Monday, October 27, 2014

The Walking Dead 5.3: Meets Alfred Hitchcock and the Twilight Zone

Cannibalism is a tough theme to get right on television - probably in any medium - and The Walking Dead has done a pretty good job of it this season.   Not quite as good, though, as Alfred Hitchcock, in his masterful television series, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, on around the same time as The Twilight Zone, in the late 50s through the 60s.

One episode, in particular, provides a template for how to do cannibalism just right on television.  In "Specialty of the House" (1959), a man yearns to join an exclusive dining club, whose specialty of the house is a dish reputed to be unbelievably tasty.  You have to be vetted to be admitted to the Club.   Our man eventually is, keeps pestering the maitre-d' about when the special dish will be served, and is eventually called with the good news that he should come over to the Club.  In the very last scene, as the man tucks in his napkin at the table, we see an axe wielded over his head: he is the specialty of the house to be served this month.

A few years later, in 1962, The Twilight Zone took a crack at cannibalism with its excellent "To Serve Man," based on Damon Knight's 1950 story by the same name.   Actually, the eaters were aliens, so it wasn't quite cannibalism, but the story had the same flavor.  The aliens have a book, "To Serve Man," which foolish humans at first assume is a manifesto about helping and improving the human condition.  They find out too late that it's a cook book.

The best of Walking Dead 5.3 had elements of both of these classics.   In particular, the ring leader's disquisition to Bob about what people taste like - "pretty people taste better" - was a chillingly brilliant advancement of the cannibalism theme, reminiscent of the Morlocks eating the Eloi in The Time Machine by H. G. Wells.   In both cases, cannibalism is brought on by apocalypse.

Of course, in The Walking Dead, the zombies have been eating humans from the very beginning.   What's made this season different was humans eating humans.   Interestingly, since Bob had been bitten, the consumption of him was almost a case of humans eating a zombie, or at least a proto-zombie.    If only they'd cut off his infected shoulder, he might have survived, as Hershel did before the Governor did him in.

See also: The Walking Dead 5.1: The Redemption of Carole

And see also The Walking Dead 4.1: The New Plague ... The Walking Dead 4.2: The Baby and the Flu ... The Walking Dead 4.3: Death in Every Corner ...The Walking Dead 4.4: Hershel, Carl, and Maggie ... The Walking Dead 4.6: The Good Governor ... The Walking Dead 4.7: The Governor's Other Foot ... The Walking Dead 4.8: Vintage Fall Finale ... The Walking Dead 4.9: A Nightmare on Walking Dead Street ... The Walking Dead 4:14: Too Far ... The Walking Dead Season 4 Finale: From the Gunfire into the Frying Pan


no cannibalism but at least a plague in The Consciousness Plague

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