Monday, 23 February 2015

Overview: The Walking Dead: Season One

I love this shot - so much that I have the poster of this
next to my bed. From amctv
Written between 10th and 23rd February 2015.

The Walking Dead, I feel, was a bad pick for me to try and go through. I'll still write about it, don't worry, but it requires a certain acquired taste to get through, and I think I might have lost that taste a while ago. It's not in any way that the first season of the show is bad, per se - in fact it's probably one of the most true to the show's spirit. But the show has a deliberately slow pace which lends to its depressing atmosphere, and returning to the show to examine that is never a cheerful affair. Don't let that dampen this review, though - The Walking Dead's first season is the most on point, and its relative brevity is a godsend, because it allows the themes of the comic's first volume to be condensed without any extraneous baggage.
     Rick Grimes is a cop who gets shot, waking up three months later in a hospital surrounded by corpses both lying down and walking around. Taken in by a man named Morgan, he discovers that in his coma, there was a zombie apocalypse. He heads into the city of Atlanta, running into a group of scavengers whom he helps escape the infested city. It turns out that Rick's wife Lori and son Carl are at the group's main camp - as is Rick's old partner Shane, who has been having an affair with Lori once he thought Rick was dead. After their camp is overrun by walkers, the group head to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, and there they discover Edward Jenner, the last scientist still working on a cure. He eventually reveals that the cure is hopeless, and the group are forced to escape his compound before it self-destructs. Before they go, Jenner whispers something in Rick's ear.
     The show's premier episode Days Gone Bye is a work of cinematic art - had this been the first movie in a cinematic Walking Dead franchise, it more than would have met the standard. Despite reservations, Andrew Lincoln's British heritage is completely invisible, and he lives and breathes the character of Rick from the off, working as an effective lonely protagonist for much of the episode as he wanders silently through the ruins of the world. There are a few slow moments here or there, but overall the result is an episode whose slow pace makes the horror and gore all the more noticeable. The same effect can be seen later in the show across the first few seasons, but here is where it was done best and where it wasn't bogged down by some of the more tiresome politics between the characters.,_Season_1_Cast.jpg
The cast of characters. (For this season, anyway.)
From Wikimedia
     The show borrows its ensemble cast from the comic, with a few important additions and absences. A number of characters introduced in the first volume of the comic don't appear until the third season, and the presence of The Dixon Brothers, T-Dog and several other new characters fleshes out the cast and changes the dynamic in several ways - notably, the show provides a lot more avenue for conflict between characters within the group, whereas the comics limit that conflict to between Shane and Rick. This has both good and bad points - the Dixon Brothers are some of the show's stand-out characters, especially Daryl, who despite his nature as a show original is one of its most distinctive presences even today. On the downside, Rick's family gets very much the short straw, with Lori being more actively adulterous than in the comics and Carl having gone from a sorta-cool kid to a big load on the group. (He would get better.) There's also the addition of Shane's attempted rape of Lori, original to the show, which while an intriguing addition to TV!Shane's more developed characterisation doesn't feel done in very good taste.
      I'm writing these reviews at the same time as the broadcast of The Walking Dead's fifth season - by which time it's had a lot of changes and a lot of time to find its groove. Six episodes was the perfect number to cover this introductory story arc, and as a straight-up adaptation of most of the comics' first volume, the show manages to do a fantastic job of establishing its own tone and style, following the source material but developing it and expanding the mythos of the franchise. There are a lot of arcs left unfinished after the series' end and its clear that this needs to be the start of something bigger, but as a standalone series that might have been a one-off, the show is an excellent addition to the post-apocalyptic genre.


P.S. It puts Survivors to shame, as hard as that might not be.

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