Sunday, October 31, 2010

Review - The Walking Dead Season 1 Episode 1 Days Gone Bye

I'm personally not a fan of horror movies. The idea of stressing myself for an extended period of time isn't appealing, and I've watched very, very few horror movies from beginning to end, mostly out of obligation. It's good, then, that The Walking Dead isn't a straight-up horror show.

Every second is not continually racketing up tension in anticipation of something jumping out. Zombies aren't constantly on screen chasing after humans. Far from it, The Walking Dead is about the people who are still out there, living in a world which is all but over. The presence of zombies is only there to provide the spark for what humans do.

And that's what sets apart AMC and select cable networks from other networks. Despite the unique setups, Mad Men is not just about an ad agency, Breaking Bad is not just about drug dealing, Rubicon is not just about a conspiracy, and The Walking Dead is not just about zombies. It all comes down to the unique characters, their different reactions to the situations they're in, and how they shape the world. The way these show do this is to vary the pacing, occasionally slowing down to extend the exposition and development of the characters.

After a shocking opening where a police officer is seen shooting a young zombie girl, the pilot, "Days Gone Bye" introduces the main character Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the police officer, who wakes up from a coma and finds himself in a deserted, rundown hospital. Soon, after running from some zombies, he finds Morgan (Lennie James) and Morgan's son Duane. Interesting, the middle part of the episode is dominated by James. Morgan knows his wife is a zombie, but can't get into the mindset to kill her. It's a disturbing situation. On one hand, his wife is recognizably his wife, and shooting his wife has to be psychologically damaging. On the other hand, shooting her would relieve her of the terrible condition. In the end, he manages to kill his wife, the mother of his child, and must bear the consequences.

While Rick doesn't go through anything to that degree, the realization that the world is over is dramatic enough. Coming out of the coma and not seeing zombies slowly take over, Rick is immediately saddled with a mountain of initial shock, unable to fathom what happened. By the time he decides to leave for Atlanta, Rick is able to bring himself to do what must be done--kill zombies. When he reaches Atlanta, though, all he finds are broken cars and even a tank, signs that even the military could do nothing to stop the onslaught. The worst part is that zombies quickly swarm him, literally ripping and eating his horse, before Rick hides in the tank, luckily hearing a friendly voice coming through the speakers.

Also introduced, though in lesser capacity, are the Rick's wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), his partner Shane (Jon Bernthal), and son Carl, who are still alive and in a camp outside of Atlanta. Unfortunately for Rick, Lori and Shane have this thing going on, presumably from the stress of everything going on and the belief that Rick's dead. It's unclear when Rick will reach them, but it's a safe bet to think that it'll be the first big arc.

Based on the 90-minute pilot, it looks like each episode will cover one volume. Given that there are currently almost 80 volumes and only 6 episodes this season, The Walking Dead could go on very long, which is surely good news.

Score: 9.5/10
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