This Week’s Walking Dead Was Almost Censored, We Try To Figure Out Why
Near the end, where Eugene drops his big secret, something fans of Robert Kirkman’s comics knew was coming the moment the mullet-wearing scientist arrived, he also unleashes a few curse words. Without rewatching the episode, he says “bullshit” at least once. One, that’s an easy enough fix for the network if language is the issue. Hell, they probably shot multiple versions just in case they didn’t get the okay. It’s there mostly because it feels natural and true to the situation. This is a huge moment and anything less would have been wrong and not serious enough, like Rick’s, “They’re screwing with the wrong people,” at the end of season 4. That’s silly rather than menacing, and is another moment they did multiple takes of, including a more profane, and appropriate, version on the Blu-ray.
For all the blood and guts The Walking Dead shows, there is relatively little sex. Glenn and Maggie hump like rabbits, but it’s mostly implied and edited around. “Self Help,” however, shows some skin when Abraham and Rosita get it on in the library they hunker down in for the night. That said, it’s about as bland and tame a sex scene as you’ll ever come across, even on TV. All you see is Abraham’s naked back and Rosita’s exposed thigh. There’s nothing you don’t see 50 times a day in commercials for facial cleansers and body spray. If this is the reason, perhaps it has something to do with Eugene’s actions. As they’re doing it, he hides behind a bookshelf and watches the action. He’s definitely a creepy peeping Tom, but he’s not like actively masturbating or anything like that, and it’s not particularly shocking.
This brings us to the last real possibility: violence. There are some graphic zombie kills—this episode is a lot more head-stabby than many, as this crew uses knives and close quarters combat more than guns—but it’s nothing too remarkable. When Eugene blasts the walkers with a high-pressure water canon, splattering them everywhere, it’s gross as hell, but played more for laughs than anything. And again, it’s nothing you haven’t seen on the show dozens of times before, so it’s probably not that.
But there are two pieces of violence that could have raised the censor’s eyebrows. First, “Self Help” provides a look into Abraham’s past. We already knew he had a temper, but you see it in full effect during his early days, as he beats a man to death in a supermarket over a stray can of food in front of his wife and kids. It’s brutal, designed to illustrate what Abraham is capable of, and it does that well. It’s also quite graphic, and while The Walking Dead is full of violence, the realistic, human on human kind is largely handled off screen.
This violent outburst leads to point number two. When she sees what her husband can and is willing to do, Abraham’s wife is terrified and takes his kids and runs off in the middle of the night. He later, in a moment that pushes him to the brink of breaking, comes across their torn apart corpses in the grass. It’s a rough moment, seeing the body of two kids ripped to pieces in a field, but that’s mostly for what it does to Abraham, and it isn’t too out of the ordinary. We are talking about a show where the main character has twice shot little girls in the face (Rick kills a small child walker in the first episode, and shoots zombie Sophia in the forehead when she stumbles out of the barn in season 2).
The fact that there was even a discussion of censoring the episode seems ridiculous. Not only is the content of “Self Help” generally in line with what we’ve seen from the show since day one, but it airs late, contains ample warnings about its graphic nature, and as ubiquitous as The Walking Dead has become, it’s not too likely anyone is going to stumble in completely unaware and have their minds warped. Nor is it too far beyond much of what airs on TV these days.
Apparently the powers-that-be must have come to their senses, because it was allowed to go off without a hitch, and was well received by fans. For a show that likes to push the boundaries of what they can and can’t show on televison, it’s going to be interesting to see if this leads them to tone anything down in the future or not. Then again, maybe The Walking Dead will go in the exact opposite direction and shit will get crazy.