If you had come up to me at any point between 2003 and now to ask me what my favorite comic was, The Walking Dead would have been my immediate response. I’m a big fan of post-apocalyptic dramas and stories with dark twists. Add to that my love of zombies and the undead, and you’ve got a fangirl from the get-go. Finally, the moment millions of readers and I have been waiting seven years for is here: The Walking Dead is coming to TV! With my Walking Dead background, I will be very excited to see how AMC will adapt some of the interesting and disturbing storylines from the comic to the show…
For those who don’t know, The Walking Dead is a comic book series about the world after a zombie-apocalypse (zombocalypse, if you will) written by Robert Kirkman. There’s no better way to describe the series than to quote Kirkman’s introduction to The Walking Dead Volume 1 – Days Gone By:
“I’m not trying to scare anybody. If that somehow happens as a result of reading this comic that’s great, but really…that’s not what this book is about…To me, the best zombie movies aren’t the splatter fests of gore and violence with goofy characters and tongue and cheek antics. Good zombie movies show us how messed up we are, they make us question our station in society – and our society’s station in the world. They show us gore and violence and all that cool stuff too, but there’s always an undercurrent of social commentary and thoughtfulness…”
“With The Walking Dead, I want to explore how people deal with extreme situations and how these events CHANGE them…Everything in this book is an attempt at showing the natural progression of events that I think would occur in these situations. This is a very character driven endeavor. How these characters get there is much more important than them getting there. I hope to show you reflections of your friends, your neighbors, your families, and yourselves, and what their reactions are to the extreme situations on this book.”
AMC picked up the series and has tempered it by adding some high caliber names such as executive producers Gale Ann Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens) and Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), with Darabont (a three-time Oscar nominee) being the main creative force – both writing and directing the first episode, appropriately named “Days Gone By.”
The first episode launches us right into the midst of a terrifying and anxiety-ridden sequence that fans of the comic are very familiar with: 0ur protagonist, police officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), is engaging with a zombie “walker.” I’m glad they started out this way, because in the first few minutes of the show, all my fears that AMC might hold back on gore and violence were quickly squashed. In fact, during the entire 90 minute extended-length pilot episode there are many gory and disturbing moments that show that AMC is here to play! (Breaking Bad had proof of this too, with plenty of hard to watch visuals.) This is a blessing, because if you are going to make a zombie show, it should be done right or not at all. Zombies are dead, the longer they are dead the grosser they get, and AMC proved that they understand that fact and aren’t afraid of it.
After the introductory flash forward scene, we come back to the current time to see how it all began. Just as in the comic, Rick has an event that puts him in a coma. He wakes up to find his world vastly different. The hospital is abandoned, the dead are everywhere, and Rick must figure out what in God’s name is going on. This is obviously a very similar scene as that in 28 Days Later, but don’t let that dishearten you. It was like that back in 2003 when the comic was first released as well. As far as similarities between the two are concerned though, they end right there.
The pilot stays pretty close to the comic with a few deviations here and there, hinting at the liberties that Darabont will take with the series in the future. Don’t get your panties in a wad just yet, fanboys! The writer, Kirkman, is labeled as an executive producer/writer, so his influence is obviously going to be there. The Walking Dead TV series will most definitely have it’s own twists and turns in order to give it more places to go, some longevity, and the ability to explore the world of the walking dead in much greater detail.
There are some very creative and beautiful things about what Darabont is doing with The Walking Dead. The first and most important thing is that he is taking his time. As a fan, the pacing to me feels just right – it doesn’t rush, there isn’t a relentless barrage of action scenes, and there is plenty of dialog – which is exactly what The Walking Dead is all about. Another beautiful thing to see is that between Darabont, Kirkman, and Hurd, emotions that you don’t get from your standard zombie movie grab you by the face and successfully shake you up. While the zombies are definitely scary and trying to eat you, you get an undertone of pity for the poor creatures. You realize that they were once human just like the living characters, and that Rick and the other survivors are more so the ‘walking dead’ than the zombies are. To put the cherry on top, there are some very well-timed and sparse spots of dry humor that lighten the mood at just the right moments. So far, the only downsides I’ve seen is that this season will only consist of 6 hour-long episodes and that occasionally the zombies act more like Ramirez’ undead than Kirkman’s.
I have a feeling that The Walking Dead is going to be a big hit with fans of the comics, those who love good cable TV dramas, and zombie-lovers across the nation. People who are more into cheesy zombie-gore-porn may not be as enthralled since the emphasis is not so much on the zombies and more so on the characters and their survival. This kind of focus on the characters and the interesting situations they get into is what will attract viewers from all different genres – not just horror. Fans of dark dramas such as Lost, Heroes, Sopranos, Brotherhood, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad could readily ‘sink their teeth’ (pun totally intended!) into The Walking Dead.
- The Walking Dead will premier it’s 90-minute first episode on October 31rst (Halloween!) at 10pm ET/9pm PT on AMC.
This is one show that is definitely worthy of some space on the DVR for you party animals who won’t be at home to watch the first episode! With a tag-line like “In a world ruled by the dead, we are forced to finally start living,” how could you not at least check it out? Look for my full review after the premier.