The Walking Dead has Plenty of Brains, Even a Bit of Heart

Hearing that the king-making network AMC was letting loose a show about a post-apocalyptic, zombie-plagued world as its next original series was nothing short of exhilarating. For a  network to take such a big risk on a genre show that’s never been tried before on this level is commendable, but for it to be AMC, producer of such quality shows as Mad Men and Breaking Bad is even more impressive, and to say I had high expectations going into The Walking Dead last night is a bit of an understatement.

Did it live up to them, uh, so to speak? Yes, and finally, I can say with confidence a new series has potential, and with it, my full attention. I stupidly thought that NBC of all places would be able to hold my interest after a pretty good pilot for The Event, but I have much more faith that I’m going to be watching The Walking Dead for as long as it’s on.

The opening is standard for a zombie story. Perhaps too standard. A man wakes up in an empty hospital, starting roaming the barren streets littered with the dead, and encounters zombies who chase him until he runs into surviving humans that tell him what’s going on.  Yes, it’s the opening of The Walking Dead AND 28 Days Later to a tee, but thankfully the similarities end there, and the show becomes its own.

This looks familiar

Brit Andrew Lincoln plays Rick Grimes, a Sheriff’s Deputy who awakes to a changed world. He was shot in the line of duty, but when he is revived, it’s unclear how much time has passed. Has it been two weeks? A month? Wouldn’t he have starved to death or died of thirst?? In any case, however much time has gone by, it does seem as if the majority of the human race has been wiped out while he slumbered.

What kind of zombies we’re dealing with here is very important to the entire series, as it sets the tone for every action scene we’ll see. Are they the slow as shit, barely moving, Shaun of the Dead variety, or the full-out sprint maniacs of 28 Days Later? They lean more toward the former, but if they get riled up, it appears they can break out into at least a steady jog. Can they sprint? It’s unclear yet, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

I think it’s a good move making them the lumbering dumbass kind, as sprint crazies would have been too intense for the pace of the show, as those kind are more or less IMPOSSIBLE to escape from, and we need our characters to stay alive for at least a season.

Just cause you’re wearing a tie you think that makes you the zombie leader?

And who are the characters? We’re only getting glimpses so far, and I’m sure more we’ll be added. There’s Rick Grimes, the guy and his kid he meets after stumbling out of the hospital, and a group of survivors camped out in the middle of nowhere which include Grimes’ old partner who is now getting with dum dum DUM, Grimes’ wife and playing daddy to his kid. Uh, how long was he in that coma again?

The episode ends with a particularly awesome scene of Grimes getting trapped in a tank with zombies all around, and he’s buzzed on the radio by a nearby observer who calls him a “dumbass.” Scenes from next week tell us he’s Asian.

This is just a cool concept for a series, as I don’t know how you create arcs with a story like this, but I’m certainly looking forward to seeing them try. What’s the end goal here? Will they be trying to get somewhere specific? Just merely survive day to day? Where do you go when the whole world is dead?

I was blown away to see how seriously AMC is taking this show. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this much violence on a channel that wasn’t HBO or Showtime, and it even surpasses those two half the time. Are you allowed to show whatever the hell you want after 10pm so long as it isn’t human? Heads being blown off, entrails being eaten, half a woman desperately crawling through a field. That’s some intense shit for basic cable, but I wouldn’t expect anything less from a zombie show trying to be taken seriously.

And yeah, I’m taking it pretty seriously.

This show has to be majorly expensive. Burned out cars, tanks, blood effects, massive amounts of man hours going into dressing up hundreds of people in exceptionally good zombie makeup. But if the quality of the writing is there, and it builds an audience, it will all be worth it. And as cool as it was to see zombies getting their shit rocked, the most powerful part of the episode for me was when the guy tried to snipe his zombie-fied wife with tears streaming down his eyes, but still couldn’t do it as she just looked too much like her old self. Powerful stuff from a goddamn zombie show.

Hopefully the series will be filled with many dramatic moments like that, and I’m sure it will if AMC’s other shows are any indication. I’m just glad at long last to declare with confidence that I’m genuinely looking forward to a brand new show each week, something that rarely happens, much less on basic cable. Bra-vo AMC, and I look forward to seeing what you’ve got in store for us all year.

  • Bandit

    4 thumbs up. Excellent production and I can’t imagine a better first episode.

    They definitely put some money behind the creation of this shows backdrops and special fx. Can’t wait for next weeks ep!

  • Bandit

    Altho, very pissed to find out that DirectTV does not have AMC HD yet…..

  • Andrew Batke

    Agreed. I’m looking forward to next Sunday for sure. I think he was hooked up to IV in the hospital. Though i’m not sure how long one can live on IV and who refills the IV bag… haha Whateves….this show is awesome!

  • Adrow1x

    Paul’s talking like he doesn’t know it’s based on a comic book series, which would answer his questions about where this is heading…

  • I know it’s based off a comic book series:

    But I haven’t read it, and therefore want to remain in the dark about where it’s going and just speculate.

  • Metallimetal

    It’s nice to see a show of this ilk on TV that doesn’t shy away from being too gory or violent. Like you said, it was almost something you’d see on a premium channel like HBO or Showtime.

    You said that you now have a show to look forward to on a weekly basis… What shows are you currently watching and enjoying? Right now, I’m trying to keep up with Boardwalk Empire (great show), Real Time with Bill Maher (main source of political whatnot), Dexter (getting better I think), and Weeds (always funny), but that’s just from premium channels. There’s also Always Sunny in Philadelphia, South Park (kinda lame this season), and now The Walking Dead. I’m sure there are other shows that I didn’t mention, like The Office, Community, The Big Bang Theory… but that’s mainly because I’ve missed a number of episodes and will wait until I can watch them in order. I can’t stand missing episodes of shows that I like. I seriously don’t take enough of an advantage of Hulu…

  • DarkPassenger29

    Needs more gay vampires… j/k.

  • Ham Boss

    I’m the only real comic book nerd in my group of friends, but most of us have read all the comic books to date. Even though they will deviate from the book in story (thank goodness), it’s gonna get really bloody and have a lot of “holy shit!” moments. I would reccomend reading the comic book if you want to. It might spoil some plots but the tv show will (hopefully) be different enough that it will be surprising. Last night’s pilot was about 85% close enough to the book, which is probably because they had to set up the stories and characters. I am definitely excited for the next episode now.

  • Bigdog

    Yeah, even my girl, who hates all sorts of monster and zombie movies, LOVED that pilot. It was awesome, and I’m looking forward to watching it every week.

    And, not to mention, this feels like a “spiritual” sequel to Jericho, one of my favorite shows of all time, with Lennie James being cast as Morgan Jones. (He was also on The Prisoner. The man can straight-up act. Hopefully he’ll have a regular role.

    Really, you could have slapped a crude ending to it and it would have been better than a vast majority of zombie movies.

  • salright

    I’d give it a solid B. Production is phenomenal, yet I still believe Frank Darabont still clings onto older zombie film styles. I do like the added depth given to Morgan but I didn’t like the dialogue from the kid whatsoever. Awkward (and slightly racist) how the article mentions the person on the ham radio is “Asian” vs. saying he’s white or even black. Anyway, as a fan of the graphic novel, I think they did a pretty decent job with room to explore. Hope the keep w/ the storyline from the book or at least the spirit of it.

  • Cheryl

    The team responsible for make-up deserves the Emmy, no question. I was creeped out (the noises the zombies made scared me the most I think), I kept waiting for the plot to turn a little silly or maybe even some humor thrown in, but there was None! I’m not used to that so spent the whole pilot on the edge of my seat with all the lights on clutching a blanket….well done AMC…thanks to you I had to stay up late and watch some old Simpson re-runs so I could calm down and sleep…

  • Poor horsey!!!!

    Funny thing, I got home from a weekend trip to Atlanta just in time to see this. Awesome show. Glad it’s on late so i don’t have to censor my kids. What is the time period to hook up with your friend’s chick after he dies or is presumed dead? Looking forward to some @$$ whippin’ on that one. They need to get a dialect coach for the black characters. They’re both british right? They talk a little too southern for my taste.

  • coatl13

    A good solid opening, I give it a thumbs up. I hope this show fills in the gap that Lost left for me (hopefully with less eye-rolling moments). I liked the fact that production costs don’t appear to be a problem, after all I expect some of the most horror to be encountered in an urban environment (like a ruined Atlanta) as opposed to the budget constrained survivors holding out at an isolated area situation. The make-up was especially convincing, and the special effects were above average. My only nitpick is the characters and cliches. We’ve all seen the wake-up after the apocalyse in a hospital dilema enough. On I found a list of the 6 Characters That Show Up In Every Zombie Movie and after watching The Walking Dead, I think I’ve at least pinpointed at least 3 of those characters and judging by the teasers for the upcoming episodes I expect to see at least 2 more before too long. One more cliche I found: Never in zombie movies or stories are the undead referred to as zombies or undead, but usually referred to as “Them” or “They” or given some sort of other name (like “Walkers”). Hopefully by getting these cliches out to the way that there will be more innovative situations and plots coming down the way.

  • Jeremy

    The conversation between Shane and Rick at the beginning (pre-outbreak) hinted at an affair between Shane and Lori, IIRC.

    I was very impressed with Lennie James as Morgan.

  • With the direction the comic heads, I’m very intersted in seeing how AMC handles it. As Ham Boss stated, there are very much “holy shit!” moments, as well as very explicit (sexual and violent) scenes so I guess we’ll see what happens.

    They seem to be following the comic fairly closely, but condesing some of the material, which is obviously necessary. Can’t have that amount of exposition or take some scenes as slowly as you can with the comic. Rick seems to meet Glenn fairly quickly. Can’t wait to see what they do with Michonne. And I also wonder if they’ll keep a running tally of who died, as well.

    Overall, I thought it was very well done and cannot wait for the next episode. Looks like AMC bought a bunch of episodes, so this bodes well.

  • Velovan

    I decided to DVR this after you posted about it on Friday and I’m thrilled I did. The scale of the production for this show is staggering. The makeup was outstanding, the sets were great and the actors, so far, are doing a bang-up job. Easily the most intriguing new show of the year.

  • Brendan

    I cannot wait to see how the handle the whole Prison arc and the Governor.

    Michonne’s entrance to the group will be the stuff of TV legend.

  • Sean

    Amazing start to a (hopefully) promising series.
    And I can’t stand Lori already. They better make less of a bitch than she is in the comics.
    And speaking of comics, the first season will follow the first volume but will start to weave into something different, so i would say it’s okay to read them.

  • NYxaria

    because i live in germany, i had to get it by other means (aka teh glory internet) in order to see it, but i was totally blown when i watched it yesterday.

    hopes this series keeps it up that way. Finally another series after Dexter that is worth watching