Each week in “Walking with the Dead,” David Dunham reflects on the latest episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Not everything works out the way it’s supposed to.

Such a thought sounds like a massive understatement when you’re living in the world of The Walking Dead. The living dead eating their former loved ones is a graphic reminder that indeed not everything works out the way it’s supposed to. It’s a shocking experience to have our expectations totally blown apart. Sometimes, however, such shock is precisely what we want but could never imagine.

Cornelius Plantinga speaks of the curse on creation in terms of “a disruption of created harmony and then resistance to divine restoration of that harmony” (Not The Way It’s Supposed to Be, xii). The world is broken. Things are out of harmony and justice and rightness are often beyond the reach of our everyday experiences. Episode thirteen is a pointed depiction of this reality. Two little girls are dead. The one, suffering under the weight of her own mental illness, killed her sister and then was in turn shot by her adopted mother. It’s one of those episodes that leaves you speechless for a whole minute after it ends. Viewers should, of course know better; characters die in horrific, gut-wrenching ways all the time on this show. The characters themselves should know better. Our expectations are constantly at war with our hopes.

Carol wants to believe that Mika can survive in this world. She knows better than to believe it, though. She tells Mika the reason her daughter Sophia died is because she didn’t have a mean bone in her body. She tells Tyreese the same is true of Mika. Her only hope is to toughen up, so Carol sets out to teach her to fight, to kill. “You’re little and you’re sweet. Those are two things that can get you killed,” Carol says.

Mika, however, won’t change. She won’t let her experiences of this world change who she is. “I could never kill people. Killing people is wrong,” she says. When Carol tries to tell her that she has to do all sorts of evil things to survive in this world, Mika simply won’t listen. There’s no convincing her.

Mika is not like Carol, she’s not like her sister Lizzy. She wants to believe that she can live in this world and not be changed. When Carol tells her, “You’ve gotta do worse now,” Mika’s response is simply, “I don’t gotta.” Of course she is right, she doesn’t “gotta.” But to survive in that world it seems that the only choices are kill or be killed. Carol makes another emotional appeal, stating plainly, “It’s ugly, and it’s scary. And it does change you. But that’s how we get to be here. That’s the cost of growing up now.” But before she has a chance to grow up Mika is killed. She dies at the hands of her own sister.

Mika believed that things could possibly just work out. The little homestead in the woods is the realization of her hopes. It’s has a decent fence, fresh water, and deer roaming the woods. “My mom used to say things always have a way of working out,” she says as she runs up to the house with glee. It does look like a promising place. Even Tyreese can’t believe he’s standing in a living room. But things are not the way they are supposed to be. Lizzy’s mental illness is a reminder of this. The world is broken, it’s broken in ways that have nothing to do with the zombie apocalypse. There is a haunting question that this episode pummels us with at its end, “is there any hope?”

Paradise is lost for Tyreese and Carol. “We can’t stay here.” The beauty and serene landscape are nothing but reminders of death, sorrow, and disappointment. Their hopes are again dashed. Paradise is tainted. It is the “vandalizing of shalom,” as Plantinga calls it. But there is one ray of light that is admitted to the story, it’s small but strong. There is still some hope in this broken world, hope that things can yet be put right. It’s the light of forgiveness.

Experience tells us that when Carol confesses to Tyreese that she killed Karen and David the man is going to explode in a rage of fury. If he doesn’t kill Carol he’s going to at least try, and he’ll probably come pretty close. But things are not the way they are supposed to be. In fact mercy is always an unexpected shock. Mercy is the realization of our hopes over and against our expectations. Tyreese’s forgiveness is that ray of light piercing the darkness of this world. It’s a signal that maybe some of these surprises can still be good.

The world is not as it’s supposed to be. The de-shaloming of the world has left a mark. Living in this vandalized world does change you, it does affect you. Mika was wrong. We are not simply victims of the chaos, we are also contributors to it. Like Carol we are not only forced to act, we sometimes choose to act. Consistently, then, we find ourselves crying out for justice, crying out that things be made right again. But in this world where things are not as they should be, we find that mercy is also available. Such mercy is an indicator that someday we might yet see the world set right. “Not the way it’s supposed to be” is the way we live now, but shalom will be restored. Mercy is the surprise we want, but could never dream we’d find.


3 Comments

  1. Always look forward to your Walking Dead reviews. This was a difficult episode and appreciate your insight, especially the references to Plantinga’s book which is actually one of my favorites.

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