One of the biggest TV series that hit the US primetime television, The Walking Dead follows tells stories of moment-to-moment survival in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. The epic drama magnifies personal struggles that convey a thematic survivalist story as its core context. At the surface, it is easy to see how its title implies the dangers of the mindless walking corpses. However, the deeper meaning of the story reveals that it is not the zombies that were regarded, as the walking dead, but those who survived the apocalypse can be far more dangerous and worst than the walkers. This realization is among the myriad of interpretations of the TV series, but a more complex understanding of the series can be realized by examining its representation, style, and story. The discussion will examine the most watched non-sports telecast in the history of cable TV, which is the premiere episode of the fifth season of The Walking Dead. Examining the chosen episode of the series involves determining how the characters, places, and events were represented. In addition, the presentation including the visuals and audio will examined and relate them to the context of storytelling.
The particular episode took place in three specific settings with particular characters interacting in each setting, but the most prominent setting is the placed called Terminus. The Terminus sanctuary where the majority of the characters are interacting in a scene that can be described as place of death and survival makes the focal point of the episode. Here, the audience can find the main characters including the protagonist Sheriff Rick along with his companions were tied up to be executed while the rest were locked up. In addition, the characters were represented as helpless individuals who are awaiting a dreadful fate of being slaughtered for food for the people that are in control of the sanctuary.
The placed called sanctuary does not articulate the sense of its description because the placed is rather an abandoned complex occupied by survivors, and later became a war zone between the protagonist group, the villains, and the dead walkers. In this sense, the place was not represented as authentic as possible because none of the characters have responded to the characteristic of the place as being a sanctuary. In terms of the characters, several female audiences particularly fathers would be able to relate to the scene where Sheriff rick have reunited with his child brought by the rescue party led by Carol. The particular scene encompasses a realistic emotional outpouring that any father would feel after seeing his child alive and well after being separated considering the environmental conditions that would limit even a full grown man’s survival.
Among the characters depicted in the episode one stood out among the rest, which is a female character named Carol. The female gender played an important role in the particular episode. For instance, Carol is instrumental in the escape of the protagonist and his group from Terminus. This depiction of Carol as a female character breaks the stereotype of female genders in films and television that is often viewed as helpless and sometimes the subject of distress. The depiction of the character challenges the norms of gender representation in the mainstream media, and in the particular episode in the series, Carol along with several other female characters were depicted as strong individuals who can wield weapon to save others
Production and Presentation
When it comes to conveying the character’s choices, emotions, and personality traits, the camera movements was effective in providing the visual narratives. For example, at the beginning of the episode, Sheriff Rick along with seven other men were taken to a room to be killed, the camera movement was able to demonstrate fear in Sheriff Rick’s facing reaction. The point of view shot showing a scene from Sheriff Rick’s perspective compliments the depiction fear that engulfs him and the rest of the other characters. In this particular scene, Sheriff Rick is looking at the man from the far end of the row being hit by a bat in the head and the throat slit open. After which, the shot shifts into eye-level angle providing a fair view of the Rick’s reaction to what is happening. On the other hand, the same angle provides the view of the rest of the other characters who are showing brave personality amidst the situation. An over the shoulder shot gave a view of one of the characters bravely expressing his anger over the situation.
The overall atmosphere of the first episode from the 5th season was set by the opening sequence, encompassing both a narrative and blank space sequence. At the start of the scenes, a voice-over can be heard narrating a short back-story referencing the highlights of the last episode of the previous season. After which, a blank screen with a bold text showing “then” followed by another set of scenes depicting the present before the next blank screen appeared with the text “now”. This is to connect the scenes from where the last season left off with scenes of the present episode provides the audience with a short background about the present timeline. In addition, the choice of sound accompanying the opening credits provides the overall tone of excitement, which impacts the impression about the current episode as having a high level of emotional intensity. It is apparent that the overall work in the whole episode demonstrates perfect combination of timing and editing of the audio-visual elements contributing to the perceived authenticity of the scenes, settings, and character roles.
The first episode of the 5tth season features a strong and heroic sense of character portrayal and at the same time provides a brief introduction to a villainy character. Carol who devised the escape of her fellow survivor from imminent death from the occupants of Terminus demonstrates indication of heroic acts considering that she did it alone. Furthermore, her heroic character adds emotional substance into the story because she brought the child of Sheriff Rick back to him, which makes it even easier for the audience to root for her throughout the series. On the other hand, the villainy character portrayed by the leader of Terminus named Gareth need no further elaboration because his horrific schemes to slaughter survivors to feed the other survivors in Terminus is enough to put him in the evil side of the story. However, the depiction of Garth as a villain character is short in terms of strength of personality or being someone that would scream villain at first glance.
Mentioning again about Carol signifies the compelling nature of her character that made her a very likeable person in the whole episode. All that was mentioned about Carol in the previous sections provides the narratives of her character as being heroic and a brave fighter with knowledgeable revival skills through the use of camouflage from the dead walkers. Considering her survival knowledge, it can be assumed that she will evolve in the story as a strong character that will bring more excitement to the whole series. The fans of the series have already noticed Carol’s value as supporting character to the story, which helped increase the female fan demographics of the series. In terms of the cause and effect chain observed in the story, the scenes were built in continuity starting from the arrival of Carol and Tyreese at the border of Terminus leading to the escape of Rick’s party and reunion of the Carol and Daryl, Rick and his baby, and Tyreese and his friend Sasha. On the other hand, the episode left the situation of Gareth and his men unresolved.
An Academic Perspective
The presented argument in the study seems to encompass a disposition of someone who only had a brief view of the series or had a selective viewing habit picking only the ones that seems to support the feminist retorts. Several of the given assumptions were false particularly in asserting the role of protector. For one, women in the series if not all are wielders of there own strengths. For example, Michonne is an accomplished samurai wielder who played the role of the protector by killing Hermit and sacrificed him to the walkers in order for Rick and his party to escape. In another example, Carol bravely stormed Terminus in order to save Rick and his party. The claims of the author in the study that the series is patriarchal, it is apparent that the author should look again because Rick being the white male protector and patriarchal figure in the series was saved twice by the female characters and not the other way around.
The representation, style, and method of story telling in the first episode of the 5th season encompasses a different manner of highlighting the connection between the present and the past season, which introduced the audience to a whole new level of excitement and authentic sensation of fear in situations where the death of the supporting and main characters is almost imminent. Furthermore, the episode introduced the audience to a new image of heroism in Carol who played a critical role in the escape of the entire key characters trapped in Terminus. More importantly, the characters, events, and settings depicted in the particular episode demonstrates power in communicating an authentic emotional experience towards the viewers.
Greene, John and Michaela Meyer. "The Walking (Gendered) Dead: A Feminist Rhetorical Critique Of Zombie Apocalypse Television Narrative". Ohio Communication Journal 52.1 (2014): 64-74. Web. 6 May 2016.
The Walking Dead. Hollywood: AMC Networks, 2014. DVD.