This is a follow-up post to a discussion of the post-apocalyptic encountering of graves, cemeteries and funerary landscapes in The Walking Dead Seasons 2-5.
In Season 1, there were no existing cemeteries or tombs. In Season 2, Rick’s group encounter a rural church with its churchyard. Then, in Season 3, the opening credits feature historic graves, perhaps as ‘ruins’ – the death of death – embodying the decay of our civilization. Graves and society both ‘return to nature’. This complements the portray of wood as the ‘wild’ where the unloved dead are discarded.
Then, in Season 4, we see interactions with a cemetery, its adjacent funeral home, and then Daryl even sleeping in a casket. This is the first sustained interaction with past funerary landscapes. Additionally, we then see Carol and Tyreese augment makeshift post-apocalyptic graves at a farmstead in the most disturbing episode of The Walking Dead.
This disturbing interaction between existing graves and new burial activities is sustained into the opening credits of Season 5, and St Sarah’s church provides the first established and monumentalised funerary landscape that Rick’s group adapt and augment themselves.
Seasons 6 and 7
While Rick’s group encounter another pre-existing, but post-apocalyptic, cemetery at Alexandria while Morgan is shown discovering and participating in developing a post-apocalyptic burial ground there are now pre-apocalypse cemeteries in Season 6 that I can see. Yet in Season 7, we once again encounter pre-apocalypse funerary material culture and monuments.
First, there is the incidental sign to a cemetery as Richard and Darrel walk along the road.
House and Graveyard
Second, there is the house where Carol lives in. We see the burial ground on repeated occasions: an old house and its monumental graves. American friends will need to advise me on just how common this is as a feature in parts of Virginia.
Poignantly, Carol despatches the woman who is inside. We must infer that she recognises her as the former-owner, not as just another anonymous member of the undead horde. Caorl digs a fresh grave and adds here remains to the graveyard outside before taking occupancy. Again, the treatment of the dead defines us as living people at the apocalypse. We are to take this as a cue that, despite all her actions, Carol maintains her ‘humanity’.
Meanwhile, those that show no respect for the dead, or the undead, are the absolute bad-guys. The Saviours treat living humans like cattle, they put the undead to work to guard their perimeters. Yet we also encounter a series of fresh and deliberately horrific interactions with pre-apocalyptic burial spaces and material cultures by the Saviours. A re-purposed statue of an angel – presumably dislocated from its original cemetery context – is seen with human hands suspended from it. Not only do the Saviours disrespect and dislocate memorials, they re-deploy a casket for the transportation of their live-victims/prisoners, to induce horror in their enemies…
Whereas Carol maintains her humanity, starkly materialised in their treatment of the living, the dead and – perhaps more than even this – the material traces of pre-apocalyptic funerary culture, the Saviours are portrayed as beyond saving.