The Walking Dead – Season One Review
TITLE: The Walking Dead
STARRING: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn
FINALE DATE: December 6
By Lora Van Marel
Staff Writer, One-Woman Show
With huge successes like Mad Men and Breaking Bad under their belt, it’s no surprise that AMC came up with yet another incredibly popular show in The Walking Dead. With only six episodes, the show averaged about 5 million viewers a week.
Frank Darabont, the man behind Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, developed the show from the comic book series by Robert Kirkman. The show does stray from the comic book storyline fairly quickly, but in the beginning there are exact images taken from the comics that translated incredibly well on the screen. A large part of this is because Kirkman signed on as a producer and a writer for the show.
The story follows a small town lawman, Rick, as he wakes up in a deserted hospital. He quickly sees something is terribly wrong and as he stumbles out of the hospital he finds that what he knew as the world is gone. All he sees is death and destruction caused by, what he learns, is a zombie apocalypse.
Rick does find some living people, a man named Morgan and his son, hiding out in a house in Rick’s neighborhood. Morgan fills Rick in on the gory details of the past few weeks and Rick promptly decides to leave his town behind in search of his wife and son. After searching and barely surviving, Rick happens to stumble upon his wife, Lori, and their son, Carl, camping out in the woods with some other survivors outside of Atlanta.
In the beginning, the audience gets to experience this new world through Rick’s eyes. Viewers learn about what happened to the world at the same time Rick does. As more people are introduced into the story, this changes, and the audience learns things Rick doesn’t know about (yet). It’s a really fun way of storytelling because it creates more suspense. But by giving away some secrets that Rick hasn’t yet learned (like the affair his wife had with his deputy, Shane), viewers remain feeling empowered and knowledgeable.
What’s so interesting about this show in comparison to other zombie stories, is that is focuses more on human behavior and what people will do when they are put in horrific circumstances, as opposed to just the killing of zombies. Some of the best moments of the season came from episodes where the zombie violence was minimal and human interaction drove the plot. The audience discovers there is lot going on between all the survivors. There are secrets and betrayals, as well as racism and rage that just can’t be put aside, despite the horrible situation the characters find themselves in.
That isn’t to say that there isn’t zombie gore, because there’s lots of it. Almost any way you can think of to kill a zombie is attempted. There are guns, swords, baseball bats, and crossbows, all of which are used to kill when necessary. One of the most talked about episodes had Rick and another survivor, Glen, cover themselves in guts and pieces of a cut up zombie. They were masking their smell in death in hopes of being able to walk through a horde of zombies unnoticed.
The show isn’t perfect though. With so many characters it is difficult to give everyone enough screen time for the audience to care about their respective storyline. The episodes with less zombie action help with this situation, yet with close to 20 people to get to know and feel for it is hard for a connection to be built with everyone.
The season was a short one, with only six episodes, but it still managed to cover a lot of ground. Rick went from waking up in a hospital alone to traveling into a completely zombie-filled Atlanta, and finally into the woods with his family. Darabont did not want to leave the season as a cliffhanger because he didn’t know if the series would be coming back for a second season. This was a wise move. It made the show feel more like a miniseries, or a long movie, than a TV show. It also left the viewers with a little closure, and some hope for the survivors. That isn’t to say that he tied everything up nicely with a bow. There are still questions looming, which was the best way to end the season.
The Walking Dead is definitely worth investing some time in. The storytelling alone is satisfying, thrilling, and just plain entertaining. Add in some awesome zombie violence and survival techniques with the focus on the human side of things and you have a great show. There is the perfect balance of gruesome violence and human discussion to make this show appealing to both zombie-lovers and non-zombie lovers.
Luckily, AMC did renew the show for a second season, this time ordering 13 episodes. It gives Darabont a chance to pull more from Kirkman’s comics, but the show is definitely going in a different direction then the books, so it will be very intriguing to see where the two of them take the series in the future. The only drawback to the show’s renewal? It looks like we won’t see any new episodes until next fall. That’s a long time to wait to find out what exactly Rick and the gang are going to do.
Front page image from daemonstv.com.