Let’s embrace the fact that this month’s Archaeodeath has been heavily dominated by reviews of mortuary practices in TV shows and move straight on from the 6-episode Season 1 of Fear the Walking Dead to the mortuary practices that appear in the 15-episode Season 2. At risk of repetition, let me just make clear that once again, respect for the dead is held as the paramount civilized virtue in the show, distinguishing between the good guys who retain but adapt their moral code to the apocalypse, and the bad guys who lose or transform their relationship with the dead.
Season 1 ends with Travis shooting his former wife Liza in the head before she turns into one of the undead, having been bitten during their escape from the military compound. Season 2 picks up from where this left off, with the group attempting to transfer themselves to the yacht Abigail while the US airforce carpet bomb LA and the walking dead spill onto the beach.
Sixteen-year-old Chris Manawa mourns his mother’s body and refuses to leave it. Despite the undead crowding around them and attacking those guarding the body as they wait for Nick to return with the dinghy, they carry Liza’s body into the waves. Attacked still by the walking dead, they transfer the body onto the dinghy and take it to the Abigail. There it lies in state, a focus of reflection for the group, and Chris in particular, before being afforded a brief morning funeral led by Travis.
Chris is cracking up at the death of his mother and interrupts proceedings by prematurely approaching and tippling the trestle table upon which Liza’s shrouded body was laid so it slips off quickly into the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean. The correct aesthetic is achieved by letting it drop feet first, as was intended, but clearly the aspiration had been for a longer ceremony before the disposal of her remains. Her death is a wound that will not heal for Chris, and that his Dad pulled the trigger sparks a feud between father and son which proceeds through the season.
Now burial at sea has a long and complex history, with rituals enacted by mariners to ensure the dead are in fact dead, and are afforded a sealed, secure consignment. The treatment of Liza’s body matches this tradition in a simplified fashion, rather than her body being abandoned to the waves unwrapped, or left on the beach to rot or be eaten. Later in the season, the sea is repeatedly encountered as a place with the undead can still live on to float around and attack the living and to be washed up on the shores of islands. Beachs are thus portrays as places of death and discard: both human flotsam and jetsam. In contrast, Liza’s body is saved from this fate and afforded a proper interment. It is shown to plummet, as if weighed down in some fashion, into the depths, never to return. #
Liza’s burial at sea is represented as a fitting end for a loved one in the world where funerals require bodies, and bodies must be treated with care and respect as part of what it means to still retain one’s humanity in the face of mass-death and disaster. Yet, despite being gone, her death has enduring ramifications on the survivors: the manner of her death is not forgotten.