Did 'The Walking Dead' save a domestic violence victim's life?

Danai Gurira as Michonne in <em>The Walking Dead</em>. (Photo: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC)
Danai Gurira as Michonne in The Walking Dead. (Photo: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC)

To celebrate the Oct. 22 Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead — the series’ 100th episode — Yahoo Entertainment will be posting a new TWD-related story every day through the season opener.

We’ve all done it while watching The Walking Dead: wondered how we might react if we found ourselves in the kinds of dire situations our favorite characters find themselves in on a regular, sometimes daily, basis.

But for one TWD viewer, studying how Rick Grimes and his group deal with the dangers of the zombie apocalypse may have saved her life in the real world.

The Los Angeles Times’ new Dirty John podcast (which can also be read as a six-part text story) unfolds the haunting, true story of a woman named Debra Newell, who fell in love with and married a charming sociopath who would eventually menace Debra and her adult children and other family members.

The titular “Dirty John” is John Meehan, a man with a laundry list of crimes and a history of threatening violence against women he’d once wooed (until his true personality and personal and work histories were inevitably revealed).

Without spoiling the entire story — it’s a layered, complicated affair that spans a couple of generations and way too many victims — suffice it to say that Debra and John’s tumultuous story comes to a terrifying head, and Debra’s 25-year-old daughter, Terra, is the one who is about to suffer the worst consequences of her mother’s ill-fated romance.

John attacks Terra with a knife in her apartment complex parking lot, and as they struggle, his knife fortunately slips out of his hand and onto the ground right beside hers. She thinks of one thing: how one of her favorite TV shows, The Walking Dead, teaches the survival philosophy of “Kill or be killed” for life-threatening scenarios.

Times reporter Christopher Goffard writes, “Terra watched and rewatched every episode of The Walking Dead. She spoke of the series less as entertainment than as a primer on how to survive apocalyptic calamity. … She made careful note of why some characters lived and others perished. It had to do with vigilance and quick reflexes and the will to fight.

“She absorbed the first axiom of combat with zombies: They will keep trying to kill you until you destroy the head, by blade or screwdriver, machete or gun. She regarded the show as a fount of survival tricks. When a favorite character extricated himself from a bad spot by biting into an attacker’s jugular, she thought, ‘My teeth are a weapon.’ More than technique, she said, she took a certain mindset from the show: ‘Kill or be killed.’”

Credit: AMC
Credit: AMC

Again, no major spoilers, because Goffard’s compellingly told narrative is a deeply unsettling must-read, but to answer our own headline, yes, The Walking Dead definitely inspired brave Terra’s fight to save her own life.

The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres Oct. 22 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

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