AMC’s “The Walking Dead”

On the Night of Halloween, the American Movie Channel (AMC) premiered the first ever TV series devoted to zombies. The name “The Walking Dead” speaks for itself. The day after the premiere, AMC reported that the show was watched by 5.3 million people, making it the most watched scripted series in the history of cable television among 18 to 49-year-olds.

The series revolves around a deputy sheriff, Rick Grimes, who is shot in the beginning of the season premiere and wakes up in a hospital to discover that the world is infested with mutilated but alive bodies and his wife and child are nowhere in sight.

The first scene shows Rick in his sheriff uniform walking towards a gas station and catching the glimpse of a car with decomposed bodies in the front seats and personal belongings like a stroller lying on the ground. A second later, the white noise fades off to show a lipless little girl charging toward Rick. And Rick, carrying a gun, does his duty and shoots the girl in the head.

After this scene, the audience can imagine being told, “I [Rick] am very serious about this. And the fantasyland you are watching is not something you want to imagine being in.” The audience is hit with constant kinetic bursts of inhumane acts as if the zombies themselves held the camera and shot the show through their lifeless eyes.

In the second episode, Rick and a group of survivors are looking down from the top of an Atlanta building and seeing a long line of zombies walking the streets in robotically rhythmic steps.

Even though the series is adopted from the graphic novel series by Robert Kirkman, the camera pays homage to George Romero’s 1978 masterpiece, “Dawn of The Dead.” Like Romero, the series’ creators are not interested in showing zombies attempting to rampage a clothing store with humans in it, but instead want to explore the desperation of the humans trying to survive.

Indeed, it is the classic horror film formula. But philosophy enthusiasts get to see an application of Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” in it. For all those who have no interest in philosophy, however, Nietzsche says that human beings do not act out of pleasure but rather for the sake of “power”: will to power can be about doing things that make us feel good about ourselves.

In the third episode, Rick goes  back to zombie-infested Atlanta where he left one of his group members because he acted like a racist and endangered everyone else and now Rick, being a cop, feels bad that he was deficient in his duties.

Of course, you would never do that because your will-to-power method is not the same as Rick’s. But he’s going back to Atlanta, to rescue the man he left behind. Psychology majors are also urged to pitch in and say a few words about how the ego of Rick Grimes is shaping the plot of “The Walking Dead.”

But the reason “The Walking Dead” was renewed for a second season does not have much to do with psychology or philosophy. It appears that many viewers do not care much about either. The reason is that the series provides a fresh perspective compared to our trite notion that zombies are flesh-eating maniacs. Other times they are lifeless bodies minding their own business and living in harmony with other lifeless bodies — except they look hideous.

Humans are zombies with good looks and the will to power for more than just food. It is the absolute truth for which “The Walking Dead” deserves the attention it got.

Rating: 5 out of 5