Like many couples my wife and I enjoy kicking back with a miniseries now and then. Usually our schedule only permits this a few times a week. Our choices can be eclectic, though they tend to hover around nerdy historical dramas à la Masterpiece Theatre as well as science fiction or the occasional selection of dark thriller/crime noir.
But lately our choice has been The Walking Dead. Now, although Sarah is not faint-hearted, horror is still not usually the preferred genre when we’re watching something together. On top of that, even though I am a horror fan myself, I don’t usually pick zombie stories. It’s not that I don’t like zombie fiction, rather that I just naturally tend toward vampires, demons, ghosts and werewolves when it comes to the conventions of supernatural monstrosities. So for me, zombies have to be particularly well wrought, like in The Rising, or Flesh Eating Mothers, or Dead Alive, to capture my attention. The Walking Dead is one of the few series (book and show) that despite occasional flaws, fits into this category for me. I’d give it, say, four out of five stars. That’s to say, I do think it’s worth watching, but not necessarily a must-see. But all of this changed when I realized how much more fun it is not just to watch this show, but to watch my wife Sarah watch this show.
Here’s how it happened:
We’re cleaning up the kitchen after putting the kids to bed, trying to decide what to watch. It’s looking like another night of category ‘British Historical Dramas With a Strong Female Lead’.
“What about The Walking Dead?” I suggest.
“You mean that zombie show where they just go around shooting zombies?”
“Well that’s not all they do, but yeah.”
Sarah sighs, tosses the sponge on the sink and cracks a beer. “I don’t know, you know, I’m more about subtlety, not just blood and guts horror. You know, more the psychological kind.”
“Well, this has that, too, because it’s about the interactions of the human characters, too.”
“Yeah, really?” She sips her beer. “You sure it’s not just dudes clearing the mall of zombies, clearing the parking lot of zombies, holing up in an abandoned house and shooting up a bunch of zombies?”
I pause. “Well, maybe a little, but other stuff, too.”
She chuckles, turns on the iMac and glugs her beer. “Poor men,” she says.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean there’s nothing for you guys to do. You go to these office jobs or restaurant or workshop jobs, then you come home and you don’t get to shoot a bunch of zombies. There’s nothing for you to clear. It’s totally bleak for you.”
“Guess I didn’t think of it quite like that…”
“Oh come on, I know you want to shoot zombies. Of course you do. But you don’t get to, and sad thing is, even if you did, you wouldn’t last like, three days.”
“Hey now, you never know. I’m more equipped for the zombie apocalypse than some.”
“Yeah right. Three days. So are we gonna watch this or what?”
She turns on Netflix, and sends me to the refrigerator for a another pair of beers.
We’re not halfway through the episode when she’s writhing around: “Oh please,” she says. “Wait don’t tell me, the cop’s the good guy and the biker’s a pig. How original. They’re surrounded by zombies and they have time to argue about politics? Hell-o, there’s a zombie apocalypse to shoot up!”
“Well, they’re still human,” I say. “And they need to conserve ammo.”
“Then why aren’t they taking machine guns from the dead soldiers and military vehicles? See, you wouldn’t last three days.”
“Well if you don’t like it, we don’t have to watch…”
“Oh please, here we go again! Look at that idiot! He’s hesitating! They’re zombies you fool! Shoot. Them. Shoot them in the heads!”
“I thought you liked psychological horror.”
“Well, I do, but come on, once the apocalypse starts you gotta do what you gotta do, right? Speaking of which, wanna get me another beer?”
When I get back she’s pointing at the screen: “Oh COME ON LADY! You’re worried about whether you should bring a newborn baby into ZOMBIE LAND? Kill it! And whatchya say, you’re THINKING about learning to shoot? You should be killing everything in sight by now!”
“Well, maybe they’re trying to be realistic, I think…”
“Realistic? Please! (In a mocking, high-pitched voice): Oh honey, how can I bring a baby into the zombie apocalypse? Oh I don’t know dear, but you gotta give him a chance? What chance? To be a feral, cold hearted beast? No, who knows, you gotta give him a chance! Speaking of which, when you get a chance, you wanna pour me a Jack ’n’ Coke?”
“Well, I guess I could… how many more episodes are we gonna watch?”
“As many as it takes! Look, wait, that dude’s going nuts with the crossbow! See, he doesn’t hesitate, he’s freakin’ killin’ ’em.”
“Yeah, I’d like to get a crossbow.”
“But you don’t have one, do you? Heh. Three days. If that.”
“It’s getting late, should we really watch another?”
“I don’t know. They finally have the women shooting stuff up, but all this worry, just seems unrealistic. I mean honestly honey, I love you, but if you turned into a zombie, I wouldn’t hesitate. I’d aim between the eyes and make it quick.” She smiles at me and takes a shot.
“Well, new season tomorrow night,” she says.
“So I guess this horror stuff’s kinda fun after all?”
“Kinda. Jury’s still out. Looking for ammo, if they know what’s good for ’em. Guess we’ll just have find out if they have what it takes to really clean up and blow out some brains.”
“What?” she asks, giving me a deer-in-the-headlights stare. The beer bottle in her hand is near enough to the stove to flip over and smash into a jagged weapon. Imagining that, I flick off the lights and kiss her goodnight.
“No, just impressed is all, and hoping tonight my dreams will be the funnest three days of my life.”