Season 3 of TWD sees the group take and hold the prison, and conflict ensues with the Governor and his defended community of Woodbury. We see the development of existing mortuary practices distinguishing the treatment of the dead by burial and by fire, as well as a new spiritual dimension…
The Haunting Dead
The dead linger on to haunt the living as walkers, but also as spirits tormenting Rick. They talk to him over the phone, Rick thinks he sees Shane at Woodbury, and Lori appears at her own graveside and outside the compound, as well as within the prison walls.
Petrol not Pyre
Fire and graves perpetuate the series.
In episode 12, we see Morgan, still surviving all alone in Rick’s home town, disposing of the walkers he has killed. He takes them to open ground within ruined walls, in a landscape daubed by his own apocalyptic and warning graffiti. He simply stacks walkers in a pile and burns them, presumably with petrol, rather than using pyre material.
In episode 14, walkers are burned by Milton in the pits where they were captured by the Governor and his henchmen for use against Rick’s group. When discovered, the Governor’s henchman, Bowman, has so little sympathy he won’t even despatch the still-living ‘pit biters’.
Cremation at Woodbury
We never see how this parallel community have contrived their own disposal methods for dealing with the dead, let alone the Walking Dead. However, it is alluded to that cremation is indeed the prefered method. In Episode 4, the Governor lies to Michone, telling her that the soldier Wells ‘could not be revived’ and they ‘cremated him, quietly’. In Episode 8, Andrea tells the Governor she promised to help Milton cremate Mr Coleman’s body (the old man who was the focus of an experiment to see if walkers (biters) had memories).
Addressing the crowd in Woodbury, Andrea says “we don’t have funerals anymore, because the death never stops”, and we are given no evidence this is incorrect. Again, presumably, cremation is seen as a practical, hidden disposal method performed by a community struggling to maintain its humanity, but with a Governor who not only keeps his zombie daughter in a locked room and zombie heads in fishtanks, but who regularly kills his own and others who cross his path.
Inhumation at the Prison
Meanwhile, at the Prison, Rick’s group persist in their adherence to inhumation as a respectful mode of disposal for members of their group they lose in their fights with the walkers. We don’t see funerals as such, but graves are a key dimension to the story and the prison landscape.
Two individuals are buried at the Prison in the outer precinct: T-Dog and Lori. Both are given graves. In episode 9, after a new group arrive at the prison and one of them (Donna) is bitten and dies, Hershel assures Tyreese that they will ensure she gets ‘a proper burial’ next to T-Dog and Lori.
‘The Tombs’ and the Grave
Mortuary dimensions dominate the prison landscape: the prison is both place of occupation and ‘tomb’. The over-run sections of the prison are used as a trap by Rick’s group when the Governor finally invades and are referrred to as ‘The Tombs’. Meanwhile, the graves of the departed group members become a key component of the prison landscape. Indeed, the final scene of the series is a crude cross over a grave: presumably Lori’s…