What would you do with the undead?

May contain spoilers. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Series 3 of The Walking Dead has concluded with a frankly disappointing finale. However, it has not dampened my enthusiasm for the genre.

If you haven’t yet discovered this TV show, Egg from This Life is a sheriff from the southern US states leading a disparate group of survivors who variously hide from, kill and sometimes turn in to zombies. It is exciting, gory (the middle episodes of season two excepted) and, at times, thought-provoking.

Besides the entertainment factor, this latter point is what I find fascinating about the zombie genre. It can provoke some interesting arguments: what would you do in such a situation?

If zombies take over, all of the conveniences we take for granted in the modern world would be gone as the staff needed to maintain and run them would have become undead or fled. Could you live off the land, hunt and forage? Most of us can’t. World War Z (the book) explores the survival aspect of zombie terror – many townies fail to survive the first winter outside hiding from ‘zach’. The film is due out this summer – judging from the trailer, the cinematic version is, inevitably, more about the action with floods of zombies rather than considering these finer points, but we’ll see.

In the Dawn of the Dead, survivors and zombies alike instinctively head for the local shopping mall, offering a comment on modern commercialism. Sadly for the survivors, the department stores and food courts soon run out of useful merchandise and they have to leave their sanctuary to brave the hungry hordes outside.

Pop quiz: do you know how to kill a zombie? Tip: chopping off the head is insufficient; the brain must be destroyed. Guns might be a weapon of choice, especially in US productions where such weapons are more commonplace. But what happens when the bullets run out? Plus, the noise from firearms attracts the walkers. The Walking Dead’s Daryl’s crossbow is effective, but as his stock of bows is finite he usually retrieves them from a zombie’s body, meaning he’d soon run out in an ambush. Much more sustainable are hand-to-hand weapons, but you have to be deft like Michonne with her samurai sword – the undead are pesky biters!

In Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (boasting a killer opening line as good as the original: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains’), Mr Bennet demonstrates excellent foresight by ensuring his five daughters are trained in martial arts. Elizabeth in particular is a formidable fighter and finds her skills to be useful not only against the ‘unmentionables’, but in defending her honour against Mr Darcy (while still full of pride) and the always vile Lady Catherine De Bourgh.

If you can’t make a fire from scratch, are clueless about hunting and you don’t know one end of a weapon from another, what do you do? You’d better find a group who can offer you protection. The trouble is, who do you trust? It’s a challenge that all too often results in murder of those considered to be superfluous or a challenge to a leader’s supremacy as those who stumble upon The Walking Dead’s Woodbury and 28 Days Later’s characters discover.

However, all is not lost. The Walking Dead (usually) shows that ethics, morals and compassion for those in need are always relevant – zombies or no.

A scary monster. Not a zombie.

A scary monster. Not a zombie.

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