The Walking Dead – Killer Within

The Walking Dead - Killer Within
The Walking Dead – Killer Within

With a gun in his small hand he looked down at his mother after she had just passed out from loss of blood during an impromptu C-section. Immediately after his sister was pulled out of his mother’s belly, he pointed his gun and her head and pulled the trigger. In the context of the story line of The Walking Dead, it was not an act murder. It was an act of mercy and necessity to prevent him and his father from experiencing further suffering and horror. The Walking Dead television series uses many unique situations and places that appear entertaining but when looked at deeper, they address many of the common fears and anxieties people deal with. The episode called Killer Within from season three encapsulates many of the series themes of fear and anxiety into one intense and provoking episode.

The Walking Dead television series starts out with a man, who was a police officer, named Rick frantically walking around his now vacant town full of dead bodies. He quickly learns that the world as he knew it had been over taken by zombies. As the series progresses he finds his wife and son, makes new friends, encounters enemies and kills lots of zombies and some people. The small group of people he forms experiences numerous of tragedies while wondering around the Atlanta area and the small towns around it. One of Rick’s major driving forces is his desire to protect his family, especially his pregnant wife and 11-year-old son, Carl. One of the challenges Rick faces apart from being routinely attacked by zombies, is the struggle to lead a small group of people during an extremely freighting situation while trying build a relationship with his son. As the series progresses his desire to connect more deeply with his wife takes priority over the need for him to bond with his son.

Season three starts out with the party of wonderers finding a prison full of zombies. They quickly created a plan and decided to use the prison as a safe place from the outside world of zombies. By time they make it to the prison Rick’s wife is full term and ready to her baby soon. After being able to kill the zombies that were in their way and seal off an area of the prison the group feels as though they are safe and can finally relax. Interestingly, a prison, which is thought of places of misery, has become a comfortable place for them to temporarily live. Through the entire series they live in fear of the zombies. The fear and anxiety they daily face has become their personal mental prisons while they physically hide within an actual prison that is surrounded by man-eating zombies.

Their entrapment by fear has naturally led them to further imprisoning themselves. Rick, being the ego type personality he is, with his strong sense of right and wrong continues to make extreme decisions putting his life in danger to keep the others safe. As everyone struggles to be free from harm, Rick further leads them into imprisonment. This continuous fleeing from the world in constant search of a safe place can be a symbolic reason why this series resonates with so many people. There is an aspect of what Rick is doing that people identify with in their lives. Americans appear to have an increase of anxiety from the uncertainty in the US economy coupled with the fear of another terrorist attack by an almost invisible enemy (Showalter).

In the last quarter of the show anxiety and fear reach an apex. During a verbal disagreement with a couple of surviving prisoners the prison alarm suddenly goes off letting out an extremely loud siren noise. The noise immediate attracts tons of zombies to the prison. Rick goes into a state panic to try to figure out how to turn the alarm off. Rick along with several other people rush through halls of the prison to find where they can shut the alarm off. Zombies are also beginning to flood into the prison. Rick had to leave his pregnant wife Laurie and his son Carl alone to find a way to cut off the alarm.

His son, Carl, continuously tries to impress his father; he wants to be like him. He walks around with a gun in his hand wearing his father’s hat. He was running with his mother and another woman to find a safe room to hide from the zombies. Suddenly, Laurie started going into labor. She took off her pants right in front of her son and started to try to push the baby out. Carl looked on with curiosity and helplessness. When the baby would not come out, Laurie decided they had to do a C-section. Laurie reached over to Carl and embraced him and told him that she loved him very much. The other woman asked Carl for his knife and used it to slice his mother’s belly open. Laurie passed out from the pain and Carl’s baby sister was pulled from his from mother.

In the show, everyone turns into a zombie unless their brain is destroyed, no matter how they die. There was no chance of being able to sew Laurie back up, she also had already lost too much blood, and it was as if she was already dead. Carl knew he did not want to see his mother as flesh eating zombie. A young boy of 11 years old, Carl had castration anxiety when his father came back into his life. After spending so much time with just his mother he wanted to bond with his dad. When he had the opportunity to prove to his father that he was a man and that he could permanently end his Oedipus complex, he took it (Berger 80).

Immediately after shooting his mother in the head young Carl walks towards the camera with a stone look on his face wearing his father’s hat. He had finally become like him, he was able to make a hard decision and follow through with it. Rick and the other guys figured out how to the stop the alarm. Everything calmed down for a moment. Everyone went to regroup outside. Some did not make it, Rick saw his son but overlooked him and was looking around for Laurie. When the woman who delivered walked out with the baby in her hands shaking her head side to side Rick knew. He stared right into his son’s eyes began crying as Carl stood there emotionless, the roles had reversed, now Carl was the strong one, no longer the boy attached to mommy.

The extreme situations of fear and anxiety that are riddled all through out The Walking Dead symbolized the fear of the unknown that so many people live with. The constant running and hiding the people do through out the show is very symbolic of how people run and hide from their fears. When people run from fear it further imprisons them just like how the characters end up in an actual prison. Carl’s actions in the Killer Within episode also demonstrate some of the extremely actions people are willing to take to overcome fears like castration anxiety.


Showalter, Elaine. “Our Age of Anxiety.” The Chronicle Review. The Chronicle of Higher Education, 08 Apr. 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2013.

Berger, Arthur Asa. Media Analysis Techniques. Thousand Oaks, Calif. [u.a.: Sage, 2005. Print.

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