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The Walking Dead S1E1 review

REVIEWS - TV

The eagerly-anticipated zombie apocalypse arrives!

AMC's 'The Walking Dead'

Perhaps you’ve been in a coma due to a gunshot wound, or otherwise completely under the radar for the last month, and you’ve missed the massive marketing campaign associated with AMC’s new show, The Walking Dead. Do believe the hype, people, this show was good. Gory, chilling...and if there were a couple of predictable moments, I'm going to prefer to think of them as an homage to classic zombie movies rather than imitative cop-outs.

Sheriff Rick Grimes gets shot in the line of duty and wakes up from a coma in a deserted hospital. He finds a field of bodies and a ten-speed, but his wife and son are gone. His new neighbors hit him in the head with a shovel, but in a good way. They exposition the zombie apocalypse for him, and reveal their personal trauma as well; and it sucks. Sheriff Grimes heads on out to Atlanta on a horse with no name; or maybe it did have a name, but now its name is lunch. And he finds hundreds of zombies, and finds himself trapped in a tank with hundreds of zombies pounding on the doors... and he gets contacted on the radio by someone calling him a dumbass.

"Sheriff Grimes heads on out to Atlanta on a horse with no name; or maybe it did have a name, but now its name is lunch."

The silence in the opening is deafening. Sheriff Rick went to get some gas and his first encounter with the zombie plague proved three things: one, the zombie makeup is as good as everybody said; two, AMC is pulling no punches with gore, violence, or just generally disturbing situations, as Sheriff Rick shoots a little girl with a half-eaten face. Three, this scene proved that Andrew Lincoln can act. Everybody knew that the little girl was a zombie! And yet, the hope on Sheriff Rick’s face, changing over to fear, and revulsion, and pity is just amazing to watch. (The horror, the horror!) Three major points, all before credits.

A flashback to pre-zombie days established Sheriff Rick and Deputy Shane's enduring friendship, Sheriff Rick's bravery, and showed him getting shot in the line of duty. The gunshot wound put Rick out of commission during the plague, and he woke up to find the world completely changed. The hospital was overrun by the creepy, flesh-eating undead, his wife and son fled, and his thankfully exposition-providing neighbors are wrestling with their own personal demons in the shape of their undead wife and mother.

I absolutely love the iconic comic book shots reproduced for the show. But who on set design decided that zombie plague = papers strewn everywhere? Maybe while Rick was in a coma, someone put out a PSA regarding fighting the zombie apocalypse by throwing paper at them? In the hospital and again in Atlanta, there is just a ton of paper blowing around. Maybe it's the non-desert answer to tumbleweeds; both the hospital and Atlanta scenes seem totally desolate, and unkempt, and creepy; but there was a ton of paper around and it was annoying.

In the end Rick leaves his neighbors behind and heads off to Atlanta, broadcasting his location on the emergency radio where it's picked up by the camp - which includes Shane, Lori and Carl (oh, my!) Hooray, they survived! Boo, they're kissing!

Sheriff Rick must have been tired of scrounging for gas, because he stole a horse for the final leg of the trip to Atlanta. Good call. Except for the fact that you’re riding food; also horses are easily spooked and not as easy to control, or lock the windows of, or you know, turn off and hide inside of, as a car. But I’m sure this plan will work out.

"The Walking Dead really captured the essence of a horror show: creeping, claustrophobic and down-right scary"

Rick rode his horse with no name into the empty, deserted streets of Atlanta, and it was just as creepy as advertised. He took a very wrong turn into a thousand-zombie block party of doom, lost the horse and his bag of weapons, and ended up trapped in a tank. At least you can shut the doors and hide inside it, eventually, you dumbass. But just as Sheriff Rick appeared to be at the end of his rope, the radio in the tank started buzzing. The voice over the radio said, “Hey you, dumbass. You in the tank. You cozy in there?” I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought he was being a dumbass.

There is a really disgusting shot of zombies eating horse innards. Space Junk by Wang Chung plays (more appropriate than Jessie’s Girl, certainly) as the camera pulls back to a crane shot of masses of zombies eating horse; some of them still on the tank and, in a three-block radius, there are hundreds of them.

Just...wow. The things that everyone kept saying about this show that I didn’t quite believe were actually true – AMC didn’t pull any punches on the gore; the zombie makeup effects were unbelievable; and the iconic comic book shots were fully realized. More than that, though, The Walking Dead really captured the essence of a horror show: creeping, claustrophobic and down-right scary. The mixture of fear, and pity, and revulsion on the main characters' faces when confronted with their new world. The human element in Morgan and Duane’s story, to remind you that the zombies were once actual people. It was really, really good. And even the parts that we saw coming: the little girl in the opening? We all knew she was a zombie. But the hope in Andrew Lincoln’s face, and voice, turning into the horror (the horror!) brought it back from the brink of cheesiness. Awesome, start to finish. I can’t wait to see what happens next.

COMIC-CON 'WALKING DEAD' INTERVIEWS!

Check out Nicole's report from Comic Con on Walking Dead


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