The snowy backdrop only succeeds in showing how much blood paints the landscape of this somber vampiric anime.
To say that AMC’s The Walking Dead has been wildly successful is an understatement. From the moment of its 2010 premiere, the post-apocalyptic thriller has been a cable ratings champ. And despite a decaying television landscape and the show’s ever-more gruesome episodes, each season draws a staggering number of viewers—almost as if the show were a viral infection itself.
So why is a TV series that’s been advertised with the slogan “Spread the Dead” such a hit with the living? Because Americans love zombies—in all of their mindless, decaying glory.
Maybe we can point a bony finger of accusation at film director George Romero (fondly eulogized in the opening episode for Season Eight). After 1968’s Night of the Living Dead, zombies went mainstream, groaning and biting their way to our movie screens and comic book pages like never before. And The Walking Dead honors Romero’s tradition, sending them shuffling onto our family room screens en masse, accompanied by unprecedented levels of gore. Indeed, after visiting the show’s set, horror film reviewer Jeff Otto of bloody-disgusting.com said, “This may well be the bloodiest show ever seen on television.”
Based on the popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard, The Walking Dead has spent most of its run focused on sheriff Rick Grimes as he tries to keep a band of survivors breathing in a zombie-strewn world. Humans are minorities in this new landscape, and the “walkers,” as they’re called, have but one purpose: kill and eat survivors, not necessarily in that order. The only way to avoid such a gruesome fate is to become real handy with a gun. Or a baseball bat. Or a screwdriver. Or whatever other makeshift weapon lands in your hand.
The Walking Dead isn’t just about killing and re-killing, though: It’s about rebooting a new civilization, even as the vestiges of the old one shamble outside the fences. It’s about what sort of civilization that might look like—and what the horrors of a zombie-strewn world have done to those who survive. In truth, the most frightening characters on The Walking Dead are not the dead, but the living.
As new villains pop up, old characters leave, exiting groups, compounds and, often, life itself. Even the show’s former hero, Rick, is gone now. But as the characters change, the series contains some thematic threads that go on and on. Each season seems to take us through new paths of corruption, temptation, redemption and destruction. Sometimes old villains turn a corner. Sometimes they don’t. Much like life itself, I guess.
Zombies have always owed at least some of their popularity to the fact that through them society is able to contemplate and grapple with deeper issues. Romero used his zombies to satirize conformity and consumerism.
The Walking Dead, though, doesn’t seem to have its mind on satire; instead, it’s a sincere (if troubling and disgusting) examination of the human psyche. Themes of family, friendship and even faith rise up almost as frequently as the dead do. And it makes sense: Even the most secular among us would give an extra thought or two to life after death if they saw their dearly departed Aunt Betty shambling toward them.
In February 2013, Relevant published an essay on the deeper meanings behind The Walking Dead—an examination of community and, by extent, the sort of community we should embrace. Writes Scott Elliott: “It’s a caricature of the dangers we face—underlining the reason we have to stick together. Because as in real life as much as The Walking Dead, there are two kinds of dangers: external forces and forces from within. We have to fight the pride, violence and injustice we see in the world as much as we have to fight internalizing these ugly powers ourselves.”
And in later seasons, The Walking Dead leans less and less on zombies and more and more on that internal examination. People become adept at killing the walkers—and dying to them really only becomes a possibility when a survivor is caught off guard or overwhelmed. Instead, The Walking Dead turns to focus on the depth of human depravity in a world without law and order. And viewers are given cause to wonder if the show’s name isn’t about the walkers at all, but the morally debased characters who are left in the show.
As character Dale Horvath put it so eloquently back in Season 2, “The world we know is gone, but keeping our humanity? That’s a choice.”
And as we enter into the show’s final, 11th season, we see Dale’s fears brought into fruition.
But even a debate on humanity cannot assuage the blood and gore that so incessantly splatters across the screen. This is munching-on-entrails, stab-that-shambler-in-the-eye-socket violence. The violence isn’t just directed at walkers, either, but the living, breathing people whom viewers come to know and root for. They can be treated as just so much meat.
As such, The Walking Dead has turned into something of an illustration of just what you can and can’t do on cable these days. The answer? While there are still meager restrictions on sexualized content and language, there seem to be no such fences when it comes to gore—though make no mistake, there is sexual content in the show as well, both in the heterosexual and homosexual variety.
The show’s original producer/writer/director, Frank Darabont, told bloody-disgusting.com, “We can’t say f—, but you can shoot a zombie in the head at point-blank range. I love this business.”
And when Slate columnist Tim Cavanaugh discussed The Walking Dead‘s envelope-incinerating approach, he wrote, “It would be ironic if basic cable TV, which remains so squeamish on sexual matters but so tolerant of violence, became the medium for the kind of cannibal holocausts that used to be found only in unrated grindhouse gut-munchers. But it would still be welcome.”
Welcome? By whom? Us, or the zombies?
Maggie, Daryl and others desperately attempt to survive during their continued battle with the Reapers, a rival band of survivors. Back at Alexandria, Aaron fights both fires and walkers as the compound deals with the damages of being overrun.
In a recap, a man is stabbed in the back of the head.
Walkers are hit by rockets shot out of a hwacha. The rockets pierce their bodies before exploding them into a gory and goopy mess. A member of the Reapers fights with Maggie, but one of these rockets hits him, and he blows up. Later, Maggie shoots and kills two Reapers and uses a sickle to kill a third directly after brokering a shaky truce with them. Maggie is also forced to put down a walker who was once a friend, causing her to sob.
Alexandria’s Father Gabriel and a priest for the Reapers talk, and Gabriel is enraged when the priest says that he can hear God telling him to defend the Reapers. The priest tells Gabriel to listen to God, renew his faith and join him in shepherding both flocks of people, as “no one is above saving.” Gabriel, who is losing his faith, kills him, explaining that he doesn’t believe that. Later, Gabriel is seen to have killed another Reaper and stolen his weapon, which he uses to shoot another Reaper in the leg.
Alexandrian survivors Daryl, Maggie, Negan and Elijah fight many other Reapers, and they are successful in killing them all through stabbing, strangling and more. Elijah is seen with blood dripping from a wound, and his pain and exhaustion causes him to collapse to the ground at one point.
In Alexandria, two young girls flee into a flooding basement, chased by walkers. Just as they are about to be eaten, Aaron saves them, and he crushes the skull of one walker with his hands. Women fight off zombies upstairs, smashing their heads in. Later, piles of corpses burn. We hear six uses of the s-word and two uses of “he—.” The words “d–n” and “a–” are both used once.
One-time series regular Maggie returns with a few new associates (and a son named Hershel), and she tells Daryl where she’s been the last several years. But she’s none too pleased to learn that Negan, who killed her husband a few seasons back (with a barbed-wire baseball bat), is now part of Daryl’s settlement of Alexandria and someone in reasonably good standing. But no time to dwell on that issue for now: A new human threat makes itself known, with a man killing a few of Maggie’s people before he blows himself up. And, of course, there are walkers to kill (again).
Several zombies try to work free of a shipping container. When Maggie, Daryl and a new character named Elijah slam the door shut, one gets its head grotesquely (predictably) squashed, like a moldy grape filled with red jelly. Several others are shot and stabbed in the head. But the humans suffer far more painful ends. One gets shot in the neck and bleeds out before our eyes. Two others are shot in the abdomen, and both expire. (One has her hands covered in blood.) The killer, as mentioned, commits suicide—pulling a pin on a grenade and creating a shower of brown dirt and red flesh. Other people are knocked out, shot, stabbed and snared by traps. At the scene of a former settlement, we see what appear to be bodies stacked like cordwood. Two charred corpses lie in another destroyed settlement.
We hear religious references in a song near the closing credits. Characters recount bloody moments from the past, and they swear on occasion, too. The s-word is used three times and is joined by “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused twice, once with “d–n.”
It’s been months since anyone has seen the Whisperers, the deadly group of people who wear the skins of the dead in order to blend in with walkers. So when a skin mask is found on a nearby beach, it stirs up panic since the Whisperers once threatened to use a nuclear weapon against Michonne and the people she leads at Oceanside (one of the few safe havens for the living). The group has respected the borders of the Whisperers for fear of starting another war, but when an old USSR satellite falls from space and starts a forest fire, they must make the decision to cross the border and stop the fire from spreading, potentially invoking the wrath of the Whisperers.
The people of Oceanside (one of the living human communities) practice military-like formations for fighting walkers as they clear out a ship on the beach. Using shields, swords, knives, arrows and spears, they take out walkers in a series of gut-splattering moves. Judith, a young girl no older than ten, participates in these formations and kills two walkers herself. The exercise ends with Michonne, Judith’s adoptive mother, slicing the face off a walker with her katana. Throughout the episode, people continue to kill walkers whenever they appear—stabbing them, cutting off their heads and even setting them on fire.
Walkers rip apart and devour an injured deer. A group of children find a Whisperer skin mask among seashells. Adults later find a full body skin on their own side of the border. Corpses of people and walkers are found at an abandoned campsite. One dead person, lying face down, is not wearing clothing, and we see the person’s buttocks. Dead fish are prepped for dinner.
A man watches a woman while she breastfeeds her baby. A woman makes a comment about discovering “hot dog trophies,” and her male companion asks if it’s a euphemism. A woman wears a top revealing her midriff and cleavage. A male doctor jokingly tells another male doctor to kiss him and “get a room” after noticing his colleague staring at his mouth. This same man calls a baby “spawn” and says that, as doctors, they are like “gods” in the apocalypse. A man and woman hug.
A story is told amongst children about a “brave man” who blew up a bridge to save his friends from walkers. It is then mentioned that the man went to Heaven and isn’t truly gone since he lives inside their hearts and makes them brave, too.
A huge spider frightens a man and causes him to have fearful flashbacks to his past. A man tries to convince his leader that lying is OK if it prevents panic. A young teenage girl grows frustrated while learning how to read—something she has never learned to do in the zombie apocalypse. The s-word, “h—,” “d–n,” “p–s,” and “a–,” are all used several times. God’s name is taken in vain five times (twice paired with the expletive “d–n”).
After years of soldiering through a world filled with mindless, shambling zombies and smart-but-evil nemeses, the survivors find that the space between those two perils is blurring in disturbing ways. New adversaries, called “the Whisperers,” don masks made from zombie skins and walk among them: They’re safe from the walkers’ predations, but they in turn help kill living people. As one girl captured by Michonne and Daryl says, “We were always going to kill you, OK? It’s just what people do now.” Meanwhile, Negan—the big bad in Seasons 6 through 8 and, until just about this episode, a villain who’s been locked away—escapes. He runs to his old hideout, but not before he confronts a gun-holding preteen named Judith Grimes, Rick’s daughter. She lets him leave and allows him to keep a compass he took from her room. “Keep it,” she says. “It’ll help you find your way.”
Negan finds his old pad, the Sanctuary, with a zombie inside whom Negan seems to remember from his old days as leader. “Richie, is that you?” he asks the zombie rhetorically. “Loyal to the end.” Negan keeps the walker “alive” until it attracts more, then he bloodily smashes all their heads in with a pipe.
While making his way back to the Sanctuary, Negan gorily slices part of the face off another zombie with a shovel. Another walker, charred but still alive, grabs Negan’s belt before Negan chops off its head. (The decapitated skull still growls on the ground.) Negan gets attacked by dogs, too, eventually using a walker to turn the tables on his canine assailants: Behind a closed door we hear a dog yelp and the zombie slaver and grumble.
Michonne, Daryl and others deal with a group of walkers that includes a couple of Whisperers: Daryl shoots the zombies in the legs and, if they cry out in pain, he knows they’re still living people. (One such person is immediately devoured by zombies.) They also bring back the body of Jesus, one of the group’s leaders, and bury him. Daryl threatens a prisoner with death. Weapons are brandished, and someone’s nearly shot with a gun. Other zombies are dispatched.
A woman named Rosita is pregnant with an (obviously) out-of-wedlock baby. (She vomits and then tells the father, Siddiq, that it happened while they were “having fun” and before she was involved with the priest, Gabriel.)
Characters say the s-word about six times. We also hear “a–,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is paired with “d–n” once, and Jesus’ name is also abused.
Entering its ninth and last season, Rick and the three communities he feels responsible for—Hilltop, the Sanctuary and Rick’s own home in Alexandria—turn their collective eyes toward rebooting civilization. The walkers are still out there, but they’re more nuisance than threat. It’s less about killing than growing now: food, children, communities. But the growing pains they’re dealing with could be lethal themselves.
After making a scavenging run to a nearby museum, Rick and his crew run into a horde of walkers, one of whom bites a young man named Ken. A horse kicks Ken in the chest immediately afterward, as well. We see blood spurt from the wound, a nasty bruise from the kick and, when Ken dies, Hilltop leader Maggie take out a knife to dispatch the guy permanently. (Maggie’s jab in the neck is off camera.) Maggie breaks the news to Ken’s angry, grieving parents: Gregory, a rival of Maggie’s and longtime Hilltop leader, gets both parents drunk, influencing Ken’s father to attack and try to kill Maggie after Ken’s funeral. Maggie and others wrestle with the assailant (one would-be rescuer is thrown into a woodpile and knocked out, suffering a bloody wound to the head). Maggie—bearing a couple of bloody facial injuries—confronts Gregory (“You can’t even murder someone right!” she shouts), and they too fight, which ends with Maggie holding a knife to Gregory’s throat. The next evening, apparently, Maggie has Gregory hung: We see the man struggle for breath while dangling from the rope before his lifeless body is finally cut down.
Lots of zombies are grotesquely dispatched through blades, spears and arrows to the head. (The walkers are pretty gross when they’re alive, too, often with much of their skin peeling away.) One falls from a second story and is impaled on a rod, but the still-squirming walker needs a blade-blow to the head before he finally lies still. A man nearly falls into a near-cauldron of zombies before being pulled to safety.
We see Rick and his main squeeze, Michonne, in bed together. He’s shirtless. The two cuddle, then kiss, and it’s suggested the two have sex after the camera leaves. Ezekiel proposes marriage to Carol, which Carol rejects for the time being. “Put that thing away,” she tells him, referring to the ring. “It’ll snag on everything.” A pastor (Father Gabriel) stares at an evolution display at the museum and says, “intelligent design.” Someone references heaven at a funeral. Characters drink, and one smokes before Carol takes the cigarette and snubs it out with her shoe. Characters say the s-word three times, along with “crap,” “d–n” and “h—.” God’s name is misused three times, once with the word “d–n.”
In the Season 8 spring premiere, Rick’s son, Carl, is expiring from a walker bite. He spends his last moments encouraging those around him—especially his grieving father. He exhorts Rick to find a way to put down his weapon and look toward a brighter future.
“You can’t kill them all, Dad,” he says. “There’s got to be something after. For you. And for them.”
Meanwhile, longtime warriors Morgan and Maggie attack an enemy compound to rescue Ezekiel, the leader of a group called the Kingdom. Morgan, who at one time eschewed killing, seems truly bent on killing every human he sees—stabbing several in the gut or neck with his sharp stick and, at one juncture, pushing into a raw wound of one of his assailants and yanking out his intestines through the bloody hole. (The man screams, naturally, as blood courses out of his mouth.) Morgan’s actions stand in stark contrast to the more somber, peaceful reflections of a dying Carl, who’s breathing his last in a ruined church.
Carl apparently shoots himself off camera to keep himself from turning into a zombie. Earlier, we see a flashback to when the walker bit him; Carl takes off his shirt to reveal the bite marks in his abdomen.
Elsewhere, a man is skewered from behind in the neck: Blood shoots out of the wound, about an inch in diameter. We hear one man gurgle his last as blood spills from his throat. Several people are shot. Scores of walkers are mowed down via automatic weapons.
There’s a reference to “picking dingles.” Characters say the s-word six times, and we hear other profanities such as “d–n” (twice paired with God’s name) and “h—.” Jesus’ name is abused once.
Rick and his posse have joined forces with two other post-zombie human settlements: Hilltop (led by his old friend Maggie) and The Kingdom. They’re attacking The Saviors, leg by Negan—he of the barbed wire-wrapped bat.
The first step involves dispatching Savior sentries: One is shot out of a tree to be devoured by a nearby zombie. Another is stabbed through the back and into the chest. A third is knifed. Rick then frees a zombie in order for it to devour that still-living man. A couple more humans are shot, vanishing from sight. One guard gets skewered through the head with an arrow. The alliance also lures a squadron of Savior soldiers out, only to blow them up. Rick and his cohorts fire countless rounds of ammunition into the Savior compound (mainly breaking a lot of glass) before leading a massive horde of zombies into its courtyard.
Speaking of the walking dead, boy howdy are they looking rough this season. We see plenty of grotesque zombies on display: One has been pinned in place by her staked arm, growling and hissing mindlessly. Another still “lives” despite being skewered by a pole. One writhes around on another pole, despite missing the lower part of its body, and the head of one remains animated—lying by itself on a fallen chain-link fence. Others suffer (?) massive wounds and bloated bellies and diseased skin and all manner of other terribleness. But a few are actually “killed”—one after being stabbed in the head (we see the spear jut out the other end) and another vanishing in a massive explosion. Other blasts rock the episode, too.
Rick and his girlfriend, Michonne, share a deep, lingering kiss before Rick goes into battle. They embrace again in a (perhaps imagined) flash-forward scene. Negan references the size of his and Rick’s manhood.
We hear a line from the Quran: “May my mercy prevail over my wrath.” And the theme of mercy (as suggested by the show’s title) recurs throughout. Gabriel, a priest, shows mercy on someone during the zombie attack—and is, naturally, burned because of it. When Rick and his son, Carl, come across a starving man at a gas station, Rick scares him away by shooting over his head. Carl later comes back to the gas station and leaves two cans of food for the man, along with a note that says, “Sorry.”
Characters say the s-word at least a dozen times, along with two uses of the word “h—” and two of “p-ss.” Someone smokes cigarettes.
Negan, who wields a bat wrapped in barbed wire that he’s nicknamed Lucille, beats two characters to death: Abraham, the former army sergeant, and Glenn, who tells his wife, Maggie, “I will find you,” as blood pours from his wounds and one of his eyes bulges from its socket. Negan then takes Rick out into the wilderness, throws an ax into the midst of some walkers and tells Rick to fetch it for him—an attempt to break Rick’s spirit and turn him into a loyal lackey.
When Rick and Negan return to camp, Negan demands that Rick cut off his own son’s arm. Otherwise, he says, he’ll beat everyone to death.
Rick doesn’t cut off his boy’s arm. But there are still bucket-loads of gruesome blood-letting throughout—so much so that Slate said this episode delivers “the bloodiest deaths in the show’s history and perhaps television’s as well.” Both Abraham and Glenn have their skulls pounded into pulp. We see their corpses lying on the ground, necks terminating in human Jell-O. Lucille bears a slice of Glenn’s face in its barbs.
Scads of walkers are “killed,” many shot in the skull, others hacked and chopped. Skin and bone fly. Rick leaps on a zombie, hanging it from a rope by the neck as if it was being executed. The extra weight slowly separates the zombie’s head from the neck: We later see the decapitated zombie head still mutely moving its mouth. Rick imagines all of his companions being beaten by Negan’s bat, envisioning the bloody, gory blows.
Negan asks his henchmen to aim their guns at the back of people’s heads so the barrel lines up with their noses. If they shoot from that angle, Negan brags it’ll make a terrible mess. He tells Rick that unless he behaves, he’ll have someone cut his son’s other eye out (Carl wears a patch) and “feed it to his dad.” Negan captures another of Rick’s friends, Daryl, as leverage for Rick’s obedience. If he falls out of line, Negan threatens to cut Daryl apart, bit by bit, or to “bring him to you and have you do it for me.”
The s-word is used nine times. Jesus’ and God’s name are both abused once. Other profanities include “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—,” “p—y” and “pr–k.” We hear an extremely crude reference to testicles.
This expanded episode focuses almost exclusively on Morgan Jones—flashing back to his emotional, spiritual journey from the psychopath seen in Season 3 to the death-averse bo master featured in Seasons 5 and 6. Turns out, he owes his new state of mind to a goat-owning psychologist who taught him the philosophy and martial art of Aikido.
There’s talk about Aikido doctrine, especially as it relates to commandments against killing. The goat owner, named Eastman, refuses to kill Morgan. But another man talks about wanting to kill everyone he can, including children.
Walkers, of course, are not included in Eastman’s pacifistic views. He and Morgan both take out several zombies through typically grotesque means. (Sticks go through skulls and eye sockets. One, still animated, growls impotently while skewered by a stake.) A zombie eats the entrails of Eastman’s goat. Bodies are thrown on a fire to, in part, attract more zombies to kill. Morgan pokes around the guts of a Walker. Before meeting Eastman, Morgan kills two people—stabbing one through the throat with a spear and strangling the other to death with his bare hands. We hear about a psychopath, killings, kidnapping and forced starvation. Someone decides to commit suicide before “turning.”
We hear the s-word four or five times. Also: “d–n,” “a–” and “h—.” God’s name is misused.
Rick and his cohorts have been captured by cannibals in a place ominously called “Terminus.” He and seven others are dragged into a slaughterhouse (where a dead, naked man is being cut apart). Four unfortunates have their heads bashed with a baseball bat and their throats cut, their blood drained into a trough. Meanwhile, Tyreese guards baby Judith from a Terminus-affiliated survivor.
“Nobody’s gotta die today,” Tyreese says.
“Man, if you believe that, it’s definitely going to be you and the kid,” the other man answers.
Tyreese does kill—punching the man to death, but only after his assailant threatens to break the baby’s neck and shoves Tyreese into a herd of walkers. (The zombies are all killed by the enraged Tyreese.) Rick stabs and kills his would-be executioners. Living people are shot (blood and brains splatter), have their throats sliced and are eaten alive. Three victims in particular face graphic, gruesome ends at the hands (and mouths) of the zombies. Walkers’ heads are shot, stabbed and smashed. Some are blown apart by an explosion. Carol smears her body with blood to blend in.
In a flashback, we see that the Terminus residents were abused by interlopers, the women repeatedly raped. (We see one woman dragged away, screaming “Not again!” while another returns with a horribly bruised face.) There are three or four s-words, along with “h—,” “pr–k,” “a–” and “d–n.”
With zombies lurking around the prison perimeter (attracted in part by live rats fed to them by an unseen traitor), Rick’s colony faces another issue: A disease is racing through their ranks, killing survivors and turning them into, perhaps, a different kind of zombie. Several people die and others are infected. Meanwhile, the zombies outside press on the fence until it nearly topples: Rick sacrifices his fledgling pig herd to the horde, slicing the squealers open and leaving them almost like breadcrumbs to lead the walkers away.
A zombie bites into someone’s neck, then eats parts of the man’s organs and innards. The victim then turns zombie himself and gets off the bed as his intestines spill onto the floor. Dozens of zombies are shot or speared in the head; one presses so hard against the chain link fence that its skin is sliced into diamonds. A survivor smashes a zombie head like a melon. Two girls say goodbye to their “turning” father. One tries to take a knife and kill him while he’s unconscious, but can’t bring herself to do it. (The deed is done by Carol). We see two dead and burnt bodies.
Rick’s son, Carl, makes crosses for the dead. When he asks whether a victim/walker was Catholic, he learns that the man was a “practicing atheist.” Characters say the s-word twice, “h‑‑‑” once and “a‑‑” once; they misuse God’s name once or twice. A couple contemplates sleeping together.
Rick searches for meaning in seeing an apparition of his dead wife. The Governor (leader of a rival band of survivors) attacks the prison Rick and his mates are holed up in, dropping off dozens of zombies in the heart of the place. Axel’s brought down by a bullet to the head and is used as a human shield, bullets popping into his lifeless body.
Zombies are shot, stabbed, crushed, beheaded with a sword and/or run over, with each scene seeming to compete with the others for the prize of being the most gruesome. Daryl and his older brother Merle rescue a family from a horde of walkers—shooting zombies with bullets and crossbows, and smashing one’s skull in the hatchback of a car. Merle rummages through the family’s car for a “token of gratitude” until Daryl points a crossbow at him, forcing him to withdraw.
We hear that a sexual assault against Maggie is accomplished by the Governor having her lover, Glenn, tortured. We hear references to panties and randy raccoons. Characters say the s-word three or four times, “d‑‑n” five or six, “p‑‑‑” twice and “b‑‑ch” once. We also hear a few outbursts of “h‑‑‑” and “bejeezus.” Someone hurls crude racial epithets.
Rick and his motley band of survivors find a prison filled, naturally, with walkers. But the prison’s system of fences and walls allow the humans to pick them off systematically. Thus, scores of zombies are shot, skewered with arrows, or bludgeoned with machetes or axes or poles—and always, always in the head. The majority of these killings are unflinchingly graphic and full of blood spray. One masked walker, who became a zombie while wearing a riot suit, has his masked ripped away, and most of the skin from his face comes with it. That reveals a mass of still ravenous bone and muscle chittering and growling before he’s finally dispatched.
But all the survivors’ care doesn’t prevent Hershel from getting bitten. A walker pulls muscle and sinew off his leg as Hershel screams in pain. The walker is quickly killed. Then, without pausing, Rick creates a makeshift tourniquet and hacks Hershel’s lower leg off. The camera watches nearly every blow from the hatchet, which eventually leaves an oozing, bloody stump.
One character keeps a pair of armless, jawless zombies as “pets.” Carol and Daryl make sexual jokes. Lori worries that her unborn baby may be dead—that it could be a walker inside her, ready to claw its way out. Carl, who looks all of 11, is smitten with 16-year-old Beth, and he seems to want to sleep in the same cell with her. Characters say the s-word three times and “a‑‑” twice.
Rick rushes his son, Carl, to a doctor after the boy’s shot. The doctor determines that the pieces of the bullet have to be removed and an organ stitched up. But to do that, they’ll need to put Carl under—and the nearest medical equipment is located in a zombie-infested school.
“Is that why I got out of that hospital?” Rick asks. “Found my family to have it end here like this? Is this some kind of sick joke?” He struggles with his need to do something—run and tell his wife, run and get the equipment—and his duty to stay by his son’s side, both as a blood donor and as Carl’s pop.
Carl’s wound looks bad, for the record: The doctor fishes around in the bloody gash searching for bullet pieces as the boy screams in pain. A survivor recoils from the sight of a car seat plastered with gore. A zombie is smacked in the head with a bat and dispatched with a crossbow bolt to the temple.
Meanwhile, folks offer thanks to God for their safety and pray for the well-being of others (though one character says prayer is a waste of time). Somebody carries a stash of drugs, including crystal meth and Ecstasy. We hear the s-word once, along with “a‑‑,” “p‑‑‑,” “b‑‑ch,” “d‑‑n” and “h‑‑‑.” God’s name is abused several times.
Fleeing the gutted hospital, Rick stumbles upon survivors Morgan Jones and his young son Duane (a shout-out to the real-life Duane Jones who had a role in Romero’s iconic flick). Then he heads to Atlanta to find his wife and son whom he believes are still alive. When his police car and a “stolen” truck (though who’s alive to own it?) fail him, he takes to horseback. Of course the horse is graphically eviscerated by zombies.
One of the survivors prays over a meal, asking God to watch over them “in these crazy days.” But mostly we just see multiple zombies getting shot through the skull. Rick even shoots an undead little girl for little more than shock value. He tenderly tells a suffering zombie that he’s sorry she’s now undead—then shoots her in the head. A suicide victim’s skull is shown blown in half. Entrails, bones, flesh and brains are shown rotted or half-eaten by birds or zombies. Several people—living and undead—are beaten with baseball bats. Language includes multiple uses of the s-word, “b‑‑ch,” “h‑‑‑,” “d‑‑n,” “a‑‑” and misuses of God’s name.
Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank betrayed his roots by leaving the wheat behind to study journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.
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