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Season 4 of The Walking Dead took character development and metanarrative to an unsurpassed level. This television show, while one of the most gory and violent on television, is also the most honest and thoughtful examination of morality, human nature versus nurture and the choices individuals make that keep us moving forward. I have really enjoyed writing about the show, especially after taking the UC Irvine Zombie course online back in fall 2013. Thinking about events of living in a post-apocalyptic world in an immersive way has forced me to acknowledge the spectrum of morality in us all, reviewed spectacularly in a television show that is not all about killing zombies, but about discovering the core of humanity. The fall premiere and season 5 seem so far away! I know that our tribe will rally together, and seriously? These Terminus fuckers have no idea who they are messing with.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our time exploring the Walking Dead universe together. Don’t forget–aim for the brain and always pack a second weapon.

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Gauging morality on a few superficial interactions or first impressions is impossible. Humankind is made up of layers of emotional, spiritual and physical purpose, and so only time and experience can really show a person’s true essence. In a post-apocalyptic world, the good guys have to do bad things and, occasionally, bad guys turn good; there is a lot of gray area. For the tribe members–who have spent time together, cultivated relationships with one another, experienced shit storms and life affirming moments together–the camaraderie they feel toward each other is built on a foundation of trust. Faction members have fought side by out in the Georgia woods, traveling toward a common goal–Terminus–where there is “sanctuary” for all. But, if the factions have learned anything since the prison, it is to fear the living. The idea of a utopian sanctuary away from the frights of the zombie apocalypse is really, really nice, but, as with any group, the question of how invested individuals must be at a site to become accepted looms over the factions as they begin to trickle in to Terminus. What must they give up for this utopian sanctuary and will they have a choice in the matter?

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Episode: So4xE16 “A”

Within survivors of the disease that created the walkers, there are people of varying polarities of age, race, morality, honor, bravery, sense of self. Sympathy and hope lie with the innocent, but the realities of post-apocalyptic life reveal a harsh truth. Many of those who make it past the initial chaos are suspicious, ruthless, battle-seasoned and hard hearted people. Even Sheriff Rick, who started as a hero trying to save everyone he could, has since revealed in himself a gray scale when it comes to helping/hurting others, based on his experiences and those around him. Everyone has a past and each member of the former prison tribe has made mistakes on the path to Terminus. For Daryl and Glen, this path includes determining where on the humanity scale they lie. What choices must be made to maintain status as part of a tribe? What needs to be done to keep one’s humanity in the face of violence and anarchy? What type of person wields the most power and influence in a dystopic universe and what must take place to hold on to a position of power? What is the end game and when is the mission over? As the different factions travel closer to Terminus, one must take into consideration all these elements as part of the BIG question–what has humanity become?

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Episode: So4xE15 “Us”

In a dystopic world, in which food, shelter and kindness are rarities, our factions are looking for stability. This includes, not only health, safety and companionship but also a sense of home. An environment in which occupants are able to rest and reflect is essential to the mental and physical health of our tribe members. This is why Rick was able to heal his mind after Lori’s death–he had work to keep him busy (Farmer Rick!) and a place to recuperate safely. After the confrontation with the Governor, the destruction of the prison and ultimately, the tribe rupture, factions are not only searching for each other, but meaning and purpose in a very violent and changed world.

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S04xE14 “The Grove”

The factions are swiftly moving, whether toward each other and a utopian existence or death, no one can be sure. Without any sort of media or communication system, finding friends or even knowing what happens outside of the Georgia wilds is impossible. In a post-apocalypse world, the best way to know where a person will be at any given time is to KNOW that person, their habits and, as simple as it sounds, have FAITH. This isn’t faith it God or a higher power, but faith in humanity, in each other and the choices made. With the breakdown of government, media and all of society, tribe members each have uniquely personal reasons for the decisions they make. Maggie is determined to find Glen; Sasha is afraid of the truth about Tyrese; Bob doesn’t want to be alone; Daryl is protective and maybe even a bit smitten with Beth, who simply wants to hope again, while Rick, Carl, and Michonne struggle to develop and retain some sort of semblance of self.While the biters are the physical threat, the mental breakdown of the tribe seems eminent. Each faction member is being forced to restructure value systems that have been in place since before the turn. There is no question that the factions are stronger as a unified tribe, but will they find each other any time soon or will they die trying?

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S04xE13 “Alone”

Those who made it thus far during the zombie apocalypse continue to work toward survival as well as some sort of unification with other, friendly tribes. In a world in which the dead walk the earth and the living are vicious and unkind, individual survivors are at a disadvantage, to say the least. In this world, a lone survivor is one who, not only becomes an easy target for the masses of undead walkers and violent living, but also has experienced devastating loss. In previous posts, we have discussed the mental health issues that accompany a post-apocalyptic society; exploring the murderous tendencies of the Governor and Carol’s sociopathic break, but we have yet to see the weight of the world explained through the eyes of the good-hearted survivor.  As time and circumstance wear down on these individuals, sometimes even the strong ones break.

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Episode S04xE12 “Still”

The zombie apocalypse does not exactly promote the finer points in humanity. With characters like the Governor and Merle Dixon, we see sides of humankind that makes us think that perhaps we do deserve the undead walking amongst us. In “Claimed,” our prison refugees meet some new characters, and now our splintered tribe is faced with a familiar  challenge: now that the world has been stripped of humanity (quite literally), who can we trust? To bring back a familiar phrase, they fear the living.

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Episode S04x11 “Claimed”