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The Walking Dead: Episode 1 and 2

Posted by Luke Brown On October - 28 - 2010

This Sunday marks the premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead television show. Based on the comic property created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, the show is bringing zombies to the small screen in a way that’s never been done before. After watching the first two episodes, it’s clear both longtime fans of the comic, and virgin viewers will have a new “must watch” TV show.

I don’t want to spoil a single moment of the show, so what follows will be a ninety-nine percent spoiler-free review of the first two episodes of AMC’s The Walking Dead. There is one item I will address at the conclusion of the article dealing with one particular change made from the comic that will be discussed, but it will be at the very, very end, and marked with a “Spoiler!” warning. Now, on with the review.

The first two episodes of The Walking Dead serve to introduce those of you watching at home to the life of Rick Grimes, and the zombie-filled world he lives in. Like the viewer, the concept of a zombie apocalypse is new to Rick. He awakens from a coma in an empty hospital, weary, alone, and confused. Whereas the rest of the world has quickly moved on, Rick, played to a tee by Andrew Lincoln, is discovering a new level of terror he had no idea even existed before now. The hospital is in ruins, and there are blood trails and bodies literally stacked outside. What’s great about these opening moments is how Frank Darabont, directing and writing this first episode, brilliantly showcases two things to establish the tone. One, we do get a small glimpse of Rick’s life before the coma. It’s a short segment of the pilot, just like life itself. The world changes overnight, and the life Rick knew once before is gone forever in a flash. The other thing the first episode conveys wonderfully is that danger and death are around every corner. Even a seemingly innocuous abandoned bicycle left on the side of the road isn’t what it seems. The emotions run high when Rick finally makes it home to find his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, gone, and he realizes that there really is nobody left. Andrew Lincoln perfectly nails the character, and you really feel for him. I already knew what was going to happen, but I still felt devastated for this man who seemingly lost everything while he was asleep.

Not one to let a little thing like the zombie apocalypse get in his way, Rick decides to try and find his family, who he believes have headed to Atlanta for safety. While the first episode was all about introducing us to the world of The Walking Dead, the second is all about doing what’s necessary to survive. Make no mistake, The Walking Dead is going to be one of the most violent television shows on basic cable. It’s never gratuitous, but it is shocking how much this show is getting away with. At one point in the second episode, Rick and Glenn, a survivor Rick meets on the streets of Atlanta, have to use the remains of a zombie in order to sneak past a large crowd of the undead. The show does not hold back one bit, but you never once feel like the creators are just throwing blood and guts at the camera without purpose. Characters are put into some very dire and severe situations, and the realism with which these moments are dealt with is impressive. Unfortunately, as great and decayed as some of the zombies look, too much of the blood splatter is CGI, and may take you out of the moment. It’s a shame too because such a phenomenal job is done of making the viewer feel like they’re there on the street with Rick that it’s jarring to be removed from that world so suddenly. All that said, not enough praise can be given to the make-up and effects crews working on the show. The production values on The Walking Dead put many feature films to shame, and only further the idea that television is competing neck and neck with major motion pictures.

During the course of the series, there are going to be times when the television show deviates from the original source material. There’s a lot of room to extrapolate and explore characters and situations in the world of The Walking Dead, and in just two episodes, there are already a handful of changes made. Some are for the better, while there are just a few that don’t really succeed on the same level. If you recall early episodes of Lost, there were many more crash survivors on the beach than the show actually followed. The Walking Dead does something similar, and adds a handful of brand-new survivors that don’t really do anything other than exist. It doesn’t take away from the story at all, but these new people don’t necessarily add anything new either. There is a moment in the second episode where racial prejudices force a confrontation, and the whole scene plays out rather obviously. While I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a waste of screen time, the minutes taken up with this forced C-story could have been used better somewhere else. Conversely, there are two characters Rick meets in the first episode that are given much stronger motivations than they were in the original comic. There’s bound to be a bit of give and take in regards to whether or not the additional content created for the television show actually works. Fortunately, the A- and B-stories of the first two episodes are strong enough that it doesn’t matter.

We don’t get to spend a great deal of time in the first two episodes with any of the show’s recurring characters other than Rick, but what I saw of the other performances were spot on. Steve Yeun, who plays Glenn, could not possibly be more Glenn. Both Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) get a smidge of screen time, and while the time they have is well-used, you only get an inkling of what type of person either of the characters are.

- BEGIN SPOILER! -

The relationship between Shane and Lori has been altered ever so slightly. The two are now secretly romantically involved (they have a little, and fairly intense, afternoon delight in episode two), rather than Lori having had a one-night stand that she regrets, and Shane constantly pining over her. Two episodes in, there isn’t a whole lot of that dynamic to deal with since so much of the story focuses on Rick, but the move makes for a much more interesting love triangle once Rick shows up, assumedly at the beginning of episode three. This is another of the moments where I believe the television show is going to deviate for the better, and I look forward to seeing just how long they keep Shane alive now that he and Lori have an actual relationship.

- END SPOILER! -

I can’t wait for the third episode when Rick finally meets the rest of the survivors because that’s when we all will too. I adore Dale and Amy, and Andrea, who we do meet in Atlanta, and can’t wait to see more of them. Laurie Holden, who plays Andrea, does a solid job in the second episode, but there’s so much more to her character that I want to see explored. There are so many things that I want to see happen, it’s a shame this season is only going to be six episodes. I do have faith however that AMC will be picking the show up for a second and third season very soon after The Walking Dead debuts.

Even though I’m a huge fan of The Walking Dead comic, I missed out on the book when it first started, so I now read it in trades only. After having seen what AMC, Frank Darabont, and Gale Ann Hurd are doing with the property, I certainly won’t be waiting for the DVD collection. This is a truly unique and amazing television show that I won’t be able to miss a single episode of. The characters are well-realized, the horror and violence is dealt with appropriately, and the overall narrative is just as, if not more than, compelling in its new televised format.


1 Response so far
  1. Chaz Said,

    I’ve got so much excitement balled up inside for this show. I just read some interviews of the cast members at http://www.iaemagazine.com/digitalmagazine.html and it looks freaking AWESOME! The actors make me wanna go to AMC and beg to see the whole season in one sitting.

    Great article guys.

    Posted on October 29th, 2010 at 4:56 PM

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