Horror. Worldview. Faith.

The Walking Dead Premiere – Review

The Walking Dead Premiere – Review

Nov 1, 2010

reviewed by hallo
shown on October 31, 2010 on AMC

The entire horror community had been waiting for months and months for the premiere episode of The Walking Dead on AMC.  The Walking Dead is the hugely successful and thought-provoking comic book series depicting the difficulty of human relationships interwoven with a world overtaken by the undead.  I have yet to meet a horror movie fan who does not love the Robert Kirkman comic book.  So what about the first episode of the television adaptation?

As with any television series, a review of simply the premiere episode does not and cannot speak for the series as a whole.  Any successful television series works its way into finding the right combination of character development, interaction, and storyline.  In other words, actors “settle in” to their character sometimes weeks or months into a series, so judging The Walking Dead series as a whole just from the initial episode is not possible and this review will not attempt to make that kind of a correlation.  Having said that, we can still talk about how well the impact of the first episode came across and even discuss some comparisons with the comic book without judging too quickly the series in its entirety.

I have intentionally refrained from reading any other critical review of the first episode of The Walking Dead so that I can be unswayed by my assessment of it.

The opening 5 minutes were the weakest of the hour and a half premiere.  After wandering through a sea of deserted cars, Rick finds a little girl holding a teddy bear.  When she turns around, he sees that she is a zombie and shoots her in the head.  Cut to Rick and Shane having a discussion in a cop car.  First of all, there was no real sense of what the initial scene with the little girl was all about (except to preview for the viewers that brain splatter and gore will be a part of this series; the effect looked terrific).  I thought perhaps it was a dream sequence or just a creative way to introduce the series.  Upon reflection, I think it was the latter.  However, for someone who is not familiar with the series, the characters, and the plot (like my wife who actually watched most of the show with me), this was a confusing beginning.  She was under the impression that the world was already infested with zombies, as seen by the first interaction with the little girl, and did not make the connection that when we cut to Rick and Shane in the cop car, we are at a time previous to zombie infestation.  I think the opening could have been smoothed out a bit in that way.

Also, once we reach the cop car with Rick and Shane, the dialogue is forced and way too intentional.  Instead of letting some of the details of their friendship and of Rick’s relationship with Lori (his wife) develop throughout the story, they cram it into a overly long and somewhat boring conversation to begin the episode.  It reminded me of the long, famous explanation at the end of Hitchcock’s Psycho, the only part of that film to ever come under critical criticism.

With those two comments about the opening aside, the remainder of The Walking Dead was a home run.  Andrew Lincoln’s portrayal of Rick Grimes is spot on, as is Jon Bernthal’s depiction of Shane.  The zombies look absolutely phenomenal, rivaling if not beating any full length zombie movie I have ever seen.  The shots toward the end of the film in downtown Atlanta were breathtaking.  And, as mentioned above with the opening scene, the gore effects are gorgeous.  We actually get to see horse’s guts being eaten!

But for me, it was the clear direction that the filmmakers went with in the first episode that gives me hope that this will be an incredibly worthy series to follow.  That clear direction is the weightiness of the story.  The first episode makes clear that this is a story about very difficult times and very difficult human emotions, perfectly making the balance between the threat of the undead and the horrendous emotional response that the living must endure.  Already we are wrestling with how to respond to loved ones who have come under the curse of being re-animated.  In a strikingly powerful scene, one gentleman is working up the courage to put his beloved wife, who was a “walker”, out of her misery, while Rick was showing heart-felt compassion to a zombie crawling through the grass.  He says to the zombie, “I’m sorry this happened to you.”  In this way, The Walking Dead is forcing us to remember that these zombies were once people who were loved, who had a purpose, and who will never again have the chance to live out the dreams of their life.  Personal reflection then causes us to ask the hard question:  How many of us are living the life of a zombie even though we are still among the living?  Have we stopped pursuing life, embracing the joy and opportunity that comes with this gift?  It screams that we “gather ye rosebuds while ye may.”

The episode ends with a nice moment of tension where Rick, almost to the point of committing suicide, is trapped inside a tank on the streets of Atlanta, GA.  A voice is heard on the tank’s radio asking if Rick is “comfy” inside the tank.  Who is the voice?  How does the voice know Rick is in the tank?  Those questions will be answered in the next episode.

So here’s hoping that The Walking Dead enjoys some success and can continue to tell the story of zombies and humans and how the two go hand-in-hand.

One comment

  1. Have to WAY agree with you. I’ve seen a lot of zombie movies in my time – they’re a favorite of mine, but I never saw one that made me cry before, as Rick kneels in the grass by that pitiful crawling remnant of a human being. Just before he puts her out of her suffering she reaches out to him – why? To try to grab him, or to plead with him to help her? If it’s the latter, is it meant to be a first hint of something more developing mentally over time in the Walkers? Hmmm. Better hope not. At any rate, whoever thought up that scene is a bit of an emotional sadist. ;-)I’ve been known to cry over dog food commercials involving aging and faithful Irish setters, and bag ladies dying of rabies on House MD, but over a zombie? Not till now.

    Great series – stands – ha ha – head and shoulders, so to speak, above so many others. We cannot wait for the next season. We’re buying it the minute it comes out on DVD.

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