Super Carnitas reviews The Walking Dead (2010)
Season 1, Epsiode 1
Based on the comic series The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Brought to life by Frank Darabont
Let me start by saying that I have been a faithful reader of Kirkman’s comic series since it’s inception. I love the concept and the genre. Kirkman is a masterful plotter and keeps the reader hooked with plenty of tension and surprises. Where Kirkman tends to lose me is on the journey from point A to point B, or point L to point M. I often find his dialogue tedious and forced. His characters suffer for it. Conceptually the characters have tons of potential, but Kirkman consistently falls short in making them realize that potential. Don’t get me wrong, I love the comic despite Kirkman’s shortcomings. And it’s not all terrible, sometimes he shows flashes of brilliance. I’ve just always wondered what it would be like if someone else took Kirkman’s ideas…and fleshed them out. Enter Frank Darabont. Let’s see what happens.
Darabont wastes no time in letting us know what kind of show we’re getting. In the opening scene we find Rick…the main character…confronting a zombie at an abandoned gas station. He calmly puts it out of it’s misery with a bullet to the brain. Nice. The zombie happens to be a 5 year old girl clutching a teddy bear. Nicer. Not that I advocate violence against children on basic cable..but she was a zombie. C’mon. It’s here where Darabont tells us he’s not going to pull any punches.
After the credits we get a pre-apocalypse Rick sitting in his police cruiser with his partner Shane. They are drinking coffee and complaining about the women in their lives. In this conversation we learn that Rick’s relationship with his wife is strained. Shane’s complaints are innocuous, but Rick reveals himself to be wounded early on here.
From there we get the setup. Rick gets shot and hospitalized. Shane is shown to be a sympathetic…and true friend. We even see him bring Rick flowers…just before it all goes to hell. Rick wakes up a couple of weeks later and has no idea what is going on. Now we all know what’s going on…zombies…but Rick has no idea. Darabont does a great job here with the slow reveal. The hospital is a house of horrors, and it only gets worse once Rick finally finds his way outside. The landscape is littered with body bags, most showing blood stains around the head.
Rick wanders into his neighborhood and finds his house deserted. Confused and afraid he wanders back out into the street…and slumps down on a stoop. He sees a walker in the distance, yet he remains unfazed…still unaware of the danger he is in. If only there was someone to explain it all to him…
After a blow to the head Rick gets filled in by a couple of survivors. A man and his young son who have shored up in the house of one of Rick’s neighbors. It takes Rick awhile to come to grips with what’s going on. Darabont doesn’t rush it. His pacing, up to this point, has been perfectly deliberate. The man and his boy (Morgan and Duane) share their sad story with Rick. Soon we meet Morgan’s wife….in the form of a zombie. If it hasn’t sunk in with Rick yet….it absolutely does when he makes eye contact with said zombie through the front door peephole…and with the rattling of the doorknob.
As the episode goes on we learn a few things. We learn the zombies have faint memories of their former lives. We learn that there is word out that it is safe in Atlanta. We learn that Rick’s wife and son (Lori and Carl) are camped outside of Atlanta with a group of survivors…including his former partner Shane. We learn that Shane and Lori have become more than friends. We learn that zombies enjoy horse meat. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
After showering, shaving, and arming themselves to the teeth at the local police station…Rick and Morgan part ways. Rick decides to head to Atlanta while Morgan decides to stay back with his son. Rick’s journey begins here and it kicks off with him putting a bullet between the eyes of a fellow police officer turned zombie. Darabont is at his best during this scene. A chain link fence seperates the two. Rick studies his former colleague before pulling the trigger. I expected the scene to cut away with the blast, as the gun was fired, but Darabont stayed with it. We see the bullet explode through the back of the zombies head, and we see him slump down against the fence…finally at peace. Good stuff.
As Rick makes his way towards Atlanta he ditches his cruiser (out of gas) for a horse. He spies a helicopter overhead. He’s confronted by a horde…and he eventually finds himself inside an abandoned army tank. Don’t ask. Once he disposes of the zombie soldier inside the tank…he receives a transmission over the tank’s radio. Someone saw him…and knows he’s there.
I had high hopes for this series, and I have to say, the first episode exceeded all of them. The zombies were top notch. The crawling-torso woman was a highlight. I was concerned that the gore would be toned down, and I actually hoped they would present the series in black and white so they could get away with more carnage. Umm…turns out it’s not going to be an issue. That poor horse.
Having read the comics, it’s interesting meeting these characters for the first time…yet already knowing their fates. I’m curious to see how close Darabont sticks to the source material. Like I said before, there is room for improvement there. I expect to be surprised along the way. I look forward to watching the story unfold. It’s off to a great start.