Will 'The Walking Dead' turn into '3 Zombies and a Baby?'
[SPOILERS AHEAD! Those who don't want to know recent plot developments on "The Walking Dead" should avoid this post].
"Adventures in Babysitting" has nothing on "The Walking Dead."
The core survivors in the hugely popular AMC drama already had their hands full battling flesh-eating zombies-- and, sometimes, each other. But in their next episode, the crew will start facing perhaps their biggest dilemma.
And it’s clothed in diapers.
Yes, it’s a baby. Rick and his band of raggedy "walker" rights holed up in an abandoned prison now have a newborn to contend with -- a child who did not ask to be born into a zombie apocalypse. The baby is the offspring of Rick and Lori, who died in the last episode from blood loss after undergoing a crude C-section to save her baby.
And even though “The Walking Dead” is probably not in danger of turning into “Up All Night” or even "Zombie Fighters With Kids," the introduction of a wailing infant into the relentless bloody chaos could reflect a situation that has bested many a TV series: Potentially sparking story and logistical challenges that ultimately produce that TV cliche of the “Disappearing Baby” syndrome.
Although babies are cute and potent story devices, they often are too troublesome to fit into stories in which the problems of adults are the primary focus. The toddlers are frequently shoved into the background — or all but forgotten.
A few examples:
In “Breaking Bad,” the newborn of Walt and Skylar vanished for entire episodes as the parents accelerated their dive into the criminal underworld.
On “Dexter,” forensic investigator/serial killer Dexter Morgan was rarely shown dealing with life as a single parent to his infant son, who wound up in a puddle of blood after his mother was brutally murdered. Since Dexter was too busy chasing murderous evil-doers, the producers introduced a cute nanny/babysitter who apparently watched the boy day and night, but that apparently became too much to maintain: The tot this season was sent to Florida to live with his grandparents.
On “Nip/Tuck,” the FX series about two surgeons that ran from 2003 to 2010, the newborn baby of Sean and Julia who was born with a rare congenital malformation of the hands was little seen after a few episodes as the parents continued their outrageous emotional and sexual misadventures.
Even comedies such as “Up All Night,” “Raising Hope,” and “Modern Family,” where newborns or toddlers are pivotal characters, have trouble sustaining stories about the realistic -- and frequently mundane -- difficulties of parenting.
How "The Walking Dead" will deal with introducing a newborn in a post-apocalyptic world remains to be seen. But the scenario poses endless problems: how to deal with an infant's feeding, irregular sleep cycles and crying that can draw the attention of hungry “walkers."
And unlike those other shows, this child can’t be put in another room while the grown-ups grapple with their desperate plight. The baby will be in constant peril.
And even though keeping the child alive will obviously become a priority for the survivors, the alternative is even more troubling: A story resulting in the death of the baby could potentially alienate viewers already traumatized by a story that already offers little hope.