Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Walking Dead Season 1, Episode 1: Days Gone Bye

Did you catch the new series The Walking Dead on AMC this past Halloween night? Holy crap, what a great start to a series! Run, don’t walk to your television receiving device, stat!

Based on Robert Kirkman’s excellent comic book series, it’s the story of a handful of people trying to survive after a zombie outbreak decimates society. The survivors soon find out that being eaten alive by the undead are the least of their problems. It’s well done, but very brutal and relentless, offering the characters little in the way of hope. I highly recommend it.

I had hoped that someone would make a Walking Dead movie, but then when AMC announced earlier this year that they were producing a TV series based on the comic, I was greatly disappointed. In fact, I may have even moaned a little like the undead. A zombie series, on TV? I could only imagine how watered-down it would be and how little it would resemble the source material.

I’m very happy to report I was wrong.

The Walking Dead series is everything you could want in a zombie TV show, every bit as violent and gory as the comic book. I’m not sure how they pulled this off on TV (even on cable) but I’m glad they did. The first episode, written and directed by Frank Darabont (who also wrote and directed The Mist), pulled no punches. The first five minutes set the tone for the series, as SPOILERS! our hero Rick Grimes, searching an abandoned service station for gas, is attacked by a little girl zombie and forced to shoot her through the head. Take that, Standards and Practices!

There were enough headshots, rotting corpses, splattering blood and organ feasting to satisfy even the most hardcore zombie fan. In fact I’d say it easily deserved an R rating.

But lest you think that blood and gore are all the show has to offer, there’s plenty of emotion and drama as well. SPOILER! The scene in which Rick’s neighbor tries to shoot his undead wife in the head but can’t bring himself to do it was particularly moving.

The first episode followed the comic very closely, but with a few changes and surprises. I see this as a good thing. Deviating slightly allows fans of the book (like me!) to still be occasionally surprised. Actually I’m not sure I want it to follow the comic verbatim, especially if it gets picked up for several more seasons. The whole Governor/Woodbury plotline was so horrific and unrelenting that it was tough to read in comic form; I’m not sure I could watch any of that acted out live.

It was great to see the various characters from the comic come to life. I had a little geek moment (and maybe even squealed a little) when I saw Glen, Andrea, Carl and Dale (complete with his hat!). Don’t get too attached to anyone though– if the series follows the comic, then no one is safe. No one. Any character can, and will be put through the ringer and killed off.

Geek alert: In the first episode, Rick’s son Carl appeared to be wearing a Science Dog t-shirt! Science Dog is the favorite comic of Mark Grayson, star of Invincible, one of the other 30 or 40 monthly titles that Robert Kirkman writes (no lie, I don't think the guy sleeps).

I’ve read many complaints online about the opening of the series being a ripoff of the movie 28 Days Later (Rick awakes from a coma in a deserted hospital and wanders through the empty streets, encountering the undead along the way). Creator Robert Kirkman explained that he wrote the first issue of the comic months before 28 Days was released in the states, but for some reason Image Comics delayed the premiere of the book so that it actually came out after. By then it was too late to do anything about it.

Frankly I’m weary of hearing that complaint; yes, the opening is very similar to 28 Days Later, but once Rick leaves the hospital the similarities end. It represents 1% of the series. Accept it and get over it, internet trolls. Besides, 28 Days Later didn’t invent the whole “hero wakes from a coma to find the world destroyed” trope in the first place. Day of the Triffids used it, as well as The Quiet Earth. There aren’t any new ideas under the sun by this point, kids.

The first season is only six episodes long, so hurry and catch it before it's gone! AMC said it was the highest rated show they've ever had, with over 5 million people watching. That's an incredible number for cable. Nothing's official yet, but at this point a second season is pretty much a given.


  1. I watched this show through my fingers while shouting at Rick to turn around. It was awesome! I haven't read the comics, but it sounds like we are in for a creepy, bloody treat! The zombie you have pictured here is the one that creeped me out the most.

  2. Haw! Glad to hear you liked it, even if you watched through your fingers! ;^)

    Yeah, that half-girl zombie in the park was very creepy. That scene where Rick finds her by the bike and then later goes back to put her out of her misery was right out of the comic, and very well done.


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