Warning, this article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead series.
I am really not a fan of Zombie movies. But The Zombie Genre works best when it makes social or spiritual commentary as the original Zombie Movie, Night of the Living Dead did. A black man is forced to protect the normal and healthy from the brainwashed, corrupt masses. This all takes place against the backdrop of the 60’s and 70’s racial and cultural divide.
Not a fan of gratuitous Zombie movies, I didn’t watch “The Walking Dead” until December 2015. And then I devoured it over the Christmas holidays. Ironically over the last 10 years I had been praying like crazy for the image of black women in media to come up. I wanted to see strong beautiful black women as leads, romantic love interests, not round-faced, overweight mammy servants, or beautiful whores to and/or slaves of white male and female leads. I wanted to see, intelligent, healthy, fit-figured women who were not afraid to be vulnerable, who didn’t have to always be strong. So wow, did “The Walking Dead” blow my mind when I finally watched it.
In my quest for my identity as a black woman I was always sold this lie of the height of the African Nations being Egypt. I had seen all of the images of the “African/Egyptian” sculptures and statues noses marred, defiled by being shot off as Napoleon and other Europeans had done with the Sphinx and many ancient statues of the Egyptian kings and queens. I wanted to embrace the Egyptian Kingdom, everyone told me I looked like Cleopatra, but something about it being the first African Kingdom seemed to ring false.
One day Ethiopians started coming to me and telling me I looked like an Ethiopian. I knew the misguided Rastafarians talked about the fact that Halie Selassie was a descendent of David. But I didn’t understand the magnitude of the connection. I wanted to know who these Ethiopian people were. In my faith journey through the bible that I read more than twelve times it was essential that I understand who I was as a black woman in Christ. I was raised by intellectuals. I knew in my spirit that the myth that Christianity was a “White Religion” was a lie. So as I went through my ordinary life reading the bible and it revealed the overwhelming presence of Africans in the bible, and in fact, in the very genetic line of Abraham.
I read in Genesis and Exodus of all of the references to the second wife of Abraham, Kutura, being from Ethiopia, and having six of his sons, and Zephora the Ethiopian being the wife of Moses, my eyes were opened. Moses was tutored for 40 years in the desert by God, of course and his wife Zephora’s father Jethro, the high priest who worshipped the same God as him, likely descended from Abraham’s six sons. I found out Zephora performed the first Jewish circumcision on Moses’ first son to stop God from killing Moses. I was mind blown. Exodus says Zephora was put down for being an Ethiopian by Miriam who God then struck with Leprosy in the desert. In Acts, Phillip baptizes a travelling Ethiopian official who is reading the Torah and Prophets. I read in Revelation that Sheba, the queen of the south, (Queen Sheba of Ethiopia) would judge the nations because she sought the wisdom of Soloman. I could not believe it. No other woman is named in Revelation for such a high duty, no Jew, no European, no man. Sheba is singed out to judge the nations.
When I watched “The Walking Dead,” in Rick Grimes I saw the journey of Moses schooled by a black Jethro named Morgan. I saw Cain betraying Abel in Rick and Shane’s conflict. Like Abraham and Issac, Carl is the one son, the blessed off-spring. Sarah dies for her second child’s birth like Rachel.
Walking Dead is the story of man and his people in the desert of sin looking for a promised land. Like the Jews enslaved for 400 years by the Egyptians; the Gaul’s, Germanics and Saxons enslaved by the Greeks and Romans for 400 years; and finally African’s enslaved by the Europeans for 400 years, I saw a present-day people enslaved by their own sin, then put upon the road of being redeemed from it. They are forced to drive out the wicked in the promised land as they fight to keep it from contaminating their souls. In “The Walking Dead,” the living are harassed by the walking dead, some living souls, unaware of the purpose of the journey, succumb to their evil nature, while others were, taken by half-death of a global plague that is a reaping of the karma (sin) of all.
All characters carry this virus of death (sin) in their very bodies that is unleashed by death or wounding. The good doctor Hershel had to cut off his arm which could have lead him into the hell of Zombidom, so he could live, like the sacrifice of right arm that might cause anyone to sin. And it’s no accident that he was a bible believer and his daughter Maggy continues to pray and and have faith God when the group endures the worst trials. At moments the show tries to inject Buddhism or eastern spirituality and it falls flat. The story of the Orthodox Priest who seems to have no faith at all attempts to mock Christianity, but he is not a man of faith, he is a man of the legalistic false church who is finding grace in the love of Rick’s tribe. There are numerous biblical references not only in the music but also in the dialogue and articles like Michael Gilmour’s on the Huffington Post.
We witness Darryl’s character change fundamentally, redeemed by the family he finds in the desert, one he might have never met in the normal course of things. He thrives in the rich soil of the apocalypse, as he says on this meandering day trip in search of alcohol with Beth. A Eunuch of sorts, he is the chaste warrior, whose dark history of abuse as a child, like any of David’s mighty men, he is a lead warrior amongst a motley crew of outcasts and orphans. It is here that he finds his tribe and purpose.
Glen and Darryl functioning as a Joshua and Caleb of sorts or to Rick’s Moses. The exceptional love, faith and grace of Glen takes on an almost Christ-like quality. He is always gracious, forgiving, courageous, merciful, full of hope and faith even in death. It is no surprise he leads Rick to his Tribe and is the ultimate sacrifice for the group’s transgression involving the Saviors.
Although Mashon has an angry rage in fighting evil or the zombies, she has a gentle and quiet spirit, a Zephora of sorts who often rescues Rick, her Moses from death or a Jael that does not fear acting out the bible proverb “Women take authority when men are weak.” Carole is also the Deborah-type character who submits to the authority of men and others around her in meekness only to lose her daughter to Zombiehood. But when a plague threatens their tribe, and she starts cutting people down and she is forced to kill a child close to her daughter’s age, she becomes the most dangerous warrior of all. She rescues the group with the efficiency of a housewife pulling up weeds in the garden and gets the victory while Tyreese’s PTSD leaves him behind looking after Rick’s baby.
Maggie, the daughter of the Hershel the Minister and healer, is the minister of hope and courage, not fearing pregnancy in a zombie-pocalypse and Negan wars. Both Dale and Hershel are the wise-men, priest/prophets who provide spiritual wisdom to all with love and gentleness, caring and self sacrifice. Like Saints, they are often murdered by the most evil of characters.
One of the most beautiful scenes is before the group has come to Alexandrea. They bear a storm together in a barn. They have spent their time hoping together, encouraging and building each other up. They are sheltered by the peace and love their obedience to the good has wrought. After caring for each other and defeating many psychopaths along the way, and suffering the loss of their most precious loved ones they endure the final storm.
They enter Alexandrea and they cannot tolerate a false Eden, a plastic world that denies the pain and loss that each has suffered and makes life and their love for one another so precious. Their Caravaggio world of darkness and light so clearly delineates their freedom of choice and the rewards of love and community. This is the beauty of their dark path, the light shines so brightly in it, bright stars and far galaxies can only be seen in a midnight sky. They understand the value of pain and loving in spite of it. They recognize the great price of the freedom to chose love, good, hope and inward peace.
When the dam breaks on a massive herd of Zombies that swarms Alexandrea like a flood and only the most noble survive. After the loss of so many of the weak spirited at Alexandrea, the necessity for grace enlarges.
But new Devils arise to take them to new levels again. Perhaps the Savior’s name and the arrival of Jesus were the clue as to a new dispensation and expectation of conduct for this leg of the wonderers journey— “to he who much is given, much is expected.” Darryl and Rick are gracious toward the trickster-like Jesus who introduces them to his enclave.
It is now that Darryl finds grace and compassion, letting his guard down unfortunately does not bode well later with Dwight, his wife and sister-in-law. Darryl’s attempt to protect Rosita cause Glen to get killed. There are consequences for mercy and love, though there is also a time for war.
But ultimately their pride, individual self-preservation, cockiness take Rick’s tribe down. They kill the Saviors with impunity, without compassion, or any thoughts of redeeming them. They came into the promised land, drove out the evil people whose wickedness made them worthy of being driven out. But, now the new grace has begun, redemption of the soul can only come via the redemption of others as high priest Morgan demonstrates. In his efforts not to harm and redeem others, Morgan tries to free the Alpha Wolf who is quickly extinguished at his moment of transformation. But now is the time to be willing to save the unredeemed in order to build life again.
The most curious thing I find with “The Walking Dead,” is that they have not come upon any elite political societies who can explain the plague. As the top show perhaps it cannot afford to address black mold, nano-tech, biological warfare, viruses or alternative remedies, it may scare off advertising. But I would sure like to see them try. Where is the colloidal silver, where are the herbs? I think Carol went mushroom picking once.
It will be exciting to see how they deal with their new challenges. Self serving grand standing, merciless killing will not bring them the life they so wish to recreate. Though they are strong, they are only strong in their love and humility. For weak, foolish, small, the outcasts, to defeat the Goliath apocalypse, they must always be buoyed up by a faith, love, hope that stirs the force of something greater than themselves.