The Walking Dead

I’ve been burned too many times to be picking out china patterns just yet, but I feel like me and THE WALKING DEAD have the goods to go the distance. The new AMC zombie series (literally) starts with a bang demolishing any worries that television restrictions would render its undead denizens dry and bloodless. As much as I appreciate the gory generosity on display, I stand more impressed by the introduction of a genre lead that exudes depth in the face of death. ANDREW LINCOLN, as sheriff deputy Rick Grimes, got me wrapped around his finger early on stumbling out of a hospital and responding to the mass destruction in front of him as an actual human being might.

Not to get all BONNIE TYLER on your ass, but I feel like I’ve been kind of starving for a male hero in a horror piece who’s deeper than a tuna can. Excluding psychopaths (cross-dressing or otherwise), it’s slim pickings from where I’m sitting (on my couch.) I feel like guys are not allowed to emit anything emotional for fear that it will be read as some kind of deficiency and it makes for me being sort of bored out of my skull a bunch. I guess there is some cultural imperative to keep dudes’ yaps shut (you’ll have to work all that out for yourselves, world) but in the meantime, the trickle down effect results in me yawning. I like this Rick Grimes protagonist, he makes mistakes, he’s fallible and egad, there seems to be something going on both in his head and in his heart. He may have jumped out of a comic book but he’s the antithesis of a cartoon. There’s a scene in WALKING DEAD that gallantly balances absolute horror with equisite mercy and it has left me thinking that I will always remember where I was the first time I saw it.

You can attach any meaning to zombies that you wish. Their usual anonymity can represent the brain dead masses or the casualties of war. No matter how you approach them though (be they fast or slow), they will always have something to say about how we feel about our dead. Disgust, horror, fear, if you look hard enough you might just find guilt and sympathy too. We have been told a zillion times before that they are “us,” yet the fact remains that we as viewers continue to line up to see “them.” Thanks to this Rick Grimes person, THE WALKING DEAD might just change that. I may have to start routing for the living again.

Are Hallelujahs in order? Being between television shows to live vicariously through can be a painful experience for me. As much as I enjoyed the first two seasons of TRUE BLOOD, the last season turned on me and left me on the roadside. What was once a show about an outsider discovering an ostracized counter culture where her gifts were valuable became a show about choosing which out of four impossibly hot monsters to hump. (I can’t relate to that because I’ve never had more than three impossibly hot monsters to select from.) I don’t mean to call out TRUE BLOOD it’s just that I found WALKING DEAD‘s glamor free tone ginger ale refreshing. There does seem to be a love triangle looming over the horizon but as long as they keep one dangling eye focused on entrails, decomposition and the tragedy and agony of death, I’ll survive.

I can’t compare THE WALKING DEAD in its new form to the comic book because I have, out of sheer laziness, never read the series but I can say that if the premiere episode is any indication that we may be about to experience something amazing. There is the potential here to breathe new horrific life into the leaning toward parody living dead genre but my attention may be less due to the gruesome element and more due to the human one. Slow or fast, zombies are a dime a dozen, THE WALKING DEAD‘s more significant offering may end up being a character who you honestly dread to see joining their ranks.

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Chris (@chris)
11 years ago

Nice post, Unk! As a lover of all things zombie, and a huge fan of the comic series (seriously my friend, get on reading that!), I couldn’t wait until Halloween when this aired. Even though the temptation of viewing the “leaked copy” on the internet was strong, I stayed firm, and was presented with the finest hour and a half (minus commercials of course) I’d seen on TV in a long while.

What was great about this one, is that you felt something. Not only for the heroes, but the zombies as well. The scene with Lennie James having an impossible time trying to shoot his zombified wife cut with Andrew Lincoln searching out the half zombie by the bicycle nearly drove me to tears. I haven’t felt that way with a zombie feature for a long while (I think the last few scenes of Bio-Zombie were the last to raise water to the ol’ tear ducts).

I really hope they can keep up the quality, as for anybody who’s read the comics knows that the best is yet to come (Michonne, baby!!!).

turnidoff (@turnidoff)
11 years ago

Agreed! For me it’s like that one scene in Dawn of The Dead (1978) where Ken Foree is practicing his tennis swing on the roof and for that one split second, you are forgetting you’re watching a zombie film because the characters are much more interseting… then the tennis ball falls off the roof and you are reminded again. I never got that feeling from any other zombie flick until now.

And yes, it did do a perfect job of stretching out the comic in all the right places. I think we’ll be in good hands.

Chuckles72 (@chuckles72)
11 years ago

It was a great start. *minor spoilers* The scene in which Grimes mercifully finishes off the legless zombie was given much more attention and heft than it was in the comic and it worked very, very well. *end spoilers*

Overall, I was very impressed with the attempt at genuine pathos and the bold, thoughtful pace of the show. There were a few minor complaints but overall I was surprised by the emphasis on the terrible sadness of the situation that the survivors find themselves in.

Tommy V
Tommy V (@tommy-v)
11 years ago

I got to see it last night. I think Chuckles makes an interesting point about focusing on the sadness. It’s seems that they are focusing more on that rather than the sheer horror of it (though the downtown Atlanta/tank scene was definitely more traditional zombie horror). I think it’s a really nice luxury that a TV series allows. You can explore so many more layers.

Anyone else notice Jim Carey’s cameo as a zombie?

At times it reminded me more of The Stand than other zombie films. Which is a good thing. Why even make this show if you’re not going to come at it from a different angle? I also think being familiar with the zombie genre enhanced my enjoyment of The Walking Dead rather than diminished it.

I purchased a season pass on iTunes (DirecTV does not offer AMC in HD) and I’m already happy with the purchase.

mickster (@mickster)
11 years ago

I loved the first episode and I am looking forward to next week. I, like Tommy V, was reminded of The Stand (in a good way). His hospital experience was reminiscent of Stu Redman escaping the CDC and Jim waking up to chaos in 28 Days Later.