In honor of our two week count down to the best written drama and my all-time favorite show on television, The Walking Dead, I thought I would open up some discussion on symbolism in this artfully crafted series. One thing that stands out is the choices of weapons for each character. When a warrior chooses a weapon it is almost certainly an extension of himself (or herself). Whether it is Batman and his batarang, Captain America and his shield or Thor and his hammer (although that one may have been more of a family thing) the weapons chosen are an extension of the warrior and his purpose. Should the occasion ever arise in which I myself should need to choose a weapon, I would most definitely choose twin broad swords…although when this should actually be needed, I remain uncertain.
The extension of warrior by weapon is no less obvious in The Walking Dead. There are so many options to cover even down to Merle Dixon’s bladed prosthetic – so appropriate for his weapon to be melded to his body. And his brother Daryl could have chosen nothing other than the “bad-ass” cross bow to go with his Harley and ripped leather coat.
Michonne for example – and her Katana. A sword is an intimate weapon. Perhaps not quite as much so as a dagger or knife, but far more intimate than a gun or crossbow. The sword is a weapon that moves as the body moves and has no other propulsion than that of human momentum. The sword forces the warrior closer to the target – often within the enemies striking range. The sword cannot be used at a distance. The warrior must be close enough to hear the enemy breathe, feel the heat radiating from the other body, and in this case, smell the gore of the walking dead. What an incredibly perfect weapon choice for Michonne who has always seemed more intimately entwined with the zombie apocalypse than most other characters. She is the character who lives among the walkers by disguising herself with her zombie pets. When the group scatters from the prison, it is from deep inside the throngs of a horde that Michonne has her rebirth. It is from within this horde she awakens and comes forth out of the dead with new found hope. But we can even see that in Alexandria, her Katana cannot stay mounted on a wall for long – warrior and weapon are connected.
Then there is Rick Grimes. Rick and his trusty revolver. At first Rick tries to keep up appearances of order and humanity by continuing to wear his sheriff uniform. As his new reality begins to take shape, he first lets go of his hat. A gift and symbol of manhood and
hope for his son. Then the shirt and pants are replaced. The one thing that remains a constant is his revolver. Even in the moments when others in the group are taking up arms with automatic weapons and rifles, Rick keeps his holster belted firmly around his waist, a reminder of who he is and that humanity will survive.
When the group arrives at the prison, Rick buries the revolver and with it, Sheriff Rick Grimes. We see Rick struggle internally with the loss of himself. He debates with Hershel the idea that they can never come back from the reality of their current situation or the things they have done to survive. Rick is eventually convinced that “the world needs Rick Grimes” the sheriff and he retrieves the weapon. Hershel’s hope is that Rick would find that hope that humanity will prevail. Instead, I think that the revolver becomes a new symbol for Rick. A reminder that the past is gone. The world has a new reality and that humanity has a whole new face.
And Carol and her tench knife. Talk about intimate weapons! Carol will never awaken from the apocalypse because she is born in the apocalypse. She has found her strength and her identity in this new reality. She cannot leave it outside the walls of Alexandria – it is part of her. The intimate choice of weapon brings her in direct contact with her foe. The strength she has drawn from the new world around her propels her forward in a way in which Carol herself seems to be the weapon and the trench knife an unnecessary redundancy.
But there are more! What character’s weapon choice stands out to you? When the zombie apocalypse befalls us, what will be your choice of weapon?
(The Walking Dead images – amc.com)