2x15 The Very Important Zombie Affair

Rewatching the Man from UNCLE

blog review uncle

I'm rewatching every episode of the Man from UNCLE series from start to finish. This review contains major spoilers for this episode.

The Very Important Zombie Affair isn't an amazing episode, but it's not bad for what it is. The plot is simple and the setup is predictable from the title. A practitioner of literal Voodoo is creating zombie-like people and nobody can figure out how it's possible. After all, voodoo is just a superstition...


...or is it?

Zombies are real

I don't know anything about the real world religion, and I assume neither did the producers of UNCLE. Assuming you're onboard for the usual American TV depiction of voodoo, this episode has a little something to say about hysteria.

The story is about "El Supremo", a Caribbean dictator who rules his populace partly by styling himself as an incarnation of a devil. He holds the powers of life and death, and life after death. He can transform his enemies into mindless and obedient servants, and he actually has a small plantation run by zombie workers.

Editor's note (60 years too late): They misspell Caribbean in the title card.

I remember how to spell Caribbean with this meaningless mnemonic: Car I be bean

When Delgado, an influential leader, rises up to challenge El Supremo, Delgado becomes a marked man. He receives a voodoo doll, and moments later is transformed into a subservient and mindless zombie pledging his political support to El Supremo.

image of Mrs. Delgado giving a decidedly non-voodoo evil eye to her husband

UNCLE comes to the rescue with a resolution that leans pretty heavily into the "is it real or is it superstition" mystery. But the solution for the El Supremo problem ends up clarifying the message: Sometimes weird stuff happens because hysteria makes it possible. Many years ago, I'd have doubted that any group of people could have mass delusions so powerful that some of them thought themselves to be cursed zombies with no will of their own. I'd have thought it ridiculous that somebody could fall down dead just because he believed somebody else had the power of striking him down. In a post-2020 world, though, I get it. This is stuff people in 1965 were dealing with, and it's stuff people in 2023 are dealing with. There are people whose need to believe in the impossible is so strong that they willingly allow impossible tragedy to happen around them and to them.

This isn't a great episode, but I thought its message was ultimately interesting. I might not watch it again, but I'm glad I saw it.

Lead image by Anthony DELANOIX under the terms of the Unsplash License. Modified by Seth in Inkscape.

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