Warning… this review will have some minor spoilers.
Last night, AMC premiered Frank Darabont’s zombie series The Walking Dead. Based on an ongoing 2003 comic book of the same title by Robert Kirkman, the series follows the story of Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln, the love lorn guy with cue cards in Love Actually), a southern Deputy Sheriff who, after waking up from a gun shot induced coma finds the hospital and city he is in destroyed… first he finds a half eaten corpse in the hall, then (in a horrifying scene) double doors locked from the outside with the warning “don’t open, dead inside”, a terrifying scene in a dark stairwell (the terror is that nothing happens… shhhhh.. I didn’t tell you that) and finally a parking lot of death rotting in the sun. The first zombie (here called “walkers”) he comes upon is almost comical in that it is a zombie from the waist up in a very bad state of decomposition. Nothing to have to run from… but wtf!?
Although not the first scene (that’s far more grim), it is the basic premise of how his adventure starts. The main motivation Grimes has is to find his wife and son. He knows (as much as he can) that they are alive… the trick will be surviving long enough to find them.
AMC is obviously taking a few chances by going with a zombie series. For starters, the whole zombie thing seems to be a bit overplayed these days. Yes, I am a fan… but even a fan can get burnt out. But The Walking Dead is smart in that the main thrust of the show is not the gore (although there is plenty of that to go around) and does not appear to even be the zombies… it’s in how the survivors cope. How do you stay alive and not become a monster yourself in the process? I have not read the comic series, but from what I’ve read about it, the story is largely character driven… and from what I know of AMC and their current programming, this is where they excel.
Frank Darabont, most famous for directing The Shawshank Redemption, brings with him a level of expertise to film making and AMC has supplied him with not only an impressive budget (the production value on this seems to top most feature film of the genre) but with the go ahead to basically do as he pleases. And they appear to be pulling zero punches. If you are at all squeamish with blood, viscera and brain matter, this is not the show for you. If that is your thing… than this may very well be your next new thing.
The pacing, although seemingly slow if you are interested in a more kinetic horror experience, is fantastic. It allows the characters to breathe a bit and to allow you to get to know them. Rick Grimes never seems to be comfortable with his new surroundings, yet he manages to keep it together enough to keep going… possibly giving us insight as to how he and others are staying alive and will either continue to, or to become another meals for some very hungry undead.
Other characters featured in the hour and a half series premiere are Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), his partner; Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and his son, a pair who have been living in Rick’s next door neighbor’s house and have some of the best, and most emotional scenes; his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and his son Carl (Chandler Riggs), who, although Grimes is unaware of their whereabouts we know where they are… and we know Lori is now with Shane. Oh the scandal of it all….
Towards the end of the episode we find Rick moving into Atlanta in search of other survivors on horseback. What follows are some of the most frightening and tense scenes I’ve seen anywhere. Although this show keeps the slow shambling zombies… what happens in the city is the perfect example of how even a slow zombie in mass is a deadly thing. And riding a horse may be the worst idea anyone can have when meat is what’s for dinner….
Awesome character development, great production value, impressive story and a genre previously unknown to television… I am very much looking forward to what this series has in store for it. I know it sticks closely with the comic books, but I also know it adds characters and story-lines as well as excises others… and the author wrote the fourth episode… so this has a great deal going for it. This will be a six episode season… with a virtual guarantee of a second season. They are having a contest with six eventual winners to be a zombie in season two (yes, I entered)… so that should be a good sign.
Hopefully you will enjoy this show and I look forward to seeing where this goes. I’m tempted to start reading the books… but perhaps I’ll allow myself some surprise.
Suddenly craving a steak… very rare,
Cornelius J. Blahg