The Walking Dead (Season One) Review
Developed by: Frank Darabont
Media reviewed: Blu-ray
With the return of season three after its hiatus, I feel it’s more than fitting we begin some extensive (not to mention long overdue) Walking Dead coverage.
I’ll admit it. I was slow to start the Walking Dead television show. Partially because I didn’t get AMC, but also because I didn’t think they could pull off Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard’s graphic novel and keep it going. I was (and still am) a huge Frank Darabont fan after his various Stephen King adaptations, but I was hesitant. By the time I caved and picked up season one, I was well ahead in the comics. I was fully prepared to nitpick each and every detail and felt guilty doing so. After all, we should be watching to enjoy, right?
Well, as soon as that first episode’s credits began to roll, I noticed changes all right — and I didn’t care. Frank Darabont is a name I will now trust vehemently. Yes, there are radical changes and departures from the comic, but I’m actually in favour of this. Now you can read the comics without necessarily spoiling the show (and vice-versa). Of course, this can backfire if it’s your solid strategy, but both mediums offer enough thrills, chills, kills and blood spills to keep any avid zombie enthusiast entertained for a long time.
STORY ARC AND BIG BAD
Well, the big bad is zombies. Spoiler alert. Though if you really want to get specific, then I guess human nature is the big bad. It’s not uncommon: any post-apocalyptic fiction usually deals with mankind’s nature in a lawless (sometimes irradiated) wasteland. This isn’t an exception. However, the zombies do take the spotlight as the immediate threat for the majority of season one. After sustaining a gunshot wound in the line of duty, Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) awakens in an abandoned hospital to find the dead are quite undead and his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) are missing. In a stroke of luck usually absent in post-apocalyptic tales, however, Rick finds his family along with his former partner Shane (Jon Bernthal) and a handful of other survivors. The short, six-episode season follows several plot threads from the comics while also adding in its own, and overall it works well to establish the characters and the absolute hell they’re trying to survive. The season finale involving the CDC is a bit far-fetched, but the final product has the perfect blend of zombie-killing and personal drama that is the foundation of Kirkman’s series.
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes: A former sheriff’s deputy from King County, Georgia, who awakens from a coma to find the dead are walking (go figure!). Brit Lincoln does a fine job as level-headed and born-leader Rick.
Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh: Rick’s best friend and former partner, who helped Rick’s family escape the apocalypse. Shane’s character is really difficult to discuss without spoiling anything. Let’s just say it’s clear that Rick and Shane butt heads over what the group’s best interests are.
Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes: Rick’s wife and mother of Carl. I’ll say this right up front, I can’t stand Callies’ portrayal as Lori. Not since The Shining has there been a wife this annoying. Again, without spoilers, you’ll either love her or hate her. Probably the latter.
Laurie Holden as Andrea: A former successful civil rights attorney. Two lead females in this show and I can’t stand either of them. Andrea is the one character that didn’t translate from the comics well. Laurie Holden wasn’t bad in Silent Hill as Cybil, but plays Andrea as the whiniest and most obnoxious “tough gal”.
Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale Horvath: An old man who owns the RV around which the survivors have formed a community. Finally, a character you can’t help but love. Another Darabont regular, DeMunn’s Dale is a shining highlight in this cast of characters. What he sees in Andrea, however, is a mystery.
Steven Yeun as Glenn Rhee: A former pizza delivery boy who is often sent on dangerous missions. Glenn is just awesome. From his “introduction” at the end of episode one, to his running and gathering skills, Glenn’s reluctance and fear of the situations he encounters comes across as natural rather than annoying.
Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes: Rick and Lori’s son. Riggs is fine as Grimesy Jr., but doesn’t really have much to contribute this season.
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon: A Southern hunter that prefers a crossbow. Everyone’s favourite character, apparently (and one not found in the comics). Daryl is badass, but I didn’t have the same fascination with him that everyone else apparently does.
BESTS AND WORSTS
This is rather simple: the best episode is the pilot “Days Gone Bye” and the worst is the finale, “TS-19″
“Days Gone Bye” is a fairly faithful adaptation of the opening chapters of the graphic novel and sets up this world really well. Morgan and Duane — the father/son couple that discover Rick — are faithfully portrayed by Lennie James and Adrian Kali Turner, respectively. Morgan’s guilt and struggle with his wife’s recent zombification give an emotional context early on and the contrast in family situations between Morgan’s and Rick’s is crystal clear.
[Spoiler Alert below]:
“TS-19″ on the other hand, has absolutely nothing to do with the comic and in this case, that’s not a good thing. The CDC and Dr. Jennings’ use as expository devices just feel unnecessary. I don’t really care if this is a virus, a mutation or cosmic rays from Venus. The “escape just in time from the explosion” also felt way too Hollywood for this “realistic” cast of characters.
If you haven’t read, watched or played any form of The Walking Dead, you’re akin to a human survivor while the rest of us pop-culture zombies chow down. You can willfully ignore this leader in the (arguably over-done) zombie genre, or you can join the masses. Again, I’d choose the latter.