The Walking Dead Episodes 9 through 13
Every time I walk out of a Walking Dead episode I feel disconnected to my body and this world here. A feeling I’m not foreign to. But every time an episode ends, a part of my mind hangs on, like it just doesn’t want to let go.
I just finished… I don’t know what episode number that was. I’ve stopped counting. I’ve stopped reviewing. One episode just molds into the next like one continuous story with no end.
Story… I had a nightmare the other night, one where it played like story. I watched Judith being pulled apart and eaten alive by zombies. PTSD is a bitch. The worst part of that dream? I couldn’t hold her after to confirm she’s okay.
Lately, I find myself questioning humanity. Where it starts. Where it stops. And where we draw that line. That line. We like to think it’s black and white. But the line is gray. The line is gray.
Morgan grazed the scene with PTSD and we watched the forensic psychiatrist talk him back. That was Season 6 Episode 4 “Here’s Not Here.” Read my review here. I’ve been on the other side of PTSD. Where everything around you—a car, a dog, a baby—threatens you. And all you want to do is kill. You know, if you hesitate to identify the threat, you’ll die. So you kill then question. Survival first. Ethics later.
I know what Morgan is really afraid of. I’m afraid of the same thing. He’s afraid to go back. That if he crosses that line, if he kills one more time, he will go back to the land where everything threatens your existence. He’s afraid he won’t come back again. So I get it, when Morgan uses his newfound philosophy to hide his fear instead of facing it.
My favorite movie is Apocalypse Now. That scene when Kirk Douglas finds the soldiers fighting the empty shadows. I understand that madness. You have to kill and not cope to get that far. That is PTSD at its most severe. When you hear the bullets that aren’t there. You haven’t lost your humanity yet. It’s the humanity that gives you the PTSD. It’s the monsters who kill and smile. Who kill and don’t question. I wonder. Is Rick there yet? How many killed makes you a killer? How many preemptive murders do you have to commit before you become the very monster you hunt?
I see these questions now in Carol.
No. I haven’t reviewed The Walking Dead since Carl lost his eye. So let’s go through this, shall we? Let’s review this, not an episode at a time, but as a philosophy on a whole.
While Rick charges on ahead down the River of Lost Humanity, he takes with him a team who all are at different stages of their humanity. Maggie has decided for them to fight and Rick rallies up his team. Since that decision, Glenn killed his first innocent man. Innocent?
The scene was beautiful.
“Have you ever killed before?” Glenn asks.
“No. I’ve been lucky.”
We see Glenn and his comrade enter the chambers of two sleeping enemies in episode 12. Glenn takes his knife and pushes the blade through the sleeping victim. Glenn breaks and silently sobs into his hand. But before his comrade can join him, Glenn stops him and wordlessly says, “No. Don’t do it. I’m already there. I’ll go on ahead for you. You stay where you are—where I was—a while longer. For as long as you can.” I saw all these words in a single look as Glenn stopped the hand of his comrade.
Did he just lose his humanity to survival?
I watch Glenn push the blade, for a second time, into a sleeping innocent. Again, Glenn begins to break…
The questions rolled in my head.
This isn’t right.
He isn’t conscious.
This is worse than stabbing him in the back.
Did Glenn just loose his humanity?
Glenn stands and I can’t help, but wonder how much of himself Glenn just lost… and then we see it. The trophy wall plastered with dozens of people… just people who this sleeping “innocent” inhumanly slaughtered. Woman with heads bashed in. Children with faces bashed in. Men with heads bashed in. It was the first time in six years that I legitimately felt sick with something I saw on Walking Dead. I vomited in my mouth.
Confused yet? I was. I immediately began arguing with myself.
But he was sleeping.
He was a killer.
He was sleeping.
He would wake.
He did nothing to me.
It was a coward’s killing.
He deserved no less.
Who am I to make that call?
You’re the survivor who is looking to preserve what little is left of humanity.
Am I right?
I don’t know anymore.
Maggie trudged ahead with her own agenda. She has a baby to protect. Episode 11. She got them into this. Boldly, she follows Rick down his river of lost humanity. We follow Maggie through episode 13. She doesn’t flinch when she fires round after round. She plunges the blade too easily into the line up. A widow here. A walker there. A childless mother on occasion. No regret or second thoughts. “She has to” we argue for her. “They die so that I might live.” I nod my agreement as Carol tallies up her death toll. 18? 20? How many?
Carol places a cookie on Sam’s grave (Episode 12).
How many have to die?
One more? At one point do you lose your humanity? Is it already lost? Can you get it back?
I will say what I was once told. You have lost your humanity when it stops bothering you. Let it bother you… It’s supposed to. But you have to do what you have to do. I can see it in Carol. With every death it’s harder to pull that trigger. Through Carol’s eyes I watch Maggie slaughter the numbers as they attempt to escape the Kill Floor in Episode 13.
I felt myself slipping. Take them out. Kill first. Look later. One by one bodies drop.
Carol counts the lives as the death toll rises.
One more down. Light a cigarette. Ignite the gas. Close the door. Three more burn.
Another coward’s killing? You burned them alive. You didn’t even give them a chance to kill.
How many more must die? How many more before I stop being human?
Maggie cuts a path through the walkers, down the corridor to the outside. Carol follows, unable to raise a blade to help.
The door slides open and I move to kill. My arm is in motion before I even look and recognize Glenn on the other side. Glenn is lucky it was Maggie and not I on the other side. I wouldn’t have stopped. I would have fired. Her delay forces me to look and process. I see Glenn and not “some guy” in a baseball cap. And all at once, I feel the relief sweep me off my feet. Right there I fall, sobbing as Maggie falls into his arms.
I weep into my hands. “Glenn,” and he takes Maggie into his arms. I see my people. Rick, Michonne, and I know I’m safe. Daryl takes up Carol and asks, “Are you okay?”
Carol sums it all up nicely. “No,” she says to Daryl. Her voice is shaking. “I am not.”
I don’t think anyone heard.
The credits rolls and I’m still fighting. I’m still seeing threats all around me. And I want my knife. I want my swords. I want to kill. Morgan has every right to fear going back to PTSD.
PTSD proves you still have your humanity intact. Monsters… real killers… don’t get PTSD. They’re the ones who are comfortable with killing and don’t question it.
“We’re not supposed to kill.”
When did Walking Dead stop being about the zombies and the characters? When did it start being about humanity?
The phone rings and I jump. My arms are raised, poised to stab. I only lack the blade.