In “Nebraska,” Rick has followed Hershel to a bar in town, where Hershel confesses his world has been turned upside down.
Hershel: I didn’t want to believe you. You told me there was no cure, that these people were dead, not sick. I chose not to believe that. But when Shane shot Lou in the chest and she just kept coming, that’s when I knew what an ass I’d been, that Annette had been dead long ago and I was feeding a rotten corpse! That’s when I knew there was no hope. And when that little girl came out of the barn, the look on your face—I knew you knew it too. Right? There is no hope. And you know it now, like I do, don’t you.
Hershel: There is no hope for any of us.
Rick: Look, I’m done. I’m not doing this anymore, cleaning up after you. You know what the truth is? Nothing has changed. Death is death, it’s always been there, whether it’s from a heart attack, cancer, or a walker—what’s the difference?! You didn’t think it was hopeless before, did you?
But we lose something when we refuse to confront death: it grows in horror. While it makes me uncomfortable, I’ve grown to respect how The Walking Dead personifies death in a physical form, giving us the chance to face what we’ve allowed it to become in our culture: a rotting horror which we endlessly try to flee, kill, burn or bury. But it keeps on coming. Death eventually comes for us all—for those we love and ourselves. Sometimes it’s sudden, sometimes it’s expected. But it always comes. And there is no cure.
And when we’re finally faced with the reality of death—be it from illness, a first-hand experience, or an existential crises—like Hershel, some of us may find our world shattered. In the darkness, hope seems hard, if not impossible, to find. Rick knows what that feels like, and his response is a helpful one. Death is death. It has always been there—if we had hope before, what is keeping us from it now?
No evidence is ever fully, finally enough. Doubt wants always to consume, never to consummate. It clamors endlessly for an answer, and so drowns out any answer that might be given. It demands proof, but will doubt the proof proffered. Doubt, then, can become an appetite gone wrong; its craving increases the more we try to fill it.