Ends, Means & Zombies

by Jonah Goldberg

Note: Spoilers ahead.

It’s been a while since there’s been any zombie blogging around here. I think the last time we talked about The Walking Dead, David French and others were complaining that the show had become too dark. But I haven’t given up on TWD, and, despite some clunky storytelling here and there, I think this season has been pretty good.

Oh, by the way, did anyone notice that lying people into war is cool again? The Walking Dead has already made its peace with the logic of preemptive war (both with the Governor and then, really, with the Savior outpost that Rick & Co. thought was the entirety of Negan’s empire). Some people complain about it, but the interesting thing is that most people seem to be fine with it.

There’s an analogy to torture. As I’ve written before, many people understandably and defensibly argue that torture in and of itself is always wrong and evil. I don’t subscribe to that categorical view for the simple reason that it’s easy to imagine situations where torture would be, at least, a necessary evil.

But I don’t even have to imagine it, Hollywood does that for us routinely. Scriptwriters frequently devise scenarios where the audience clearly wants the hero to beat some important piece of information out of the bad guy. My point isn’t that we should allow torture because there’s a compelling fictional case for it in reruns of 24. My point is just that if you get to create your own facts, it’s easy to create scenarios where it’s right to do bad things. You can say “it’s just a movie” or “it’s just a TV show” but law schools teach by creating hypothetical situations every day.

Anyway, in the second-to-most recent episode (“Bury Me Here”), Richard (a “knight” of the Kingdom) basically creates an elaborate ruse to convince Ezekiel to go to war. It involves, among other things, stealing a cantaloupe — turning a melon into the equivalent of the Ems Telegram. Until recently, Morgan had been the conscience of the show, or at least the champion of pacifism. Now, he’s not only in on the deception, he murders someone to see that Richard’s plan comes to fruition (people who’ve seen the episode will nod to my spoiler-avoidance on this plot point).

It seems to me that Richard is right. The Saviors must be defeated. Negan must be killed. Those are worthy and necessary ends. The question, therefore, becomes “What means are justified to achieve them?”

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