Do you have a zombie plan? This is a hot question right now, right up with “What do you do for a living?” Of course, my answer is always an emphatic “Yes!” How could you not? In the event of a zomb-pocalypse, my family and I will lock all doors, retreat to the attic (via the pull-down attic entrance), cut the cord that enables someone (or someTHING) to pull down the steps, and eat and drink stored provisions. Then, during a lull in zombie activity, we will make a break for the truck, drive out to rural parts and become southern Ted Kaczynski-s. Of course. Wouldn’t you? Like Y2K.

The impetus of all this planning is shared by the novel World War Z (which is going to become a movie) and the new AMC Original Series The Walking Dead. The latter is a series I have been both eagerly anticipating and powerfully dreading at the same time. You see, I saw Halloween a little too early in life and it severely diminished my ability to watch horror movies. I have to do so with a steady diet of fast forward, mute, and walking out of the room. And having the wife laugh at all your coping mechanisms makes you really feel manly, let me tell you. The great fascination of human interaction with abject terror remains, however, so the compulsion to watch the new zombie show has been too great to resist.

The zomb-pocalypse. The post-apocalyptic world. The Heavy Metal-ish/Book of Eli-type of fantasy in which dire and mortal circumstances necessitate a clear purpose in life. A purpose stripped of the trivialities, bored cruelty, and mundane-ness of present living. It is accented heavily by the happy possibility of humankind united in that one purpose. Bully together with victim, black with white, liberal with conservative, American with Iranian, ‘N Sync with New Kids on the Block. In the zombie genre, Shaun of the Dead has a lot of these ideas. It stars a borderline washout who becomes the person he always desired to be in the face of the adversity brought by a local infestation of zombies.

The Walking Dead, however, is very much like its sister AMC series Mad Men and Breaking Bad. They all have in common the decidedly un-optimistic depiction of the tragedy of human identity creation and maintenance. Reformation-style anthropological pessimism. The bondage of the will, if you wish to use theological lingo. They depict the idea that human beings are inherently and inextricably enslaved to their need to self-deify while provoking a dramatic re-think of optimism with regard to the human condition.

In Episode 2 of The Walking Dead, there is actually a fist fight on top of a roof between a racist redneck-type (what would a show based in the South be without one?) and an African-American. The racist guy says he would never take orders from a [censored racial epithet] and the black guy attacks him. After a really rough fight scene, the racist just turns out to be meaner and nastier, so he wins. Imagine that. The dead are walking around on the street below, indiscriminately hostile to all human life, and these two guys are re-hashing (now outdated) old beefs. Crazy, right? But the issue is the impermeability of the human need for an identity that he can lever himself upon. No charity or outside intervention needed here.

So, with these great AMC series, we have seen that neither positive incentive nor extreme negative pressure can fundamentally change the bondage of the human condition. Keep them coming, AMC.

For part two of this series, go here.