Reviewing a serial that has reached its twenty-seventh episode in its
third season is not an easy task. If I am too critical, I run the risk of antagonizing the legions of fans of the series who
express their enthusiasm through various social media as well as on the various platforms on the serial's website (www.zombiepodcast.com).
With this in mind, I went back to the first episode, aired in 2009, to trace the
origins of the story. Set in Los Angeles, it is narrated by Michael (Jim Gleeson), an ex-army officer who has to cope with
the city being overrun by zombies. He and his two colleagues Angel (Shane Selk) and Saul (Nate Geez) have to learn to work
together as a team to try and save themselves, as well as look for other survivors. This is no easy task; while the three
men are not competitive per se, they have their own widely differing views as to the most prudent course of action.
However director KC Wayland does not judge any of them; he realizes that in extreme situations, conceptions of "reasonable"
and "unreasonably" behaviour fall by the wayside. We're Alive is thus a study in human relationship, as well as a
science fiction epic.
By the end of the first chapter, the three men have been joined by Pegs (Elisa Eliot)
and Riley (Claire Dodin), two female survivors of the disaster. The relationship between them and the three men is often stormy:
while the men often regard them either as sex-objects or flirts (with only one thing in mind), the women themselves are amused
by what they perceive as the men's quaintly old-fashioned conceptions of gender. They believe that everyone should be equal.
Wayland's production offers another interesting side-effect on the disaster: when 'normal' conceptions of 'maleness' and 'femaleness'
are destroyed, the protagonists start to re-examine one another's reactions.
While We're Alive offers some interesting comments on human nature,
it is at heart an exciting science fiction epic. Michael narrates the drama with the kind of world-weary cynicism normally
associated with classic detective fiction (e.g. Raymond Chandler), but this does not mean that he is not involved in trying
to save his world. On the contrary, his detachment emphasizes how difficult the task actually is; no one really knows how
to get rid of the zombies, or whether they can be entirely eliminated. The episodes become a matter of trial and error, where
the human beings try their best to survive in a limited space (a fifteen-storey building), while looking out for further invaders.
Sonically speaking, the drama is brilliantly illustrated with the sound of banging
doors, the click of safety-catched being removed and shots firing, contrasted with the uneathly gurgling sound of the zombies,
perpetually threatening the human beings.
We're Alive provides an object lesson in how to construct a serial podcast
that not only builds a substantial listener base, but knows how to maintain their interest. I'll certainly do my best to catch
up with the story, even though I know it will take some time to do so.