THE WALKING DEAD
Rick Grimes - Andrew Lincoln
Lori Grimes - Sarah Wayne Callies
Shane - Jon Bernthal
Daryl Dixon - Norman Reedus
Carl Grimes - Chandler Riggs
Andrea - Laurie Holden
Leon Bassett - Linda Edwards
Morgan Jones -
Lambert Kendel - Jim Coleman
Dale - Jeffrey DeMunn
OTHER WALKING DEAD SEASONS
OTHER SCARY TALES
A deputy is shot and ends up in a coma in hospital. When he wakes up, he finds that the hospital is empty and the dead are walking the Earth again. Believing that his estranged wife and son are still alive, he sets out to find them, even if it means a trip into the city of Atlanta.
A man wakes up in hospital to find that civilisation has ended and a few survivors are being stalked by carnivorous plants...oh no, that's DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS, but it's an easy mistake to make as the early sequences borrow heavily from the opening of John Wyndham's tale. In fact, there's nothing here that we haven't seen already in one form or another in other tales of zombies or post apocalypse survival tales, but it is all put together so flawlessly that it doesn't matter.
The first thing to say is that it's bloody. The only way to kill is zombie is to destroy the brain and so there are a lot of heads being exploded, in slow motion and close up even. The gory aftermath of zombie feasting is revealed early on and the full on actual thing comes before the end of this extended opening episode. This is a horror tale and the blood-stained innards are all there on view.
Casting Andrew Lincoln AFTERLIFE means that the hero isn't some square-jawed zombie killing machine, but a real man with all his qualities and flaws thrown into a situation that is beyond anything that anyone could possibly be prepared for. Allied with Frank Darabont's scripting (there are long periods of silence, so the script wasn't that heavy on dialogue), Lincoln's performance puts the soul into the story. The presence of Lennie James (JERICHO and THE PRISONER as the first survivor that Lincoln's character finds aids enormously. The scene in which he sets himself to shoot the thing that used to be his wife is hugely powerful.
This may be a zombie show, but it's about the characters and time is given to get to know Rick before the apocalypse happens and then he is given time to be confused, shocked, grieving and all the things that he ought to be. There aren't that many people to get a look in during this first episode, but that heightens the paranoia and dislocation for the audience. The mix of character, realistic gore, shockingly matter of fact violence and occasional plot twists (he ends up locked inside a tank!) makes this pilot an instant classic that no zombie fan would want to miss.Top
Rick Grimes is trapped in a tank by the zombies of Atlanta. Aided by a voice over the radio, he makes a daring escape, but that leads the walking dead to the building where a group of survivors are now trapped. The only way out is to smear themselves with the blood and guts of the dead and walk through the hordes and hope that it doesn't rain.
This second episode takes up exactly where the first one left off and tells a story that is very much more reminiscent of zombie tales of old, most especially DAWN OF THE DEAD in which survivors were holed up in a shopping mall and caused themselves almost as many problems as the zombies outside. The same story goes on here as a redneck racist and a black homeboy cause schisms in the group. We've seen all this before, but rarely has it been done as well as here with excellent performances and a cracking script that balances the horror, adventure, and character drama elements to perfection.
The trip through the hordes of zombies with the rain slowly washing off the guts is a masterpiece of tension, whilst the chopping up of the dead man for those same guts is dramatic, squirm-inducing, but also with its moments of, admitttedly jet black, humour.
This certainly keeps up the quality of the blistering opening episode and in only two episodes THE WALKING DEAD has become unmissable.Top
Rick finally meets up with the survivors to find his wife and son, putting a crimp in her new relationship. As the survivors fail to get on, Rick faces the decision to go back into the city to prevent others falling into the trap he did.
Soap opera threatens to break into the previously excellent show as Rick fails to realise that his wife had moved on after believing that he was dead. A wife-beating husband gets more than his comeuppance and the brother of the redneck left handcuffed to a roof in the city proves to be just as dangerous.
The performances are strong enough to keep this at bay, but it is only when dealing with zombies that the show really comes alive (ironically) and the dangers of ignoring that are all too clear in this episode.Top
When Rick and the others go back for the guns in the city, they fall foul of a street gang that have a secret they are willing to kill to preserve. In the hills, the threat seems to come from a disturbed member of the group.
This zombie show continues to skate over its inconsistencies on sheer brio. Street hoodlums hole up against the hordes to save the residents of an old people's home? Unlikely in the extreme. The survivors in the hills abandon their security watches for a fish supper? Unlikely.
Still, the conviction of the acting, the brutality of the zombie killing and the fear of the zombie attacks all continue to impress.Top
The camp survivors come to terms with the losses that the zombie attack has wreaked and bury their dead. Jim has been bitten and is slowly being infected. The group has to decide whether to the head the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta or a military base in the opposite direction.
This is a shattering episode as it deals with the awful aftermath of the zombie attack. Not only have people been killed, but they have to be dealt with to prevent them from becoming zombies, something that takes it toll on everyone's emotions. The cast are outstanding and are given scenes to be outstanding in. This is fabulous character stuff and wince-inducing as well.
Once the trip to Atlanta starts and the lone survivor in the CDC's video diary kicks in, the documentary feel and sheer quality falls off, but it does rally towards the end.Top
Inside the CDC, the group exult in an oasis of civilisation with power, showers, food and even wine. There is, however, only one scientist left and he does not seem to have the answers to the zombie plague. He also doesn't have fuel for the generators and when they are exhausted the failsafe option will be initiated.
The final episode is the most plot-driven and actually the least impressive of the season, but that is not to say that it isn't great. The initial reaction to the availability of food and drink and showers is believable and brings a smile to the face. The discovery that it is only going to last for a short time and they are all destined to die seems forced and not so believable. The choices that are made by the survivors as to stay or go are also somewhat predictable.
That said, within the confines of the artificial plot the dialogue is well up to standard and the actors are all still making the most of the excellent script. Though it may be a step down from the searing opening episodes it's still way ahead of many other shows.Top
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