Rick Grimes

Photo Credit: Hannah Hadidi | Daily Texan Staff

The fences are falling, disease is spreading and the Governor’s wrath hangs like a shadow over Rick Grimes and his not-so-merry band of survivors in season four of AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” Showing no signs of slowing down, the hit zombie drama continues its mean streak of solid, action-packed episodes. With so much zombie action on display, it can easily be assumed that Daryl Dixon and his trusty crossbow will be in the fray.

Played by Norman Reedus, Dixon is “The Walking Dead’s” breakout character, becoming the hero that zombie fiction both deserves and needs. With his forever-sleeveless shirts and squinty steely-eyed gaze, Dixon is the go-to redneck for surviving a zombie apocalypse. But behind this hardened survivor lies a heart of gold that makes this warrior of the field and stream so endearing. Plus he kills zombies with a crossbow.  

Reedus’ nuanced performance as Dixon has only improved with age. First appearing cold and distant, Dixon was quickly revealed to be a character with an uncanny sense of compassion and loyalty. His dedication to both his brother and his adopted family of survivors is a truly remarkable trait in a world rife with darkness. The surprisingly tragic death of his brother, Merle, in season three was a standout moment for Reedus, unleashing the younger Dixon’s built up emotions in a powerful display of grief. Since Merle’s departure, Reedus infused Dixon with a newfound sense of independence and dedication to his fellow survivors, no longer tied down by his compulsory allegiance to his brother. 

Despite Dixon’s ultimate success within the series, the writers may have backed themselves into a corner. This show thrives on the unpredictable lifespans of its characters, but at this point, to kill Dixon would be like killing the show. This is an unusual case because Dixon’s arc is very appendicular to the story as a whole. At the same time, to take Dixon out of the show would be like taking the island out of “Lost.” So what will the writers do to compensate for the fact that everyone but the redneck, whose ammunition reload time is modest at best, is getting devoured by the undead? 

One answer would be to kill Grimes. While taking its cues from Robert Kirkman’s comic series of the same name, the show is not a direct adaptation. Characters like Andrea and Sophia meet horrible ends in the TV series while their comic counterparts still live and breathe, but killing Grimes would be a twist of Ned Stark-ian proportions. Despite Dixon’s skyrocketing popularity, Grimes is the protagonist of the series. The show thrives on his journey and to take away that vital aspect would be a thematic train wreck. People may watch the show for the zombie kills and the ensuing gore, but at heart, these would mean nothing without the loss of humanity that Grimes so perfectly exudes. 

Grimes and Dixon present this odd symbiosis between thematic integrity and dedication to fandom and to take away either would ultimately be detrimental to the series. The show needs Dixon for the sweet zombie kills, but it needs Grimes for everything else. Though Dixon’s lifespan may be impossibly limitless, the macabre minds behind the show will create fresh reasons for the character to continue breathing.

“The Walking Dead” airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on AMC. 

TV Tuesday

AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which premiered Oct. 31 and was green lit for a second season yesterday, is not your usual zombie shoot-em-up, race for survival. Instead, it’s an unnerving, lingering portrait of survivors and the deceased that eats away at your mind.

The show starts off with Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes getting out of his car on a deserted road. As the camera follows in front of him and keeps a close, tight shot, the viewer slowly sees the extent of the desolation of unoccupied cars lying dead in the middle of nowhere.

Then there’s a faint noise.

The sheriff drops to the ground to look under the cars and sees two pale, dirtied legs shuffling forward with fluffy slippers flecked with dirt. A hand drops down into the shot and picks up a teddy bear.

You think it’s a sign that whoever this person is, she’s definitely cognizant — not dead but possibly stunned or starving.

Grimes gets up and calls out to what appears to be a lost little girl. She stops.

Slowly she turns around to reveal she’s one of the walking dead; a zombie. The flesh to the side of her mouth has been torn away to reveal her exposed and rotting teeth. The sound of her sucking in the saliva and groaning can be heard right before she shuffles forward, arms outstretched as if gesturing for a hug.

Needless to say, he’s forced to shoot her and leaves the audience stunned right before the opening credits start.
Seeing a little girl as a zombie isn’t the terrifying aspect of this scene if you’re a seasoned zombie fan. In fact, the most recent “Dawn of the Dead,” which played right before the premiere of “The Walking Dead,” in one scene had a baby born a zombie.

But the show’s creator Frank Darabont takes care to give the girl and other zombies a vestige of humanity. All the while, the living must grapple and struggle with this hellish nightmare.

Some of you may know Darabont’s other works, such as “The Shawshank Redemption” or “The Green Mile.” Those are both emotional tours de force, but they aren’t horror films.

That’s where Darabont is playing on his home turf with this new series. He doesn’t pull any zombie babies to pop out and scare you in the first episode. He sticks to the hallmarks of classic terror from movies such as “Night of the Living Dead,” with solid human elements coupled with undead gore to forever haunt you.

Take a look at entries in the current zombie genre and you may notice that the faster, more agile zombies are in everything from “28 Days Later” to the game “Left 4 Dead.” This newer zombie isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There’s definitely a terror to accidentally setting off a car alarm that alerts a screaming, raging horde of zombies sprinting toward you — but that’s not “The Walking Dead.”

One of the first looks that viewers get of a real zombie is the upper torso of a woman pulling herself through an empty park on a sunny day — hardly fast or deadly. The horror comes from watching as her entrails drag behind her, flesh rotting, thinning hair hanging over her decomposed face as she tries to grasp at Grimes.

And the camera takes its sweet time to remain on that image until you realize this was once a living human being who’s been stripped of dignity, awareness and emotion. All that remains is half of her body, a ceaseless cannibalistic desire and maybe the occasional vestigial memories.

The whole series is the exact opposite of the modern horror that pops out and scares you. Instead, it won’t let you sleep because your mind keeps going back to the details of that woman n the park or the girl with her teddy bear.