Living With The Living Dead

I was a huge fan of The Walking Dead when the show started.

It had zombies. My first exposure to zombies occurred when one of the two TV channels we got showed the original Romero classic Night of The Living Dead one rainy Saturday afternoon. I was way too young to be watching such a thing, and it scared the absolute crap out of me.

 The walking dead, or Walmart shoppers? Hard to tell, some days...

The walking dead, or Walmart shoppers? Hard to tell, some days...

So naturally, decades later, I was an instant fan of The Walking Dead.

I still watch, even though I've sworn off the show twice in the last couple of years. The episode in which Carol was shot multiple times and savagely beaten -- that was over the line for me. Never again, quoth I.

But next week, there I was.

When the zombies swarmed over King Ezekiel's loyal tiger -- no more, I said. What a cheap way to sneak in an emotional punch. One minute the tiger is an unstoppable killing machine, and the next a dozen withered, stumbling corpses manage to pin down a thousand pounds of claws and fangs.

But I came back. 

And I'll be there in October, when Rick and crew make their next appearance. But my enthusiasm for the show is dimmed considerably, in part because of the inconsistency of the underlying science and technical aspects of the show.

Here are the flaws that bother me the most. I give the walking corpses a pass, because I'm willing to suspend disbelief on one point, and that's it, impossible though it is.

1) Cars, trucks, and other vehicles that still run. We're years into the apocalypse. The show made it plain that civilization lasted about a month once the rise of the dead began. But somehow, our grimy heroes manage to start cars that have been sitting idle for the whole time. 

I've got two issues with this.

Batteries, for one. 

Go leave a car outside for two or three years. Then hop in and turn the key. You'll be lucky if you get a few faint clicks. That battery is long gone, and without it, you're not going to just throw it in drive and speed away from the ravening horde.

But let's say you know how to drive a stick, and you've roll-started a car before. If you're skilled, and the car has a manual transmission and is facing a downward incline, you can put it in first, stand on the clutch, and let the car roll till it builds up speed. Then you pop the clutch at just the right moment.

If you're lucky, the car will start, sans battery. You won't have headlights and it's going to die the moment you stop, but you could maybe get away from a few dozen shuffling corpses.

But you won't, because gasoline is a volatile chemical compound, and if it's been sitting in a tank for a couple of years it might be good for starting campfires but it isn't going to power a vehicle anymore. Too, everything in the fuel lines is gummed. The jets won't spray. Pistons won't budge.

You're going to be a zombie's lunch. Forget cars, and helicopters? Please.

2) There's been so much gunplay in the series that everyone would be deaf, or nearly so, by now. Nobody wears ear protection. They often have running gun battles in tiny confined spaces.

Here's what actual dialog after all that shooting should look like:

RICK: We've got a herd of walkers closing in.

MICHONNE: We've bought a head of Faulkners dozing sin?

RICK, louder: WE'VE GOT A HERD OF WALKERS CLOSING IN.

MICHONNE: I've never heard of cousin Walter selling tin!

3) Walkie-talkies have magical 500 mile ranges, and everyone is always on the same frequency and listening at the same time when someone else wants to talk. Why do we even bother with cell phones? 

4) Our heroes spend half their time walking around covered in zombie goo and the other half rolling around on rocks and broken glass, but nobody ever gets an infection from it. Look. In a world without antibiotics or even much in the way of first aid, all those dramatic looking flesh wounds are going to kill you. Dead. Quickly. Take a bath, people! Soap would be nearly as valuable as food, in that setting.

5) Nobody rides bicycles. Seriously, if you need to get around quietly and quickly in a world without cars, the bike is the way to go. It's faster than the zombie shuffle. It's quiet. You can pick it up and walk around the ever-present downed trees or collapsed bridges. No fuel needed. Grab a manual air pump and a tiny tire patch kit and a bike will last for years -- but not once has anyone realized this. I know Daryl's chopper motorcycle is cool, but anything that loud would draw walkers for miles. 

6) Zombie skulls. Apparently, zombie bones undergo some strange metamorphosis into softness as they age. Morgan carries a long stick. One end of it is pointed, sort of, in a blunt kind of way -- but when he pokes a walker in the head, the blunt wooden tip slides through bone like it was warm butter. That's not how bones work. Even dead bones retain their hardness for quite a few years. Other characters use knives for the head-stabs, and the knives slide in easily and never get stuck. 

If I did that in a book, I'd hope an editor would say 'Frank, you have seen a bone, right?"

7) Everyone is out to slaughter everyone else and take their stuff. Okay. That's great for dramatic tension, but historically, people have tended to pull together during vast natural disasters. There's far more benefit in trading with other bands of survivors, even helping them out to combine assets. Going to war just means casualties and depletion of existing resources, with no guarantee of success. Sure, there will be looters and thugs and opportunists -- but I think they'd be in the minority, rather than being everyone you run into. 

But I'll keep watching anyway, because Romero put the fear into me all those years ago.

If you have other gripes to add, or another show that you feel the same about, let me know in the comments!