The zombies are back – those insatiable critters hounding the few remaining humans who are, in turn, trying to establish some sort of new and safe community time after time.
The Walking Dead (Sunday, AMC, 9 p.m.) returns. It's a ratings monster, a series that has grown in stature and has a fanatical following. A reason why is the show's deft blend of on-going horror story and sociological analysis. As much as fans adore the brutal battles with the ravenous "walkers," there's a fascinating subtext about people trying to rebuild a society that has been reduced to a brutal nothing.
For all its escapist elements, The Walking Dead is drenched in paranoia and anxiety – what if the structures of society evaporated? What would life be like in a postapocalyptic America where small communities live in fear and try to nourish their own ideas of civilized society? It's dystopian and disturbing drama. Already in the series we've seen the dramatization of the appeal of a fascist leader in such a work, with last season's journey into the society created by the Governor (David Morrissey).
The Governor will be back. Viewers know that because he wasn't wiped out at the end of last season. He's lurking out there, somewhere, with revenge on his mind, no doubt. And those zombies? Are they evolving, learning to prey on the existing humans with new and horrific tactics?
On the evidence available, this new season starts emphatically with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his group trying to live a peaceful, stable life in the prison that is home to them. They farm, try to stay trouble-free and do more than merely survive threats from outside. The prison community has grown larger with new arrivals, and Rick seems less intent on being a brave and fearless leader. After all, he's lost a great deal. The series is notorious for wiping out beloved characters, with little care for the affections of the viewers.
This cannot last, of course, this peace. Such is the dark view of the series that all attempts to create normalcy in a safe, peaceful society are doomed. The threats come from both within and without. Each season of the series has focused on the survivors' attempting to find safety in one location. There was the bleak haven of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there was Hershel's farm and then the prison, with a side trip to the strangeness of Woodbury, the little fascist state created by the Governor. As this season begins in a seemingly peaceful prison setting, one knows that awfulness is coming.
It isn't really odd that The Walking Dead is enormously popular. It's not just about those gory scenes of zombie attacks. It's about our deepest fear – the complete collapse of society. We've seen economic collapse in our lifetime and we worry about everything that sustains us collapsing too.
Also airing this weekend
16x9 (Saturday, Global, 7 p.m.) is Global's current-affairs magazine show and this week it has a report on something that has been bothering a lot of us – the decline in the bee population. Apparently they are "dying by the tens of millions and humans may be the ones to blame." Correspondent Jackson Proskow examines why "many scientists are blaming a dangerous pesticide, and some say the company that makes the pesticide used faulty science to get it approved in Canada."
The fifth estate (Saturday, CBC NN, 8 p.m.) looks at another issue that should bother many of us – the real price of cheap garments. The report by Mark Kelley, called Made in Bangladesh, begins by noting that clothes bound for the Canadian market were in the rubble of Rana Plaza, which collapsed earlier this year. Some Canadian companies reacted with shock and surprise. According to CBC, Kelley "tracked down workers who say they are still forced to make clothes for Canada in dangerous conditions. And Kelley goes behind bars for an exclusive interview with the jailed owner of one of the biggest factories inside Rana Plaza, who details his long-standing, multimillion-dollar connections to Canada."
Gideon's Army (Sunday, CBC NN, 10 p.m. on The Passionate Eye) is a Sundance winner directed and produced by Dawn Porter, which chronicles a group of young, idealistic lawyers in the Deep South of the United States who defend those who otherwise would not receive representation in court. The picture painted is grim and helps explain why the U.S. prison population is so extraordinarily high.
All times ET. Check local listings.