TV Review - The Walking Dead: Season 1

The first season of The Walking Dead was only six episodes long. It was nominated for a Golden Globe for "Best Television Series - Drama." It premiered on Halloween 2010 and ran till December. The series definitely developed a following and will pick up where it left off in the fall of 2011 on AMC.
Oscar-nominated Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) directed the premiere episode. It was titled "Days Gone Bye" after the first volume of the comic books created by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. It follows a cop named Rick Grimes who is put into a coma after a deadly police shootout. When Grimes wakes up, he finds that he was left in an abandoned hospital following the outbreak of a zombie epidemic. He stumbles upon a few survivors as he struggles to avoid getting eaten by the zombies and ultimately find his wife and son who are alive out there somewhere.
Despite a very quiet soundtrack, the first episode is filled with a rhythm that doesn't bore. Despite being nearly 90 uninterrupted minutes, it moves briskly, bookended with two surprising and well-staged action scenes. The first pits Grimes against the living and the latter pits him against the dead. The section in between where Grimes meets a black man named Morgan Jones and his son Duane is reminiscent of The Road (2009) and provides weight to the desperation and plight of the situation.
It's not until the second episode that a sense of how the series will play out starts to form. In the second episode, titled "Guts," Grimes comes across Glenn and a band of scavengers who took refuge in Atlanta. Grimes' arrival ignites a large wave of zombies to attack and traps the survivors in a department store. The episode involves a plan by Grimes to escape. It's in this episode that some of the dynamics between relationships become evident, not only between Grimes and the scavengers but also with Grimes' wife, Lori and the band of survivors with whom she lives.
As I was watching these initial episodes, I was curious about where it was all going because as far as I know, this is the first American TV series about zombies. It was announced that based on the ratings of the first two episodes that the show will come back for a second season, so I'm interested to see where they'll go with it, but my general feeling about the series so far is a weak one.
Like I posted on Facebook about a week ago, this show is like a weekly George A. Romero movie and I don't mean that as a compliment. Romero is considered the grandfather of zombie movies. He set the bar back in the 1960s and since then there have been many remakes and versions of what he did forty years ago. There's now almost been too much and I feel like that if someone was going to do something in the same vein, then they would have to further the genre rather than rehash it, and that's what I feel like this series does. It merely rehashes beats and moments from past zombie movies and doesn't offer anything more.
In a Facebook conversation, I said that it will be interesting to see where this TV series goes, but so far it looks as if it's not going to give us anything we haven't seen a billion times before. From "Night of the Living Dead" to "28 Weeks Later," I'd like something new when it comes to the whole zombie thing. The Walking Dead is not that. In its defense though, it's not as boring as all the other AMC shows.
Nevertheless, there's so much in just these first two episodes that seem so contrived that it's hard for me to go with it. There's no sense of how much time has passed, so depending on how long Rick was in that coma, there's no way to judge what's reasonable. If Rick was in that coma for only a month, I don't find it reasonable that all radio and TV would be gone, and I don't find it reasonable that all of Atlanta would be evacuated in that amount of time. If they couldn't get everyone evacuated from New Orleans for Hurricane Katrina, then how could they do it here? And what's with all those cars being abandoned all on ONE side of the highway about? Why was there only ONE army tank? Where was the Air Force to firebomb all the zombies like they did in "28 Weeks Later"? I just feel like Rick is the wrong character that we should be following. Limiting the show to his P.O.V. hurts the show.
So far, we've seen Shane and Rick's wife in their camp in the woods. Obviously, they weren't in a coma. Obviously, they were awake when the zombie epidemic broke out. If that's true, then that means that they can talk about it, which means they could have talked about it already in either episode so far. They could have said out loud what happened. I'm assuming at some point they will, but why not immediately?
I don't know what to believe because they haven't told us anything, at least not yet. The most information came from the characters Morgan and his son Duane Jones, whose name is a reference to the main character in Romero's Night of the Living Dead who was played by black actor Duane Jones, but the only thing that Morgan said was go to Atlanta because that's where they were told to go, but like in the TV show on NBC "The Event," I'm curious to see what the President is doing about this whole zombie thing.
Going back to that Facebook discussion, a friend told me that this show is about these characters surviving and that's enough for him, but I said that that's what EVERY zombie movie since Romero has been about. That's my point, that if this series is just episode after episode of the characters trying to survive day by day and perhaps building some kind of society out of that, then there really is nothing NEW here because that's what every Romero film has been about.
Romero has never tried to answer basic questions like what caused the zombie epidemic. Is it mystical or medical in origin? I like that Romero in his first film had a black man as his main character, but not since then has anyone really put a minority in the lead role for any of these zombie movies. For the most part, all we've seen is how Americans deal with the zombie outbreak. Why not think outside the box? What would be interesting is to see how some extreme Muslims who believe that when you die, you go to heaven and get 40 virgins. How would they deal with the zombie outbreak? How are those Muslim men dealing with the presence of the walking dead? But, alas we'll probably never get anything like that on here.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated TV-14 for language and violence.
Running Time: 60 mins.


Popular Posts