How a Show about Zombies Helped Me Recover from Having Watched That Show about Meth Dealers

by | Oct 22, 2013 | Catholic Mom TV Review, Pop Culture, Zombies | 16 comments

My opinion about Breaking Bad is well known. But I’d hate for you to think it was just a delicate constitution that kept me from enjoying Walter White’s descent. The three episodes of that show that I watched were gruesome in parts, for sure. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem for me was, there wasn’t a hero. It was all bad guys and no good guys. All giving in to our more base instincts and no triumphing over them. Sure, it showed realistic consequences to evil choices, but that’s all it showed. And that just doesn’t sit well with me or square with my experience of real life.

For days after watching it, I couldn’t shake that feeling of hopelessness. That feeling that perhaps we really are all that awful. Perhaps the only reason my husband isn’t cooking meth and dissolving dead bodies in the tub is because we managed to pay all our bills last month. But what about next month? What then?! And maybe some snide comment by me in a moment of pettiness will be what drove him to it. Because we are all so very terrible. And base. And weak.

But I was able to snap out of it eventually, because I DON’T really think that how Walter White responded to hardship is how I would respond, or how you would, or how almost any of us would respond. Because I happen to think that, deep down, most of us are pretty awesome.

And the only thing keeping that from shining through is that our lives are pretty boring. That’s why I love, love, love dystopias in general and zombie apocalypses in particular. Seriously, there is no better place than a zombie apocalypse to prove how secretly heroic we really are.

That guy at the grocery store who let you go ahead of him in line because your baby was fussing even though you have a whole cart full of stuff and all he had was some meat and a six-pack? In a zombie apocalypse that guy totally just slid across the counter and used a broken beer bottle to stab the zombie who was about to nom your toddler. Because he might be wearing a slightly profane t-shirt, but he is a HERO underneath.

And it goes both ways. That surfer who took Kelly’s handicapped parking spot? He totally gets eaten by zombies. (But in real life I wish him all the best and let’s all say a quick prayer for him, shall we?)

If (and bear with me here, because this is about to get weird), if I had access to one of those holodeck things like they have on the Enterprise, I would not use it to go to a pristine beach in the Bahamas, or to sit at the feet of holo-Jesus, I would TOTALLY go to a zombie apocalypse. With my husband. And the kids. And we would survive on our chickens’ eggs and the fruits of our garden (which grows way better in my fantasy world than it does in real life) and we would totally kick some butts and take some names. Although with zombies, I guess name-taking probably wouldn’t work, since they can’t talk and we’d be better off stabbing them in the brain than kicking them anywhere. But whatever. We would be awesome.

We would make sacrifices, we would help people in need, we would be heroic. And so would a lot of other people. 

And that’s why I think The Walking Dead is so much more realistic than Breaking Bad and why watching it makes me want to jump out of bed in the morning, do a Tiger Woods whole-arm-pump and attack the day with an enthusiasm heretofore not seen by mankind. Breaking Bad made me want to stay in bed all day and eat ice cream because, really, what’s the point?

The Walking Dead shows regular people rising to the occasion in crazy circumstances not of their own doing. It shows people coming together and helping each other in a crisis. It shows us the best we can be.

To be fair, there are also some people who do not rise to the occasion. There are realistic human failures. There are people who fail and are redeemed, and people who fail and are not redeemed. But I think it presents a much more realistic cross-section of humanity.

And then there are the zombies. Zombies are the perfect adversary. Back in the day you could go to war against another country and hate ’em, hate all of ’em. But we can’t do that now, we understand that they are human beings too, fighting for what they believe, and we know that their countries are filled with innocent noncombatants. We can’t even be sure of being able to hate alien invaders. Remember Ender’s Game? Just when we were feeling awesome about having totally destroyed the “bugs,” he writes a sequel
and it turns out we just didn’t understand each other. Oops.

Even drug dealing terrorists probably have mothers who love them.

But zombies? Oh, we can hate zombies. We can kill zombies. Zombies are not nuanced. They do not have better natures to which we ought to appeal. We must kill zombies. For humanity. 

If you choose to watch it, you should be aware that The Walking Dead is very, very, very gorey. Entrails abound. I watched it on my iPad so I could cover it with my hand when things got rough, which was a lot.

The Walking Dead is not a Catholic show. The second, I think, episode is kinda racy, characters we like engage in premarital sex, use contraception, and consider abortion. But I felt that each of those issues was addressed in a way that I could handle.

I really enjoyed the first and second seasons. They felt very real to me. In the second season especially, there is a plotline involving characters who have never had religion struggling to find and understand God in the tragedy and chaos of their changed world. It’s just a nod to it, but it’s something that should be there, and it is.

For me, the third season got pretty weird. It has a Lost-like quality of mysterious phone calls and ghostly visions and a bad guy with an eye patch who is the kind and benelovent leader and protector of a town by day and a kidnapping murdering head-collecting psychopath by night. I’m pretty sure that guy doesn’t exist in real life. Also, our hero gets conflicted and a bit morally relativistic. I do not like my heroes conflicted (<shaking fist> I’m talking to you new Superman). But they managed to pull me back in by the end of the season and I can’t wait to see what happens in season four, which premiered last week and is available online for those of us without cable.

My kids keep wanting to eat and be taken to soccer practice, so I haven’t seen either of the first two episodes yet. But I’m hoping for more awesome. The first three seasons are available on Netflix.

In conclusion,

Breaking Bad =

The Walking Dead = 
But it’s gorey. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
update, 2am: embroidering liturgical garments for Anita’s godfather who is in the seminary, just finished the first two episodes of season 4. Love, redemption, thumbs up for babies, kids actually telling their parents stuff, parents actually taking advice from their kids, a new twist on zombification, our hero is back (mostly) . . . so far so good! Off to bed.


  1. Hannah

    I LOVE how you sum up the difference, not making you want to get up in the morning, and jumping out of bed.
    We. need. heroes.
    Kind of the human equivalent of the C.S.Lewis quote "It matters more that heaven should exist, than if we should ever get there", just knowing that there is a heaven, there is goodness, there is heroism, there is self sacrifice, somehow makes the rest bearable.
    I can't bear zombies, but I'm glad you found a show with heroism. Maybe I'll go and reread Lord of the Rings….
    btw you should totally watch Battle: Los Angeles. It's an alien-invasion type movie that the reviewers mostly hated for having heroism in it. I am a total scaredy cat, but I loved that movie. (just shut my eyes a lot). GO WATCH IT!!!
    And have you seen I am Legend (the one with Will Smith in it) its really interesting in that its a remake of a very un-Christian apologetic, and turns it on its head. Its good. Easily terrified me is scarred for life, will never see it again, but its actually really really good.

  2. Anonymous

    "They do not have better natures to which we ought to appeal. We must kill zombies. For humanity."

    This made me think of Sean of the Dead:

    Hilarious. With a neat little payoff at the end. Always watch it all the way through whenever it is on TV.


    • Kendra

      I really want to see that movie, but it's not on netflix!

    • Ashley Sue

      Its a great dry movie with plenty of personal growth but in a non annoying way.

  3. Erica Saint

    Chris and I love The Walking Dead. I agree that season three was the worst season. The Governor and Rick's issues made it hard to watch sometimes. I have enjoyed the first two episodes of season four.

  4. wanderlust88

    I also get very excited thinking about how victorious I would be in a post zombie apocolypse world. I really need to get some chickens…

  5. Anonymous

    TWD fan here, though I never could quite articulate why quite so well as you have done it. Or why I am practically on the edge of my seat some episodes, muttering under my breath at Rick to "C'mon, do the right thing." I'll definitely share your post with friends and family who watch the show or just wonder why the rest of us do.

    And may I say that I love that something like this even enters your brain … and that you see fit to share it with all of us? It's refreshing when smart, faithful, engaging Catholics step away from exclusively holy topics and hash out (the sometimes inconsequential) curiosities of this culture we all have in common.

    Any chance you'll do one on Mad Men?

    • Kendra


      I can't write about Mad Men because I've never watched it. I love the era and the clothes and all that, but my understanding is that it's way more Breaking Bad than The Walking Dead, in that it's the story of the hero's fall. I just got the sense I wouldn't like it.

      Am I wrong? Is there a good guy? And equally importantly, is it on Netflix?

    • Ellen Johnson

      Yup, it's on Netflix. But no, there's not really any completely "good" guy. Everyone is very complicated.

  6. Elizabeth C

    Oh THAT show! I had a nice conversation with a priest/friend regarding my TV guilt and The Walking Dead just this past Sunday. I spend most of the time watching it with my head turn. So I guess I don't actually 'watch' it. But, I so agree about the heroes, the chose each character faces in those crazy moments of life and death.

    What was it that the creepy lady in the forest asked the hero of the show in the last episode? Something like, "Do you think we come back from the things we do?" Isn't that a great Catholic question? Yes, I would tell her. We do if we are fully remorseful, repent, seek forgiveness in the sacrament of reconciliation, and amend our lives.

    Whoa… The Walking Dead can be a total Catholic show… LOL (a stretch perhaps).

  7. Meghann

    I LOVED this post. I liked both shows, but I completely relate to the feelings involved. Awesome!

  8. Renee

    Would love to see the liturgical garments you're embroidering!

  9. Diane Jaquay

    I love TWD and BB, and Mad Men (AMC ROCKS and puts out the best shows on TV imho!) It's all about the writing for me, interesting stories with compelling characters, and all 3 of these shows achieve that. Jen from Conversion Diary wrote a piece about Breaking Bad (actually that's how I discovered her blog), that I thought was very insightful.

  10. Mark

    Hi Kendra,
    I was wondering how you were able to view more than one episode on-line at AMC if you do not have a cable account. When my husband I tried to view the first two episodes of season four on-line, the first episode was worked and when we tried to start up the second, we were prompted to choose a cable provider and log-in to our account to view. Did this happen for you? Thanks for the help!
    God Bless You,

    • Kendra

      Yes, I realized that after I wrote this, I'll have to update it. Bummer! I'm hoping they'll get this season on Netflix eventually.

    • Mark

      Thanks for the reply! I am just fine having to wait months (and months and months) for Netflix to get it. I just thought *maybe* there was a way to watch season four sooner. Thanks for your blog and God bless you in your last weeks of pregnancy!
      God Bless You,

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Hi! I’m Kendra.

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