As The Walking Dead muddles its way through its final season, it has more or less fully entered its final storyline: The Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is unlike any community that The Walking Dead has encountered before: It’s a fully-functioning city of about 50,000 people with electricity and running water and bakeries and cops, petting zoos, fair rides, opulent parties, fully-operational hospitals, and cocaine (probably. Actually, don’t quote me on that last one).
Several of Alexandria’s former survivors — Carol, Daryl, Ezekiel, Magna, Jerry, Connie, Kelly, et. al — have taken up residence in the Commonwealth, and something about the place doesn’t sit well with them. That something is capitalism. Literally. “Worrying about money again is so weird,” Rosita says at one point.
Capitalism is the main villain in the final season of The Walking Dead.
The thing about The Commonwealth is that it is designed to reflect reality before the zombie apocalypse. Professions — and the amount of income accrued in those professions — have been held over from the before times. If you were a plumber before the zombies overran the planet, you’re a plumber in The Commonwealth. If you were a doctor or lawyer before, you are a doctor or lawyer now. If you were waitstaff, congratulations! You get to serve champagne to politicians during fancy galas. And, as we found out this week, there are no unions, collective bargaining agreements, or worker protections.
Say whatever else you want to say about the zombie apocalypse, but at least it’s largely egalitarian. It’s a place where someone like Daryl — a drifter in an abusive home with a racist brother — can become a leader, or where Michonne — who was some kind of middle-class academic in the before times — can become a katana-wielding warrior. People did what they were best at doing, everyone pitched in, and sometimes they’d die gnarly deaths after being eaten by zombies. C’est la vie.
That’s not how things work in The Commonwealth, and the Alexandrian survivors eye this community with skepticism — “This place is like a city from before,” Magna sneers — not because anyone has proven themselves to be evil, per se, but because their entire system is predicated upon an evil premise. You might guess that The Commonwealth’s version of capitalism is cartoonish, but it’s not. It may be smaller scale, but there’s nothing exaggerated about a system where its citizens are born into their socioeconomic class, where there’s very little opportunity for upward mobility, and where you’re surrounded by entitled assholes (the mayor’s son is the Martin Shkreli of The Commonwealth). It sounds a lot like America, and it is beginning to look like the proletarian Alexandrians are intent on bringing it down from the inside.
Interestingly, there is one area where capitalism doesn’t extend, and that is in the community’s health care. Ezekiel, who has cancer, is in desperate need of life-saving surgery, but there’s a waiting list and, so far as the show has presented, there is no preferential treatment for those of a higher station. However, as Carol is proving, there is plenty of opportunity for corruption, as the mayor’s chief of staff is accepting bribes from Carol in an effort to move Ezekiel up the waiting list.