Like many zombie fans watching The Walking Dead, my friends, family, and I are all ready for the inevitable zombie apocalypse. We know how we'd protect ourselves, ward off incoming zombie attacks, and hold up for the long haul. Unfortunately, the main characters of The Walking Dead are not as prepared and that will be the deciding factor on how much you like this show.
The Walking Dead is spearheaded by Frank Darabont (The Mist, The Shawshank Redemption) and based off of the popular comic book series created by Robert Kirkman. Although I am familiar with the comic series and did read a bit of it in the beginning, like most watching the show, I am not familiar with all of the plotlines and characters from the comic, so the comic does not have an impact on my review.
The Walking Dead primarily follows Rick Grimes, a police officer who awakens from a coma in the aftermath of a worldwide zombie outbreak and must find and protect his wife and son. Along the way, Rick encounters both new friends and enemies, as well as the majority of the population that has been turned into zombies.
If you've seen any of the Romero "dead" films, you will be right at home with The Walking Dead. The "zombie rules" are pretty much the same, so aim to the head and don't let them bite you! Also, like the Romero films, The Walking Dead focuses on the relationships between the characters involved and many of the problems the characters encounter are from human nature, more than the walking dead.
We only get 6 episodes for the first season of The Walking Dead, so this plays more like a mini-series or long pilot episode, than a full season. We are introduced to over a dozen characters, some of which we don't really get a chance to know yet. There are also plenty of plotlines that are briefly started, but never expanded upon or completed. For that reason, it is hard to view this as a complete work, but these 6 episodes really lay the groundwork for a promising second season.
The problem that some may have with this show is that the characters act like your average person would, and not like someone who has watched zombie films. They make mistakes and fight against each other on topics ranging from where to relocate, to how to deal with infected party members. You are often frustrated by stupid mistakes made by various characters. Multiple times, those who watched the show with me would say "that's not how I'd do it", or "I can’t believe this is happening”, but when you throw random people into a situation like this, there will be a lot of tension and a lot of fighting. I find the personal flaws and fights to be the most interesting part of the show and want to see them continue to develop these relationships. However, if you are looking for characters to act as zombie invasion experts or want to see 45 minutes of action each show, you may find yourself a bit disappointed.
Helping to make this a legitimate drama and not just a horror-action show is a great cast, which includes Andrew Lincoln holding the show together as Rick Grimes, as well as Darabont favorites Laurie Holden and Jeffrey DeMunn, and smaller roles by Norman Reedus (The Boondock Saints), Michael Rooker, and Noah Emmerich.
And let's not forget what instantly drew viewers into this show, the zombies themselves. I'm sure horror fans will watch the show and not flinch at the level of gore in the show, but it is really a first for basic cable. They have taken what would equal an R-rating in theaters and managed to put it on the small screen and draw in millions of viewers. This really is a big accomplishment for the horror genre and shouldn’t go unmentioned.
The effects are overseen by Greg Nicotero, who has been responsible for effects work on over 100 films including From Dusk Til Dawn, The Mist, Land of the Dead, and Grindhouse. The look of the zombies, gunshot effects, and various other special effects are very well done and on par or better than what you've seen in full movies.
As far as AMC is concerned, The Walking Dead is already a success. With millions of viewers, the second season was announced in the middle of the first season airing, so we will be getting another 13 episodes in October of 2011. Personally, I feel it is too early to say if this show has been successful. We've basically been given a teaser of this world and the main characters.
In order for this show to be a long term success, we’ll have to see where Darabont and crew take these characters. As long as they focus on character building and acting over sex and action, I think this show will have legs. I'm really happy that there is a full-fledged horror drama on television, and look forward to upcoming seasons.