How can one visualise utter despair in the face of the horrors of life? The AMC The Walking Dead series gets pretty close in their portrayal of Sasha at the end of Season 5.
Sasha has survived the wildnerness and the road, including the Correctional Facility (Season 3 and 4), the Governor’s Woodbury (Season 3), and Terminus and St Sarah’s (Seasons 4 and 5). She loses Bob, her lover, and then she loses Tyreese, her brother.
All the time she has fought the undead and living with untold strength and determination. Now with Rick and her group she has re-entered ‘civilization’ in the walled community of ‘Alexandria’ and relative safety.
However, she cannot adjust: she implodes. She stays on the outside, keeping guard from the church tower, patrolling the woods for ‘walkers’. In the final episode of the series, we encounter her acting as others have before her, such as T-Dog and Glen, as grave-digger. She disposes of the undead she has slain.
She has dug a small mass-grave and is carting cadavers by hand on a small four-wheeled trolley to bury them in the woods. Why isn’t she burning them, as Rick’s group have done previously?
Pulling a cadaver into the grave, she slips and finds herself in the pit. She looks down at the cadavers already there, then lies down on the corpses and looks up at the sky.
The camera pans up to see her lying among the rotten corpses: an archaeological scene akin to those found in excavating multiple graves across the human past, as well as mass-graves resulting from war-time atrocities in recent decades. It is a scene of horror, and one so lost she will embrace the horror. She looks upwards at the trees, then shuts her eyes. The scene epitomises utter despair: the loss of hope and her wish to be one of the dead. Not undead, but fully dead: beyond life. Here is her nadir: in the grave she can stay, or rise and move on.
And yet she does rise up and return to Alexandria. From the grave, she finds hope. Not at first, but she does seek out Father Gabriel. He offers her nothing, but she does she claws back and finds hope in her friends and her new life. The grave embodies despair, but also it is the point from which hope is found.
A nice short parable for an election day in the UK…