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The Silence of the Walkers

Photo AMC

Walking Dead Monthly Plot Hole Gripe -

What the Hole is Going on?

This month’s gripe: By Clayton Walsh

Photo: AMC

Close your eyes and picture yourself wandering aimlessly in some rural woodland. Amidst the lingering shadows of old-growth hardwoods and sharp knolls constantly blocking your view, you tip-toe through leaves and an exasperating underbrush that makes each step seem like a siren to your whereabouts. You have navigated this landscape from time to time over the past couple years and while that prison Rick sold everyone on with its farm and water and the promise of safety in numbers seemed OK for a while, it is gone now.

Everyone else is gone too. Who knows, they might all be dead. Right now, that doesn’t matter, because you are alive and relatively well. All you have to do is stay quiet, lay low and find somewhere worthwhile, somewhere safe with…Ahhh! A bunch of Zombies out of nowhere! Fight or be bit! Now stab, just….stab, and smash and crush! If you’ve got to use your gun then do it! Phew, another close call! (Wipe your brow, take a deep breath and pray you survive the next time that happens)

Thus is a burden of our favorite characters that has extended from season one and still follows the group all the way to the post-prison debacle and fallout as they struggle in and near the forests lining the railroad tracks that apparently will eventually lead everyone toward Terminus.

Their burden is not the simple fact that countless undead still pepper the landscape and provide a constant threat to anyone unlucky enough to have no place to call home. That threat is a given, but there is another, heavier burden out there that no one on the show seems to have figured out since the fall of civilization. Our favorite characters gravest problem isn’t simply bad guys or the roaming herds of undead.

It is the Silence of the Walkers.

Here’s the gripe. How is it that whenever someone is attacked by a walker, it isn’t until the last possible second until they realize they are being attacked? And why don’t the attackers groan and gasp until that final moment? Think of Amy and Dale. A stealth attack was the downfall of both, and neither saw it coming despite some pretty quiet surroundings.  You could also take a look at Andrea’s close call on the side of the road on her way back to the prison? One second she’s alone, hiding from a truck. The next she’s surrounded.

Is a symptom of the Zombie Apocalypse a decline peripheral vision and/or a memory dysfunction blocking out the fact that there are still walkers out there?

Anyone who has spent time playing in the woods as a kid, or hunting, or hiking, knows that there is one truism in nature: There is a lot of crap on the ground. There is another truth closely related to the first. Most of the crap on the ground makes a lot of noise when you step on it or kick your feet through it. It is what it is, and whether you are playing hide and seek or waiting in a tree stand for a 10 point buck, the fact remains that even an acorn or a scampering squirrel makes a ton of noise.

Anyone lost or abandoned or just plain surviving in the wooden paradise of a Zombie Apocalypse should already be high alert, and the supposition that people are constantly caught off guard and unable to tap into the basest of senses, hearing to survive, is a reoccurring stretch that the writers of TWD ask its audience to accommodate for no other reason than it provides an easy avenue for the drama that drives this wildly-successful TV series.

Why can’t anyone hear walkers making noise as they approach through the twigs, leaves and all the noising undergrowth that is everywhere? Wouldn’t a mere squirrel be cause enough at least explore your surroundings? And why do these walkers wait to the last couple steps to start moaning in excitement at an imminent meal?

This mandatory suspension of disbelief remains a viewing requirement because TWD’s fiction is a function of what the show’s creators, writers and directors have to do to make things work. This goes for the creative side of things as well as within their budget. Many people tune into the show primarily for the “zombie action” and the direct, violent contact between walkers and the shows characters. Nothing spells a hurried, frenzied bloodbath quicker than a surprise attack out of nowhere. When someone can’t run, they fight, and as such the action happens. When it comes to fight or flight, people tune in see the decapitated head, not Michonne’s back as she runs away for safer ground.

Everyone has figured out how to kill a walker when they see it coming, Most can even handle multiple inbound walkers. Killing seems to be the easy part at this point. Even lightweights like Beth Greene and Mika Samuels have taken down a few in recent episodes and though it can remain a harrowing experience for newbies, Rick, Carl, Daryl and the other grizzled vets don’t even seem to blink at the task. It has become more of a chore akin to taking out the trash.  The chore seems to become a burden only when the element of surprise is entered into the mix, and our heroes are surprised way too often. It’s been a couple years and they still haven’t figured out a way to remain on guard when they are exposed.

It is when creative allowances to move the story forward become the rule that it becomes an unfair request of the audience to suspend their disbelief over and over again. It starts feeling cliché, and 99 percent of the time that is not what the Walking Dead is about. The consistency and the impeccable production quality of the show make instances of cliché just that much more noticeable and tough to stomach as a viewer.  It’s the two-edged sword of success. Something so close to perfect, and people inherently want it to eliminate every conceivable flaw.

Another issue is why Walking Dead’s zombies don’t groan or hiss until the very last seconds before they attack.  Is there some justification rooted in the audience’s lack of understanding of undead biology? For the purposes of the show writers, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Walking Dead Zombies have deteriorated to a point where they make their loudest noises only when they are most stimulated, so when closing in on their next meal they simply groan louder with some sort of sheer excitement.

Maybe the zombies of The Walking Dead simply can’t help themselves and like a dog, some instinctual slobbering/groan-like reflex peaks moments before they clumsily plunge for their proverbial doggy dish and the noises just come out.

A stretch? Sure, but I’ll assume these suspensions of disbelief just go with the territory and help keep things moving along for the writers and directors as they keep things on par and at the high level the show usually exhibits.

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