To an American audience that is disillusioned with for-the-other-guy capitalism but hasn’t really thought the alternatives through, the opening scene is what their fantasy vision of Central Planning looks like: smiles, local produce and from each according to his ability, yay, though when Crazy Eye Patch Guy tried it last season it seemed fascist and stifling, and when Old Man Bible tried it the season before that we were worried the women weren’t being actualized and empowered, but you should observe that in every version it’s a puppet council run by a dictator, high fences, no babies for anyone but the ruling class, and lots and lots of guns.
Rick tells his son “don’t name the pig, it’s not a pet, it’s our food,” which is translated, “don’t get too attached to living things, they will die” which is good advice when you want to disavow its living-ness so you can eat it, but then the son reverses this advice (“don’t name the walkers, we’re their food”) and these mirror images suggest the original repressed statement that was distorted into the other two: death never bothers to name us.
What’s been disavowed in this show has always been the inevitability of death, which is why it’s depicted as a temporary shuffling aberration you can fight against, or “An Accident”, or the utopian fantasy of “starting over”; and the couple’s relief that she’s not pregnant “in a world like this” requires the unique logic: “my fussy brain requires everything to be adjusted so, a checklist run, nothing out of place, in order for me to act (or fall asleep at night), and anyway ordinarily I live forever but right now things are bleak, how can I raise my replacement when I could actually be replaced at any moment– sort of tempting fate, no?”
A fetish isn’t something you want but something that substitutes for what has been irrevocably lost (like looks), so that while you are fully aware of the reality of the loss you get to disavow it, live like “a part of it is still here;” and in the case of the episode the pig is the fetish permitting the disavowal of death all around them, and when it dies NOT by zombies or bullets the disavowal disintegrates and Rick sees all too clearly that everything dies anyway, and he cries, first time in four seasons he took death seriously, no yelling, no rages, no hallucinations, no me me me– for fifteen seconds only he saw reality: you can’t come back again.
“You call them ‘walkers’,” says a crazy woman with quiet disgust and incredulity, call them by their living name or call them what they are, but bless me St. Patrick what kind of denial do you have to be in to pretend you don’t know exactly what it is you’re looking at– and that it is inevitable?