One of the perks when writing books about zombies is the fact that I can research various subjects such as physics, epidemics and psychology. With each subject comes a set of fascinating facts I never knew, had I not looked into it on my own. The most interesting and morbid of all subjects I’ve had to study is the rate of decomposition of the dead, the various phases, and the ultimate appearance of the body weeks after the process had begun. It is not a subject for the faint of heart or for regular readers of my Monday Mayhem series to indulge in while having breakfast.
Having watched every episode of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, my perspective has changed from when I first became interested in the genre.
For instance, in the early years of my fixation with the undead, my focus fell on what the survivors had to do in order for them to stay alive. Coincidentally, the underlying theme in the early seasons of The Walking Dead is that of survival in the thick of a zombie apocalypse—even if no one really calls them zombies in the show. Survival means different things to different people. In the broad context of the show’s premise, survival means living another day without having had worried about a walker getting in the way. To this end, the survivors play a game of human vs. beast throughout the early part of the series.
As the years went on, however, and by no means would I compare my experience with others who follow the genre, I’ve noticed the plight of the survivors has not been against the walkers but against themselves. Nothing could be more evident of this fact than with last season’s premier when the survivors’ main enemy was a band of cannibals determined to make Rick and his crew their evening meal. For some, cannibalism may have crossed the line, but the ratings sure haven’t reflected that matter. If anything, the audience, including myself, keeps coming back for more.
When it comes to story, The Walking Dead, and now Fear the Walking Dead, has and is leading viewers through a range of emotions that only a good drama can deliver.
Getting back to my original thought about my education within the genre in relation to the shows—has anyone else noticed the walkers in The Walking Dead are different from when they hit the scene in the first episode? Recently, they’ve decomposed rapidly leaving no doubt they’re slowly dying but at a slower pace than otherwise any medical student would suggest. Their skin has lost much of its elasticity. Their color has turned darker. And they have become sluggish as opposed to their former selves, living or otherwise.
Yet, it leaves me wondering what the walkers will look like once the series is over. Will they explode like a bag a goo, as depicted in one episode of a walker trapped in a well? Or will they simply shrivel into a nub and crunch to their ultimate death?
I know that it’s a silly observation, but how can anyone ignore the basic levels of rigor? I can’t imagine what science will do to the walkers once it gets through with them.
Just a thought.
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What do you think will happen with the walkers when the series completes? Will the science of rigor finally take revenge on the undead?
10 thoughts on “Rigor”
All I can say is, Greg Nicotero has done an amazing job on TWD, and FTWD, of depicting the physical decline of the zombies over the span of six seasons!
Agreed. He surely has shown a versatility within his craft!
Blegh. One of my friends fancies being a mortician someday…she tried to persuade me to watch a time-lapse video of decomposition on YouTube…nope. Definitely nope. *gags* x_x
I saw that video. Hey it was research on my part. I found it fascinating nonetheless!
Decay will come from the chromosomes losing the quality of the telomeres, or chromosome ‘caps,’ which when damaged cause deterioration of the body’s cells every time they replicate. As the skin is an organ it will fail like any other organ, and that rate of decay will be affected by what’s going on with the telomeres.
At the opposite end of this phenomenon, if the telemeres never deteriorate the body’s cells will continue to replicate without any signs of ageing. (Is this why vampires can live forever?)
Interesting. So, if I got this straight–maintaining the telemeres would be the key to remaining young. Now I wonder if scientists can figure out a way to do that.
It’s risky. Telemeres that don’t deteriorate can contribute to the overproduction of cells, which leads to cancer!
I keep thinking of ‘Warm Bodies’ with the zombies and the bonies (spelling?). Maybe the decomposition is slower than a truly dead body. Like there’s this tiny, imperceptible spark of life that keeps a zombie going and reducing the rate at which they rot.
You never know, Charles. Perhaps it’s that spark of life that keeps them alive, but even more so, keeps them wanting to eat other people!
Kind of like if they keep eating, the spark will get bigger and they might become alive again?