All Of Us Are Dead Life Lessons
Since it premiered on 28 January 2022, high school zombie apocalypse series All Of Us Are Dead has garnered 361 million hours of watchtime, topping the Netflix U.S charts by its 7th day. It was with bated breath that I ploughed through all 12 episodes on the edge of my seat, rooting for the motley gang of students to stay alive.
Truth be told, I spent much of the show amazed at Su-hyeok’s tireless legs — if you didn’t notice, he fires so many kicks at the zombies it would make Wong Fei Hong proud. While we await news of a second season (according to Director Lee Jae Kyu, it will centre around immortal and immune humans, with Su-hyeok still firmly Team Nam-ra), here are 10 life lessons with a side of bloodthirsty zombies.
Warning: All Of Us Are Dead spoilers ahead.
- All Of Us Are Dead Life Lessons
- 1. Nothing compares to the love of our family
- 2. Sacrifice is inevitable when it comes to our loved ones
- 3. Being selfish is a choice that we can avoid
- 4. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel
- 5. Wealth doesn’t always bring you happiness
- 6. We are always better when we work together as a team
- 7. Karma is a bitch
- 8. Being successful isn’t all there is to life
- 9. Life must go on in spite of all its ups and downs
- 10. We have to love ourselves, even when it feels like the world is against us
- All Of Us Are Dead Reminds Us Of Our Humanity
1. Nothing compares to the love of our family
So-ju gets shot while escaping from the quarantine camp to search for his daughter On-jo.
There’s nothing quite like the journey that Nam So-ju embarked on to get to his daughter On-jo that shows us the infinite depths of a parent’s love. We heaved a sigh of relief when the father-daughter duo reunite, albeit for the briefest of moments before he gave up his life to buy the high schoolers time to escape.
So-ju finally reunites with his daughter, at least for a while.
This father’s courageous journey saw him climbing over maximum-security walls, dodging bullets on land and underwater, getting shot, and trekking over the mountain to reach his child — his foresight in tying lengths of ribbon along the way later saves the teenagers, leading them to the safety of the quarantine camp.
My heart died a little when I saw the bite on So-ju’s hand, and realised this was the end of the road for him.
So-ju’s act of familial love is just one of many in All Of Us Are Dead that remind us to always treasure our parents and siblings, before it’s too late.
2. Sacrifice is inevitable when it comes to our loved ones
Every relationship demands sacrifice, as we learn throughout this zombie apocalypse. Perhaps one of the most striking examples of the strength we have in us to sacrifice ourselves for the people around us is when Joon-yeong throws himself out of their makeshift cage.
Joon-yeong makes the best of his remaining moments to help his friends get out alive.
The Science Club geek, sans spectacles by this time of the show, clambers out the moment he realises he’s doomed.
Between distracting the zombies, then throwing them off the cage, and pulling the other survivors in the direction of safety, he was heroic to the final moments of his sanity, as zombies continued to tear chunks out of him.
“Go home! Make it home!” he cried with his last breaths as I wept (inside) with his comic buddy Dae-su, knowing he would never see home again. Even if we learned nothing else, let’s strive to always be strong for the ones around us.
3. Being selfish is a choice that we can avoid
As much as we have the inner courage to be strong for the people around us, we find ourselves often giving in to selfish desires. It’s often a choice, and one that we can choose to avoid, as we learn from repeated incidents in All Of Us Are Dead.
Na-yeon wipes zombie blood into Gyeong-su’s open wound, pretending to care for him, but actually causing him to turn into a zombie.
We could perhaps blame the way Na-yeon was brought up for the way she ostracised Gyeong-su for being a ‘welfie’, or student on assistance. But it was her choice to deliberately infect him with zombie blood just to make a point, and prove she was right about him being infected — when he had gotten scratched saving all of them while they all stood shell shocked in the first place.
Na-yeon locking the door to the supplies room so the other survivors can’t find her — or get food and drinks.
She chose again, later on, to lock the door to the food and drink in the supplies room, even knowing that her classmates were hungry and thirsty. She might have been afraid of their censure, but let’s not forget that it was her actions that antagonised her to begin with. This TikToker suggests she deserves another chance, but honestly, my kindest inkling was to wish she had a less gruesome death.
And who could forget most of all when Cheol-su denied the presence of other survivors, even as the ragged band of students were banging on the doors to the rooftop? We see his moment of hesitation, and the indecision written on his face, as he repeatedly insists he’s alone, and ultimately dooms them. The choice to be selfish is ours, as much as it is in our hands to be selfless.
4. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel
The saying, “Where there is life, there is hope,” is an oft-quoted phrase to symbolise how, while we live, there will always be a better tomorrow at the end of any bad situation. Amidst the zombie outbreak in Hyosan, there’s always hope for the gang of students to make it through alive.
Nam-ra leaves the group when she struggles to control her desire to feed on them.
When Nam-ra willingly walks away into the unknown, half wild with her bloodlust, we fear for her. Like Su-hyeok and the rest, I held on to the hope that she starts a new life amongst the ruins of the town.
She makes a fire on the rooftop of the school in remembrance of a happy moment they shared: a literal beacon of hope that her friends make their way back to, and find her happier than they’ve ever seen her.
We find out that she’s found more halfbies, aka half-zombies like herself who retain a human conscience, with whom she finally finds belonging and acceptance. As she leaps off into the bleak winterscape, away from the bombed-out school building, we are reminded that we too, should always look for the light at the end of the tunnel.
5. Wealth doesn’t always bring you happiness
Madonna sang it best, that “we are living in a material world”; yet we see over and again in our lives how wealth doesn’t always bring happiness. This is highlighted in All Of Us Are Dead, where differences in social class did not determine who survived, and who didn’t.
Both Na-yeon and Nam-ra are seen to come from privileged backgrounds, where Nam-ra’s parents had contributed significantly enough to the school for her to be made Class President. In spite of all this, neither of these girls was happy.
Na-yeon has no friends amongst her class, driving them away with her entitled, antisocial behaviour, while Nam-ra is ostracised and not respected, always hiding away from the world with her music, and focused on remaining at the top of the class.
Nam-ra’s loneliness is almost heartwrenching when she confides in On-jo, saying it’s the first time she’s ever sat around a campfire with friends, and wishing they would be able to do it again.
Her happiness in the finale is palpable, even though she had nothing but her newfound group of halfbies. While not the happiest conclusion, the open ending gives me hope that better things are yet to be for her. It also reminded me that we should press pause on occasion, and take stock of what we have, rather than lose ourselves in the endless race to make more money.
6. We are always better when we work together as a team
It’s only through helping each other that the students managed to get to safety.
It’s especially in this climate where we’re WFH most of the time that All Of Us Are Dead is a timely reminder of how it’s better when we work together as a team. Gwi-nam as the lone wolf aside, the rest of the Hyosan High students only made it out through pooling their wits, talents, and strength to help one another.
The students throw a tarpaulin over the staircase to slow the ascent of the zombies to the roof.
“No matter what happens, don’t die, and don’t let anyone die,” Ms Park tells them before she runs out after Na-yeon. Without working together, the group of students would not have been able to battle their way from classroom to classroom, find Cheong-san in the music room, reach the roof, or survive the zombie attack on the way to the quarantine camp.
If you still aren’t convinced, think about when the group got split up on the mad rush up the hill in the rain. Panic ensued, and they lost more of their number.
7. Karma is a bitch
Gwi-nam: the vicious halfbie who never seems to stay dead.
Karma really is a bitch that will always sneak back up on you and take a great big bite from your behind. We’re definitely not advocating that you be the biggest baddest bully in the room a la Gwi-nam, even though it seems like he never gets his just deserts.
Cheol-su gets brutalised by Eun-ji when she meets him again in the quarantine camp.
Look at Cheol-su, who locked himself on the roof instead of accompanying Eun-ji when she walked back into the zombie-infested school to destroy the phones. Twice we see him choose to save himself rather than aid others — it’s no wonder that we watched with just the slightest feeling of schadenfreude when Eun-ji launched herself on him to satisfy her hunger.
Na-yeon met a gruesome end at Gwi-nam’s hands after everything she’d done.
Ji-min clearly isn’t a “no man left behind” sort of comrade, when she freaked out and left Hyo-ryeong, aka pink vest girl, lying fallen on the ground. So when Wu-jin and Ha-ri saved Hyo-ryeong, and Ji-min instead got lost and bitten, it was a solemn reminder for me to never ever be nasty to others, just in case.
8. Being successful isn’t all there is to life
We mentioned earlier that wealth doesn’t buy happiness; in the same vein, there’s more to life than being successful. Studying for the College Scholastic Ability Test, or CSAT, seemed like the most important thing in life for the high schoolers, but at the end of the day, none of it mattered when it boiled down to life or death.
Had Ha-ri not failed to qualify at her competition, she would never have been back at Hyosan High at the point of the zombie outbreak. Her teacher may have subjected her to a humiliating putdown on the bus, saying there would be no future for her, but let’s admit it: she was every bit the hero Katniss Everdeen was, and she kept herself and her fellow schoolmates alive — which IMO is way greater than making it to a national competition.
Jae-ik questioning Orangibberish on the wisdom of his actions.
Most of all, there’s Orangibberish, whose pursuit of internet fame saw him putting his life on the line to sneak into Hyosan just to create content for his fans, and level up his online personality. Had Jae-ik and Ho-cheol not stopped to save him, it’s most likely that we would have to bid farewell to Orangibberish. Is internet fame or success worth it? I really think not.
9. Life must go on in spite of all its ups and downs
The students prepare for their final showdown against the zombies on the street.
As the episodes of All Of Us Are Dead flashed across my screen, I truly felt like I’d watched the Hyosan High students grow in grit and tenacity. Losing one of their friends never gets easier, but where they initially cowered and hesitated to fight back against the zombies, they fought harder and fiercer to survive with each episode, without dwelling on their losses.
Cheong-san fought his classmates as they tried to take down his mother, who had turned into a zombie.
Like them, I feel like we need to know that there’s a season for everything: in this case a time to mourn, and a time to fight. Cheong-san delayed their escape when he saw his turned mother, and lost a hold on his sense of reason.
Cheong-san calling for his zombie-mother, trying to get through to her.
The ensuing altercation with the survivors, and his turning back to yell for his mother, while touching, drew the attention of the zombies, and wasted precious time that they could have spent running away.
On-jo sobbing when she finds the torch that So-ju dropped on his way to rescue her.
There’s also much to learn from On-jo’s setting aside her grief over losing So-ju, and later Cheong-san, to keep on fighting for her life. After all, they did sacrifice themselves so that she could continue living. No matter what trials come our way, we have to persevere, and never give up.
10. We have to love ourselves, even when it feels like the world is against us
Su-hyeok saves Eun-ji and Cheol-su from the bullies, but she despondently tells him she can’t leave with him, “because if I leave now, it’ll be worse [for me] tomorrow.”
We’ve been championing lessons from All Of Us Are Dead that remind us to keep living, and here’s one final one we all need reminding of: always love yourself, even when it feels like nobody is on your side. I must stress though, that there’s a thin line between that, and being selfish like Cheol-su.
Eun-ji initially sees no point in living when she finds out about the video that’s going to be circulated.
We see it in Eun-ji’s attempt to kill herself in despair, thinking it’s the end of the world to have everyone, including her mother, see a compromising video that was scheduled to be posted online as retribution for telling on the bullies.
It was heartbreaking to see how she was bullied in school; even more so when her teacher, who should have protected her, told her instead that she was the problem. She eventually gains the inhuman strength to fight her demons, although let’s be looking for that strength from within us IRL.
All Of Us Are Dead Reminds Us Of Our Humanity
All Of Us Are Dead is a social commentary in many ways, spotlighting many problems that plague Korean society and the world today. A zombie apocalypse may not be looming on our horizon, but we’ve only just scraped the surface of the lessons we can learn from this show.
With halfbies coming together under what we hope is Nam-ra’s leadership, and fan theories running wild speculating that Cheong-san is still alive, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we’ll have news of Season 2 soon.
All screenshots courtesy of Netflix.
This post was first published by Michelle Put on 17 February 2022 and last updated by Nicole Yong on 5 September 2023.