Welcome back, fellow survivors! It’s time to hand out report cards for how Rick and the gang did on this week’s episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead”, 403 “Infected”.
The scenario: An apparent lone member of the group sneaks out at night to feed rats to the zombie hordes waiting outside the safety of the prison fence.
What the survivors did: Discover a pile of dead rats accidentally in the middle of a crisis, and briefly wonder WTF is going on?!
What the survivors should have done: The fact that this is even a mystery is a huge problem. Let me get this straight, a person living inside of the prison is capable of rounding up and storing a dozen rats, getting up in the middle of the night, letting themselves out of their cell block, letting themselves out of the prison, letting themselves out of the inner gate to gain access to the run, and feeding the zombies by flashlight, and not one person notices? Everyone keeps going on about how this is such close quarters, I don’t get it. Individually these actions would be hard to pull off, but together? Come on. And if this is a kid, as one of the popular theories has it, I swear to god I can feel my skull starting to crack from the inter-cranial pressure build up due to my blood boiling. What the hell kind of shitty dad are you, anyway, Ryan? You fail to beat ass, and now your girls are herding rats and feeding corpses in the middle of the fucking night and you’re oblivious to it all? You know what, I’m glad you got bit on your stupid neck.
I see two possibilities: 1) There are no night guards. I think this is the correct view, because we have seen zero evidence of them. Sure, Glenn makes some noise about a perimeter walk to Maggie in the morning, and a changing of the guard, but who knows exactly what that means? All we know is that people can feed zombies by flashlight, and turn into zombies and rampage through a cell block, before anyone is the wiser. A pretty terrifying possibility. 2) The person feeding the zombies is one of the night guards. That’s even more terrifying.
The solution is obvious. There should be a team of night guards. Have two guys with flashlights stick together and walk the fence. Two others should remain at the prison entrances and watch the perimeter guards go about their duties. If any flashlights go out, stop moving, or flash a pre-arranged signal, the back up guards should alert the survivors inside, everyone should take battle stations, and a team should go investigate whatever disturbance was discovered by the perimeter guards. As an aside, if it turns out one of the popular theories is true and one of the kids is feeding the undead? Well, see my previous survival guide about ass-beating. If it’s an adult, toss them over the other side of the fence.
It’s also a problem that there is an overnight clump of zombies left from the day before. “Nick” the zombie should not have been allowed to linger enough to turn into a local hero among the prison youth, for fuck’s sake. But I tackled that last week as well, so… moving on.
The scenario: A recently zombified Patrick rises from the showers, one zombie soon becomes two, two become four, four become about eight, and they collectively wreak havoc on cell block “D”.
What the survivors did: Run around like chickens with their heads cut off, smash a bunch of recently risen zombies, and bury a lot of their dead.
What the survivors should have done: A lot of our listeners were annoyed with this scene, just like I was, because it never should have happened. We know from the season three premier that Rick and Co. understand the concept of simple locking devices that are beyond the ken of zombies but that even human children could be taught to operate. They’re sleeping in sturdy metal cages already, this should be an easy problem to solve with basic scavenging. Here’s a brief list of things that would suffice:
- A three foot length of electrical cord, twisted closed
- A large carabiner
- A chain style bicycle lock
- Any chain with combination lock / key lock
- A chain with a bolt and nut holding the ends together
- A goddamn leather belt
- A fucking bungie cord with hooks on both ends
It frankly stretches the viewer’s credibility that these people, after 18+ months of thinking about their situation, and nearly a year of living with the knowledge that “everyone is infected”, hadn’t thought of the ramifications of this. I mean, Jesus Christ, if you’re going to have the survivors do something this stupid for plot reasons, you HAVE to address it. Why not have someone (let’s face it, Daryl, although on a second, less sexist thought, Carol would also be a good one to raise hell about this) be all pissed at the others because we find out that they USED to lock people in at night, but the council decided to stop doing it because people complained and they decided that their night guard rotation was sufficient protection, and this has been a previous sore spot.
Now, that’s still obviously pretty stupid, because as we’ve discussed, their night guard is either non-existent, or total bullshit, but having someone the viewer respects give the council a good “I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO!” would go a
long way to keeping our suspension of disbelief intact. We’re more than familiar with leaders making stupid decisions in the face of whiny constituents. Hell, that’s American as apple pie. And we know that the Woodbury group, at least, was a pretty whiny, soft, entitled lot. As a bonus, having some conflict among the council would be both interesting and offer dramatic possibilities for the future! So you could hang a lampshade on the problem, and multiply your storytelling possibilities, and have your convenient zombies running amok plot device all at the same time! Win/win/win, and it would have taken 30 seconds, and you already had a council deliberation scene! Come on, Gimple! Who cares about your boring ass Jedi Council holding hands and singing Kumbaya, let Darol/Caryl breathe some fire!
As it is, we’re left to believe our survivors are collectively a bunch of hopelessly naive, mouth-breathing dumbasses. The only smart guy was the sleepwalker, and he was only accidentally smart!
What the writer’s should have done: Taken the script to any nine year old and see if he or she could devise any solutions to the group’s problems. If so, at least LAMPSHADE that shit. I really, really want to enjoy the new found depth of conflict and character this season, please make it easier for me to do so.
Scenario: Hordes of zombies that have been left to build up over the previous days are now starting to threaten the integrity of the fence system.
What the survivors did: Call an all-hands (all hands in this case defined as, “most of the series regulars”) emergency fence clearing session, all bunched together in a central mass. When this failed, Rick comes up with a plan to use himself, a truck, and a box full of pigs to lure the zombies away so the survivors can reinforce the fence.
What the survivors should have done: I can’t fault much what they did in this specific instance. Yes, they could have sent distraction parties to other parts of the fence to lure away the zombies much faster than they did. No, they probably didn’t have to sacrifice the pigs to buy the time to shore up the fence, but if we take the plot at face value, the pigs were probably contaminated at this point. You could question the wisdom of feeding contaminated pigs to zombies who you’re going to have to splatter, kill, and dispose of later, and bathing your face in contaminated pig blood, but hell, their hearts were in the right place.
What you can’t overlook is how little the group has done to make their situation better. They have gardens! They have pigs and horses! They have swanky little adobe barbeque grills and pits! They’ve got limited amounts of electricity! But the best they can do for the fence — the chain link fence that is all that that protects every living thing inside plus all these other shitty public works projects — is to build an admittedly cool and intimidating gate, and prop up 2x4s against the outer most fence posts?
I don’t get it. The 2×4 project was a day one “must have”. Then they stopped there. Why flash forward six months if you’re going to show the group as essentially unchanged? Why would they be this complacent? These people are led by the same group that survived the farm herd rampage, they surely must know that chain link fence will do fuck all against those kinds of numbers. I get that part of the problem is that they were saddled with the mess from last season’s finale, but god.
Here’s what I would do, both as a survivor, and a producer of a hit television show: First off all, you have to build a solid barrier around the fence. This serves two purposes, it masks your sight and sound from the undead, and does the same for any human attackers that would wish you ill. If you’re attacking the prison, as it stands, you can do so completely hidden by forest, while having a clear view of all of the prison yards and guard towers. That’s a big loser. Additionally, wandering dead in the forest see and hear you prancing your fancy farmer asses around in the yard, and are drawn like moths to the flame. So, take some of those pallets and other bits of wood, and stack it up against the inside of the fence.
Then start building a moat. Yeah, dig about six feet down, six feet across, and the best part, toss the dirt you dig on the other side of the chain link wall, where it can be piled up and packed against the newly reinforced walls. This does three things: #1, it protects the fence from small time herds, because they’ll fall into the moat and get stuck, where they can be de-brained when convenient. #2, if a herd of sufficient size comes along that they can overwhelm the moat, now they’re pushing against a chain link fence that is reinforced by several tons of packed dirt, which is going to buy the group more time to deal with them. Finally, #3, now your walls are bullet proof, for all intents and purposes, so a human invasion is going to be much less likely to succeed, and your defenders can take positions and fire behind their earthen berms with excellent cover, while the attackers will have to expose themselves and deal with the moat and walls.
Oh, there’s one other benefit. If the governor, or any other asshole wanted to royally screw over our prison sanctuary as it presently stands, all he’d have to do is get a few SUV’s and drive through several segments of fence. Try driving a truck through a six foot deep moat and six foot high reinforced earthen berms, fuckers. Ain’t going to happen.
You could even get fancy! Use some gas to burn the zombies in the moats. If the moats start getting fullish, dig a new one a dozen feet in front of the old one, and use that dirt to fill the old moat in. You can rinse and repeat this process time and time again, which would certainly ease corpse disposal.
Yes, this would take a long time. But you’re telling me a group that can scrounge up gasoline can’t find a few functional bobcats and backhoes? Equipment that runs off of propane and diesel, which BTW is going to be viable for a helluva lot longer than gasoline, which if the writers know what their about, is going to be increasingly useless for internal combustion engines. Gasoline goes bad for anything but burning brush in 3-6 months, and you can get maybe double that if you put a chemical stabilizer in it. If you had earth moving equipment, and I don’t see why you wouldn’t, this is a few days job. If you didn’t, and had two dozen strong backs working on it, you’re talking several back breaking weeks and months. But what the hell else are you going to do? I mean, in six months, they’ve got a few shitty gardens, some shoddily build animal pens, and that’s it.
As far as real-life budget goes… modifying the prison set in this way would be very inexpensive, and more importantly, look cool as hell. Can you even imagine what it would have been like to return to the prison and see it looking like that? You wouldn’t be thinking, “what the hell have these guys been doing for six months?” you’d be fucking seeing it: FORTRESS RICK. It would be the same cool feeling we got from last season’s premier when we saw the group efficiently clear and ransack a suburban home with homemade silencers, and realize, wow, these people are getting really goddamn good at surviving, but on a much grander scale. Granted, you’d have to come up with better plots than “huge hordes of zombies the group should have been prepared for tear down the walls” that we’re presumably in for this season, but you’d at least go a long ways towards putting me out of a job writing these survival guides.
As far as scaling up the competition… I’m pretty sure TWD knows where it can get it’s hands on a tank, right? Comic book readers are nodding vigorously right now, but we won’t say more because spoilers.
That’s it for this week folks! Hope you enjoyed this installment, and I’ll see you back next Friday around noon EST to tear into episode 403, “Isolation”. Have a great weekend!