The Walking Dead Episode 4: Combat Analysis
In the final minutes of the fourth episode of The Walking Dead, viewers were treated to what many have been hotly anticipating since the beginning, a full-blown zombie mob assault. Thus far, we’ve been witness to the occasional engagement with a single walker or evasive measures taken by survivors in the abandoned city of Atlanta. Finally for the survivors, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide, and nothing to do but fight back.
While Rick and the rest of the extraction team try to locate the elusive and single-handed Merle (who apparently is skilled in close with a wrench) and make it back to home base, the other survivors are contending with the heat, and the instability it brings to members of the camp. There’s an encounter with another survivor group in the city, which, although completely distinct from the comic series, I thought was executed well. It’s no wonder, since Kirkman was the author of this episode.
Kirkman also lulls us into a deluded sense of security for the survivors. They’re fishing, building a roaring fire, quoting The Sound and The Fury; it’s just one long camping trip. Until it isn’t. Zombies pinpoint the camp location and launch into a nighttime raid. Mayhem erupts. Survivors are bitten. And weapons are pulled.
As to be expected, there’s a lot of gunplay in the attack scene, but there’s a fair amount of melee combat as well, since every survivor is not packing heat. The ubiquitous baseball bat once again takes high prominence as the mid-range weapon of choice, with several zombies brained in the encounter. There’s an interesting use of the weapon as a disengaging tool as well. As one zombie (played by FX guru Greg Nicotero) is attacking Amy, another survivor separates the two by clubbing the ghoul in the skull – a much safer tactic than physically pulling the attacker off her. Just be sure to aim carefully.
We also see some improvisation work from Daryl, using the butt of his shotgun as a bludgeon. This is a tactic I did not address in The Zombie Combat Manual, and have been asked about in subsequent discussions. My take on it is this: if you have no other choice, nothing else at your disposal, and need to execute a silent neutralization, then do what you must. Otherwise, I personally would not risk permanently damaging my rifle unnecessarily, not to mention the cleanup afterwards. Remember, that buttstock needs to be pressed up against your shoulder afterwards, close to your nostrils – better have the soap scrub handy.
The final point about the episode I’ll make is this: people often ask me what the big deal is about fighting a zombie. Aren’t they slow, mindless, and easy to avoid? The mob attack scene really illustrated well how harrowing undead combat can be. It’s dark, you’re in the woods, with zombies creeping in from all angles. There’s a danger of friendly fire from using your firearm, and it’s difficult to execute a flanking maneuver due to the scattered nature of your opponents.
It’s no question, zombie combat can be a bitch.