and continuing with 1978’s Dawn of the Dead, the deceased rise again with an appetite for living flesh.  There is no hope for a cure since the cause baffles governments and scientists.  Society disintegrates and bands of survivors are thrust into terrible circumstances.  Thus the focus is on the survivors, rather than the hunt for a cure.  With Resident Evil, the plot is to contain the T-Virus which is released in the Hive, one of a series of underground research facilities owned by the Umbrella Corporation.  Alice, along with corporate mercenaries and an artificial intelligence known as the Red Queen, all work to contain the T-Virus.  When this fails, a whole slew of sequels are made in which other survivors are found, a cure is sought, and Alice goes after the Umbrella Corporation.

In 28 Days Later the Rage Virus is introduced into chimpanzees by the British government.  The virus is released into the general population when animal activists break into a secret lab to free the chimps.  But the virus is contained to Britain and burns itself out.  Thus the 2007 sequel 28 Weeks Later is about British expatriates who are returned to London from abroad, but the infection survives in a human carrier who is immune but capable of spreading the virus.  At the end of this movie the “Rage” spreads to the rest of the world, only a cure will save humanity.  Another 2007 movie, I Am Legend, follows this same focus on the virus, except this virus this one is not created by a corporation or a government’s military research, it is invented by scientists as a cure for cancer.  A virologist, Robert, is immune and spends the entire movie researching a cure. 

Though The Walking Dead dabbles with the hunt for a cure when the band of survivors finds the CDC “safe-zone” in season one, that search leads to a dead end.  Only one staff member is left and the facility runs out of fuel.  Without energy, the computers are designed to self-destruct.  A cure is no longer an option.  It’s all about survival.  Besides, the good doctor whispers something to Rick which is revealed in season two.  Everyone is infected.  When you die, you instantly become a walker.  How can humanity survive this circumstance?

At the end of season two, The Walking Dead survivors were scattered when Hershel’s farm was overrun.  I have to know what happens next.  I set my DVR to record the first two episodes of season three.  I’ll watch DISH this weekend now that zombies are back in my home.