It’s a topic that’s encouraged many a pub debate: in the event of a zombie apocalypse, where’s the best place to go? What sort of place would be secure and comfortable, able to support a group for a sustained period of time, but not somewhere you’ll be trapped for all eternity with no hope of escape?
In Shaun of the Dead, the answer is the pub. World War Z (the book) takes some of those assumptions of safe places (an island, a ship, far enough north so that the zombies freeze) and tells us that they aren’t so good after all. (According to the book, one of the best places you can go is a castle. Cool.) But what of The Walking Dead? We’ve seen a lot of settlements over the seasons, some of which have survived better than others. So let’s amend the debate a little: in the world of The Walking Dead, which settlement would you rather live in? Here’s a totally serious run-down; let me know your favourite in the comments!
Defensive properties: Poor. Vulnerable to a shuffling horde.
Leadership: Old Whatsisname wasn’t so bad was he? A bit old school, and a bit naïve, what with the whole ‘keep ’em in the barn, sure that will be fine’ mentality. Bonus points for some medical expertise though. (HERSHEL! That was his name, right? That seems so long ago.)
Quality of life: Ugh. Well, there’s food, I guess. And space for the campervan. But not everyone can fit in the house. Plus, BORING BEYOND ALL REASON.
Defensive properties: Very good! What kept people in works just as well at keeping people out. Uh, unless there’s a tank. Threats on the inside can be somewhat contained with all the interior doors.
Leadership: Rick is the boss, but he’s already struggling. Carol’s the silent enforcer. Don’t cough near Carol — she’ll put you down.
Quality of life: Those cells don’t look so comfy, though they are at least all indoors. But living so closely together, the germs spread quickly.
Defensive properties: Solid. Walls and guards stationed as lookout. Plenty of weapons.
Leadership: I’m Not A Pirate, I’m the Governor. Having a collection of zombie heads really isn’t a good sign. CoughPSYCHOCough.
Quality of life: This is a nice town, folks. Enough houses for everyone, but you have your own space. Shame about the leader. Oh, and having to hang out with Merle.
Defensive properties: Pretty good. The tracks are a possible vulnerability. Even though Carol destroyed this place single-handedly, that’s because she’s awesome, not because this was an easy target.
Leadership: Psychotic. Fall in line, or risk becoming dinner.
Quality of life: I guess the best you can say is that there is a steady supply of food, and a dedicated ‘upcycling’ regime. Not great for vegans.
Defensive properties: It kept out the living as well as the dead, so I guess it’s kind of OK?
Leadership: Does Gabriel count as a leader? If so, pre-epiphany Gabriel = ugh.
Quality of life: Who wants to sleep on a wooden pew? Not much room for comfort and supplies. Definitely just a temporary space.
Defensive properties: A handy elevator shaft keeps the zombies at bay.
Leadership: THE COPS HAVE GONE CRAZY!
Quality of life: In the city, so there are plenty of places to raid for food nearby. Plus, medical supplies and personnel are very useful. BUT: slavery.
Defensive properties: Like Woodbury, these are pretty good.
Leadership: A range of Ricks: Tough Love Rick, Clean-Shaven Rick, Broken Rick, Do What Must Be Done Rick, Loved Up With Michonne Rick, Looking Increasingly Doomed Rick, and Please Don’t Die And Leave Carl In Charge Rick. (Sorry, I made the last one up, as a little prayer.)
Quality of life: This is another nice town, if you like your Desperate Housewives suburbs. Major drawback: no mattresses. (You know the Overlords have strong feelings about getting a good night’s sleep.) You’d get attacked with alarming regularity here; your life expectancy’s not so good in Red Shirt City.
Defensive properties: Wooden fences are a bit more vulnerable, but they are better than nothing.
Leadership: Gregory the Weeny, or The Blessed Maggie. Could go either way.
Quality of life: I mean, it’s a bit feudal, isn’t it? The whole ‘country house for the leader, everyone else does the farming’ deal? But in the era of The Blessed Maggie, things might be about to change for the better. You have got the company of Ninja Jesus here too, which is a bonus. Look at his flowing locks; you know they have a generous stash of conditioner at the Hilltop.
Defensive properties: Solid. This is a big organisation with lots of properties, lots of weapons, and lots of soldiers. Hiding behind a great big bully also offers some kind of protection, but it also means that there are enemies among the living as well as the dead.
Leadership: I’m Negan and So Is My Wife. OK, he gets results, and there are times when a psychopath is useful, but this guy? THIS GUY? He’s the worst.
Quality of life: Depends on your status. Favourites get perks. Losers get their faces burned off. It’s a gamble. They have a lot of supplies, courtesy of all the stuff they steal from everyone else. But you’d have to listen to Negan’s monologues, all the live-long day. And that damn Easy Street song, on repeat.
Defensive properties: Er, those piles of junk are so big, even the undead stay away. This is one big health and safety hazard; sometimes that would work in your favour, I suppose. As long as you didn’t get impaled on something by accident.
Leadership: Jadis of the Wiggy Hair. Not to be trusted with your boyfriend.
Quality of life: You’d be living in a junkyard. I mean, glamorous it ain’t. Plus they have this whole ‘derelicte’ aesthetic going on; you’d have to get a silly haircut, and practice formation walking. And you’d have to learn the language. If taking and not bothering is your bag, this might be the place for you, but other than that? This place has little going for it.
Defensive properties: Their best defense is that they are hidden away. I’d prefer some walls. They are vulnerable to having all their weapons stolen by a bunch of entitled strangers who want to go to war.
Leadership: Viva la matriarchy! They have a tough stance on strangers though.
Quality of life: Plenty of seafood, and a comfy place to sleep. Could be worse.
My Winner: The Kingdom
Defensive properties: Like Woodbury and Alexandria, this settlement is pretty solid. I like their armed cavalry look, and their ferocious secret weapon.
Leadership: All hail King Ezekiel, a man so committed to method acting that he stays in character even when «the damned are upon us!» If you’re going to have a leader who monologues at you, let Improv Shakespeare do it. Benevolent, protective, pompous but for the greater good — plus he has a tiger.
Quality of life: It’s a little bit cult-like, but in an endearing way. You’d have a house, plenty of food, organised social events, healthcare… This is a good deal! Even Carol’s warming up to it. And Carol bakes good cookies, so she would be a valuable friend.
Massive shocker: the Brit opts for the monarchy! Get me a ticket to the Kingdom, and Long Live The King!