Alive and Well

Zombie stories are back (at least in my life). You know, there actually was a point in my life where I actually liked stories about the undead. Back in freshmen college I used to hang out with this friend and she was awfully obsessed…really obsessed with zombies. She got me watching all kinds of zombie films in all kinds of genre from the dark and gritty (Dawn of the Dead, 28 Days Later) to the lighthearted and fun (Zombieland, Shaun of the Dead). She made me watch the whole series of Resident Evil and she even made me play the videogame which I believe I talked about here. She was there when I was watched The Walking Dead for the first time. And guess who was with me when I watched Warm Bodies when it premiered (I would have been there when World War Z premiered had it not been for the fact that we weren’t on speaking terms because of some conflict that we had at that time lol).

I haven’t even told you weirdest part.

In our long walks around the city, she’d call dibs on every structure she would find sturdy or secure in case a zombie apocalypse comes. And then she’d go on and talk about this elaborate plan of hers on how she’s going to survive that first day of the outbreak.

She’s that weird which is why I don’t hang out with her anymore.

I’m kidding. I still tolerate her. She’s someplace faraway though, probably shoving her zombie obsession down on other people’s throats. Now that I think about her and where she is now, I don’t think she’ll survive the zombie apocalypse. For one thing, her ‘training’ in taekwondo is useless on zombies. The use of just your limbs to kill a zombie is not really practical and it consumes the energy you will have to conserve in order to survive the rest of the day. Another reason why she’ll die the first day of the outbreak is she cannot go outside the house without her make up on. And I don’t think make-up is the most practical thing to scavenge on a zombie apocalypse. I think she would rather die than go outside the house without her fake eyebrows.

Anyway, there was a point in my early college years that zombie films are EVERYWHERE. So there really was no reason not to be involved in this kind of genre. And like any other trend, it comes and goes. One moment it’s on every medium of storytelling and then everyone’s sick and tired of it. And the hype dies down.

And I won’t think about zombies for another five years.

So I was searching for podcasts on Spotify when I came across this radio drama called We’re Alive: A Story of Survival. I was caught up with work so I didn’t have the time research about it so I didn’t know what to expect. The premise was the same as any other zombie film–just another day at work and then BAM! commotion and confusion. The only difference in this story is that there were no visuals to guide me. My only source of information were the sounds of the actors, the background music and the foley.

In the first few minutes it was an okay story. It didn’t excite or interest me that much but I didn’t bother to change it because I was too busy with other things. It wasn’t until I was about to go home when I realized I’ve been listening to it the entire day. That’s when I decided it’s one of those stories you’d stick to until the very end.

It took me a marathon of almost 3 weeks to finish it. And in that 3 weeks I’ve come to love the characters just by hearing their voices. I’m so happy that I get to finish a story while doing work! Podcasts saves a LOT of time!

Now let’s move on to the actual reason why I’m here: It’s review time so SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

So the story is about these three soldiers Michael, Angel and Saul finding themselves in a zombie outbreak. As the story progresses, more characters are introduced until the whole show is an ensemble of emotions, issues and complicated decision makings. But it’s a fun ensemble and I found myself loving ALL the characters (except for Michael but let’s talk about him later).

There were problems in introducing the main plot–which is about finding the source of the outbreak and defeating the main antagonist (guy named Ink). First of all, the information about the main plot was stacked in one season making it too much for the audience to absorb. Second, it wasn’t given much importance until the very end of season 3. The build up was so abrupt, the climax didn’t really affect me. Yes, there were hints in the first few seasons but there wasn’t enough mystery for me to hold on to ‘the man with markings’.

But despite the problems with the main plot, the subplots compensated it. Each season’s plot were interesting and exciting and it really drove the characters to grow.

Another thing I found difficult was how time moves in the story. Sometimes I’d be surprised how long they’re stay in a particular place was and it desynchronizes (lol I’ve been playing too much Assassin’s Creed) the whole experience.

The use of journal reading was…okay. But I kinda wish they avoided that. Sure, it’s easier to convey emotion through narration (especially when a story is limited visually) but it removes the tension and it moves the audience further away from the situation.

My favorite thing about the series is the fact that it revolves around the people and not the outbreak. It talks about how it affects each individual and what it does to the community. The action scenes were great but there is something about the conflict among the characters that made me stick around. It was all about the people put in a situation that happens to be a zombie apocalypse.

Now let’s talk about of some the characters.

Michael is not my favorite. Aside from the fact that most of the story comes from his point of view, he wasn’t a very interesting character. Sure, there were details about his past but it didn’t really do much for me to empathize with him. And how he treated Pegs was really shitty.

I do appreciate his pressure and weight of being a leader of a community though. I love how the series portrayed him as a good but ineffective leader. Like, how he cared for the people not because they’re people but because it’s his duty as a soldier to protect them. And I love how that evolved as the series progress.

Angel was the type of character you’d be into for no apparent reason other than you pictured him in your mind as cute. I love how he started off a arrogant and learned to cool down and just be reliable. I didn’t like the way he died, though. It didn’t make sense keeping him alive and THEN just shooting him. His history involving Scratch was blurry and useless.

Saul and Lizzy were few of my favorite characters. I find them really cute together and their story arc was the most intense. I loved how far they’d go to keep each other alive (which was ironic since both of them died, eventually). I also liked that they had to die and leave behind a child that everyone feels protective of. They remind me a lot of Tonks and Lupin of the Harry Potter series.

Pegs was like the Sansa Stark of the story. She started off as this whiny, anti-gun gardener girl to this bad-ass helicopter pilot who stopped giving two shits about this guy who treated her poorly.

Riley is bad-ass. There’s not much to say except I didn’t really understand why she had to go on this fruitless effort with Burt to find Scratch. I didn’t expect her to reach this low point where she cared nothing but revenge. Revenge that didn’t really get to have a closure in the end.

I have this love-hate relationship with Burt. Although I didn’t approve some of his random decision making, he was really funny and I wish he could’ve had more sarcastic moments with Kelly. She’s another favorite because of her sarcasm and how much she’s changed in the series.

I guess I will have to criticize Datu’s character from a Filipino point-of-view. First of all, I loved that I felt represented having a character someone from my own country. Second, I kinda wished Datu was given more depth. That he’s not just some convenient maintenance guy who saves the day when something is broken. Third, I wish the series gave much thought on the fact that he is a father working overseas for his two children and doesn’t get to be with them in this end-of-the-world zombie apocalypse shit. Because Filipinos are all about family. Especially when one is working abroad. Fourth, his accent was a bit distracting.

Also, I din’t get why he had to choose Michael as the one to shoot him in case he’d turn. I don’t recall his significance in Datu’s life or any moment that these two characters shared.

Finally, let’s move on to CJ. She’s absolutely my favorite character. I love her attitude, her fierceness, her leadership and most of all I love how much she cared about her people. I love that behind the scenes, she get to spend time with them and get to know their story. Her reliability and leadership reminds me of Hermione except this girl has got attitude.

At first, I was sort of conflicted with her choices but as the story progress, I get to see where these choices come from. She understand the current situation but she also sees the bigger picture of it.

There was even a point where I shipped her with Saul. Not ship to the point I want them to end up together in the end but I just found their dynamic really endearing. It was on those Dunbar episodes with Victor and you know, for the first time ever Saul get to take a break from all the stress about Lizzy and his friends. And CJ gets to have people to watch movies with after being alone for months. Plus their sarcastic exchange was cute.

Speaking of, I kinda wish the series showed more mundane activities. Just those quiet moments where the characters are doing the most boring stuff. Just to give audience a time to breathe from the stress of the story.

Anyway I guess that’s about it. It was a great series–the kind of series you’d think about unexpectedly in the middle of the day. And really, I was glad I found it.

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