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The Zombie Problem

RedGrimes November 22, 2013 User blog:RedGrimes

Most of the time I am fully willing to ignore issues of realism for the sake of story and entertainment purposes, provided a certain franchise establishes a baseline set of rules to govern the unrealistic components and operates (for the most part) within those rules.  However, I feel that TWD TV series has been stretching the franchise-established 'zombie rules' a bit too much lately, detracting from an otherwise great story.  I enjoyed the latest episode "live bait" but there was something about it that felt off, and I wanted to take some time to reflect on it before I could articulate exactly what it was. Let me set the scene:

Sunday evening, there I am watching the latest episode 'Live Bait', realising that they were bringing elements from the novel to the screen, making me excited to dive into the novel series (the one place in TWD I have left to venture, aside from 'Survival Instinct', which doesn't really count imo plot-wise).  It was different than some of the episodes we have seen lately, and certainly much different from the typical vibe of Season 3 episodes.  It was highly focused on character development, cutting deeply into the richness of human emotions and struggle.  It was unexpected in a number of ways, but a great watch. And then, nearing the end of the episode, the group decides to leave their haven and end up on foot, chased by a horde. Everything was going fine... until the walker kills in the pit.

It made me think about a disturbing trend that has been emerging this season, that the producers are trying to raise the bar and come up with new ways for zombies to attack, kill, and be killed.  Sometimes it works wonderfully, such as the zombies smashing down the prison fence and pouring through the void en-masse.  Sometimes it works, but only to a certain extent, such as zombies falling through the ceiling.  It was a great idea to have the roof of the store collapse while the survivors were inside under the weight of a crashed helicoptor.  But, why not just have the zombies fall through the SAME hole?  I thought it was really stupid how the zombies were falling through random holes in the ceiling, some not close to the hole the helicoptor made.  And then Daryl gets surrounded and climbs atop a few cases of beer to escape unscathed?  (that's another story).  And then, sometimes the intentions don't work out at all, such as the governor-zombie kills in the pit.

Let's first state some obvious facts. Zombies are the remnants of humans. So for the most part, fighting and killing a zombie will be governed by similar laws of physics as fighting/killing a human.  Of course zombies can be decayed and weaker than humans, but bones don't weaken, and take an extremely long time to decay.  Therefore, breaking the bones of zombies requires the same force as doing the same thing to a live human.  And ripping, tearing, or penetrating the flesh of zombies requires less force than doing the same to a human, proportionate to the amount of sustained decay.  With this in mind, let's number the zombie kills I would like to examine.

1. Throat-Rip Zombie

While this isn't exactly impossible, ripping the throat out of a person will kill them.  But, it will NOT kill a zombie or even incapacitate it.  A neat idea, but one that wouldn't work on a zombie.  A zombie doesn't feel, or care if it's throat is missing; it will still be as functional as it was before. If the producers were so desperate to have a throat-ripping scene they should have waited for a proper human vs. human fight.

2. Face Punch Zombie

It's possible to knock a person out by hitting them in the head with your fist.  But, it would take an extreme amount of force to cave a person's skull in with only a fist.  Again, we're talking about a human skull!  Imagine what someone's hand would look like if they actually succeeded in caving in a person's skull with their knuckles.  Scratches kill, remember? So, no one would try to punch through a zombie's skull without knowing that the result would be the same as if they were scratched or bitten by said zombie.  It would be a last resort; an alternative to getting eaten alive.  You still wind up dead or a zombie but at least you buy yourself a chance to end things on your terms.  For me, it was at this point where the immersion was lifted, and the ruse was broken.  At this point, I was thinking... "WTF was that?"

3. Bone Decapitation Zombie

And then, the coup de gras: the governor finds a bone from a burned corpse and uses it to defend himself and the girl. Great idea, except why in the world would you use a bone to attempt a decaptiation?  Wouldn't it be much better to simply use it as a club?  Or, if you are already behind the zombie and have it on its knees, why not knock it down and stomp it's head, similar to what we've seen before? Zombie killing strategy aside, it would take a tremendous force to pull up vertically on someone's jawline to remove it from the body.  The force would lift the body off of the ground before their head would simply pop off.  It's just so ridiculous.

If this stuff was a bit more spread out, like one ridiculous kill instead of 3 in the same scene in rapid succession, I could have overlooked it.  But seriously, killing zombies in a zombie apocalypse is supposed to be about survival, not a 'World's Strongest Man' competition! (Zombie kill of the week goes to...) Seriously, WTF.  The last scene killed what would have been an otherwise great episode imo.

In summary, I like the overall feel of Season 4: The character development, deeper exploration of human emotion via apocalyptic scenario, and other elements that made TWD great in the first place. But the producers need to take a hard look at the direction they are heading with regard to zombie characteristics at large. Zombies are dangerous, not easy fodder, especially in groups.  Humans are survivors, not superhuman. When these limits are stretched too far, it tends to make the viewer reject the established 'reality', ruining the overall story experience. Thoughts?

EDIT: Turns out InsaneHippo was correct:  The throat rip zombie and decap zombie are the same. Still feels excessive to me.

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