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And... Here we go again!!!

Comic-Con Special Report: Fear the Living – ‘The Walking Dead Escape’ at PetCo Park 2014

Greetings and salutations fellow Fridge Nukers! Bradfield here, reporting from the communal grill in the beautiful scenic Terminus Community, located at the end of the world!

I have covered AMC’s The Walking Dead Escape at PetCo Park from the beginning. Since 2012, I have blocked out a couple hours from the usual Comic-Con grind to run like hell through an obstacle course peppered with zombies. I’ve always had a good time, and I’ve always volunteered to do it.

In truth, I could write another full length feature – which would be, more or less, like every feature on TWDE I’ve done in the past. The military fails, zombies attack, I run, and along the way, I tend to meet fellow superfans, even if the show-inspired reality of the course makes them act… slightly irrationally. I’ve done this for three years, but this year is the first time The Walking Dead Escape gave me nightmares afterward. So while my reviews have always been in the positive — genuinely so — 2014’s TWDE is a milestone.

[CAUTON: Spoilers ahead.]

In 2012, the show was still a little new, as was the Walking Dead Escape itself. It was definitely more of an obstacle course, beginning with a rope ladder climb over a pit of zombies. The rest of the run was similarly one part obstacle course, and one part experiencing the world of the show. Perhaps that was the problem – people were too busy trying to survive to stop and smell the decaying flesh. All the attention to detail was lost, mainly because it was so well done.

2013 was a big improvement on an already great show. For one, The Governor’s true colors had finally shown, so a zombie battle arena wasn’t out of place. Further, on a practical level, water stations manned by “FEMA volunteers” were added to the course, because let’s face it, running from the undead is thirsty work, and I’m assuming insurance premiums are high on such an attraction.

This year, TWDE finds itself in a similar position to 2012 – the plot points that led up to the season finale this year aren’t really the stuff of visceral entertainment. Further, though we know what Terminus is all about (those of us who read the comic and play the videogames had a fair idea), since the season ended on that point, we really don’t know how the Terminus “meat wagon” functions, nor do we have any idea how the community itself functions. Remember, Woodbury seemed like a perfectly functioning society on the surface…

So, between a rock and a plot-point, TWDE both repeated what has worked all along, but added a twist that, as I said above, gave me nightmares. In 2012 and 2013, “survivors” [those who chose to run among the zombies rather than observe the spectacle] were, at the end of the course, ushered to a decontamination tent where they/we were either categorized as “clear” or “infected,” and in the case of the latter, a quick spritz of atomized water “cured” you, and after receiving some complimentary swag, you proceeded to the Skybound Entertainment merchandise kiosk.

This year, about a quarter of the PetCo Park course was a survivor camp, and after being detained for a few uncomfortable minutes, your group is ushered into a tent where a congenial man in a black suit greets you:

“Congrathulations! The good news is that you made it…”

Relieved sighs all around.

“The bad news is that we have cameras stationed throughout this course. You all are infected.”

It gets tense again.

“But don’t worry, through those doors is the best care available. Before we take you to our staff, let’s pray…”

And before the “Amen,” survivors wielding machine guns mowed us down.

So, with that said, I’d like to turn over the reins to this hellbound hayride to NTF photo Robyn Bobby, who really should be getting combat pay. If a picture is worth a thousand words, the below is an 80,000 word essay.