It’s finally here, the show we’ve all been waiting for — The Walking Dead. In the fantastic 90 minute premiere episode, “What Lies Ahead,” the tone is set right from the start. How anyone can say that they don’t care for this series is completely beyond me, because now more than ever we are shown that there is something for everyone in this slice of TV viewer’s zombie-heaven.
Our opening scene shows Rick (Andrew Lincoln) on the walkie-talkie giving Morgan (Lennie James) an update on what’s going on — at least, that’s how it seems. A closer inspection of his monologue reveals Rick’s feelings of hope and despair, and his personal struggles with trying to be a leader who’s fair, making the right decisions, and keeping their group safe. He says that “it’s all about slim chances now,” and that they’ve “got to stick together, fight for each other, be willing to lay down our lives for each other — if it comes to that. It’s the only chance we’ve got.” That’s some pretty heavy stuff, especially considering all the conflicts that have been slowly bubbling toward the surface since last season: the Rick-Lori-Shane triangle, Andrea’s dealing with her sister’s death as well as her issues with Dale (who made her leave the CDC), the realization there is no known cure for the zombie epidemic, and the learning curve involved in dealing with zombies 24/7. He also states that they are going to try to make it to Fort Benning; they are done with Atlanta and have to move on. “We’re facing a long, hard journey. Maybe even harder that I can imagine. But it can’t be harder that our journey’s been so far, can it?” Well Rick, that’s a fantastic question, but I have a feeling you may be in over your head.
Within the first 10 minutes we are reminded of why we all love this show. Thank God for AMC’s willingness to push envelopes and challenge their viewers. This early scene is by far one of the most intense, skin-crawling moments I have ever seen on TV. The CGI and special effects are once again top shelf — even the work the extras put into transforming themselves into a believable bunch of undead can’t go unappreciated. I can guarantee you”ll be holding your breath, grinding your teeth, and gripping your seats. Welcome to the stress, anxiety, and the inability to peel your eyes away from the screen that is The Walking Dead.
The characters are really starting to flesh out and find their stride in the zombie world. Andrea (Laurie Holden) is turning into that character that you love to hate — screaming during attacks, whining at every turn, and in a little black cloud all of her own. On the other hand, Daryl (Norman Reedus) is starting to show himself as a huge asset to the team, bringing important skills and a hint of comedic relief to the table. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorite characters, even though it’s one that was never in the comic. (Norman Reedus has this character down to a tee, and his performances are really quite amazing. What a perfect choice for this roll!) Even Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) shows us her new-found loyalty to her husband when she sticks up for Rick’s decisions. In fact, that is one of the best scenes in “What Lies Ahead,” both from an acting and writing standpoint. Once more I must thank the Almighty that the original comic writer for The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, is a writer for the TV series. His ability to spin a spell-binding web with such subtlety is quite amazing. Every look and gesture, every hand signal and whispered word has strong meaning in this unfamiliar world where the slightest noise could get you killed.
“What Lies Ahead” has everything you want from a premiere and then some. It has heart-rending moments, startling visuals, bleak surroundings, a moment of pure anguish, drama, and lots and lots of mindless, shuffling zombies. Add some superb writing and directing, spot-on acting, and Bear McCreary’s score (or extreme lack there of), and you’ve got a show that few have ever ventured to try. Thank you AMC for being adventurous and daring! Prepare yourself for another dozen or so episodes filled with horror, drama, twists and turns in what is quickly shaping up to be a kick-ass second season.
I give “What Lies Ahead” 5 out of 5.
Here’s a sneak peak at next week’s episode, “Bloodletting.”