Zombie films a ten-a-penny nowadays but they hadn’t successfully shuffled their way onto TV screens. That is until The Walking Dead came along.
When Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up in hospital having been shot, he finds that everywhere is overrun by the undead, all eager to rip him limb from limb and feast on his flesh. Nice. Believing his wife and son are still alive he sets off to find out what the hell is going on. He heads off into the nearest big city and finds that the place is overrun by zombies but is helped to escape by Glenn (Steven Yeun) who takes him to a group of other survivors. It’s then a battle to survive as they continue to fight off the undead as well as struggling with their own individual issues.
The Walking Dead starts off at breakneck speed with a feature-length first episode which barely lets you catch your breath. However, it does this to its detriment. Simply too much happens in the first episode and by the time it’s finished, it’s difficult to believe it’s a single episode. We start with Rick getting shot and end up with him in a tank being overrun with zombies. There’s just too much going on in between these two events and it does detract from the horror and shock of the situation. A bit of time to digest what’s going on wouldn’t go amiss. Furthermore, Rick seems barely shocked by the zombie apocalypse. One would imagine a sense of shock would set in, an overwhelming disbelief that pretty much everyone has become a shambling bag of rotting meat. Not so; Rick takes it all in his stride with the mild annoyance of someone who has remembered he forgot to put the bins out. Very much a case of ‘pilot episode syndrome’.
After the first episode, things do chill out a little and we get a bit more time to meet new characters and learn of the various subplots going on. There is a healthy ensemble of characters with plenty of variety among them although, inevitably with the season only being six episodes long, some don’t get much exposure. Season 2 will undoubtedly see to that. The zombies quickly become little more than a secondary focus of the show; the characters and the storylines taking centre stage. This adds to the emotional involvement of the story, although those wanting to see relentless zombie action may be left wanting occasionally.
The zombies themselves look absolutely fantastic. The prosthetics and make-up used make them look every bit as repugnant as you’d hope. Rotting flesh, missing limbs, gallons of blood; everything about them is vile and disgusting, which makes them that much more threatening. Every episode has at least a couple of moments that will make you wince or screw up your face; you really will forget that there are real people behind all make-up.
Season 1 does an admirable job of establishing the story and the characters, but it essentially feels like a prologue for what’s to come. However, if this is anything to go by, then there are exciting times ahead.
Words: Chris Thomson