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.


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