Over the past few years, AMC has been the home of serious dramas like “Breaking Bad” and “Mad Men,” and now it’s teaming up with Frank Darabont, director of The Shawshank Redemption, and Robert Kirkman to develop a live action adaptation of the zombie graphic novel series “The Walking Dead.” How’d it work out? Check out our review…
- Writer: Frank Darabont
- Director: Frank Darabont
- Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Emma Bell, Frances Cobb, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Keith Allen Hayes, Lennie James
Episode Title: “Days Gone Bye”
After being injured in a shootout, Rick Grimes falls into a coma, and wakes up in a world where the dead are walking the earth. After arming himself, he rides into Atlanta, only to discover that these soulless bodies are controlling the city. He narrowly escapes into a tank, and thinks it’s all over, until a voice of salvation comes over the radio…and calls him a dumbass.
- Old Faithful: The TV show is exactly like the comic in both the details as well as the tone, and that’s a great thing. The original comic, if you haven’t read it, is superb, and promises to make for some great television. But for its fans, Darabont drops quite a few hints that this story will only be using the comic as a starting point, and not a panel-by-panel adaptation.
- Slick Rick: Andrew Lincoln’s portrayal of Rick Grimes is note-perfect. Lincoln manages to be touching, gritty and funny depending on when the situation calls for it, whether he’s offering sympathy to a zombie, BSing with his friend Shane, or in a shootout for his life.
- The Devil’s In the Details: What really made the show creepy were the little touches, whether it was the camera sitting on a seemingly normal scene, then pulling back to reveal the remains of a zombie battle, or the fact that the zombies, when not smelling food, tend to revert to their normal behavior…such as sitting on commuter buses, which is somehow creepier than trying to eat flesh. Also, their memories and tendency to make eye contact with the people they want to eat really enhances the horror.
- Tuning Morgan: One place the teleplay diverged substantially from the comics was with Morgan, who’s basically an exposition dump that Rick gives some guns to. But the show gives him more depth and a much more tragic backstory. We’re hoping the characters come back, so the poor guy to move on.
- Fear Takes the Stairs: OK, show of hands. Who thought, for sure, that there was going to be something horrible on that stairwell? A great little moment, and our favorite set piece.
- Horse Sense: It would be a spoiler to discuss it, but let’s just say that in the comic, horse lovers wrote Robert Kirkman lots of angry letters. The show made an announcement by keeping that moment in the script, much to our surprise. After all, humans you can murder and stack up like cordwood, but even Troma Pictures gets hate mail when animals are involved. Similarly, right from the opening, Darabont makes it clear that all bets are off with kids, too; he’s willing to go there.
- Stagger Lee: Is it us, or did AMC spend what felt like half the show plugging that walk-on role contest? It wasn’t annoying but extremely odd. Maybe there’s a shortage of people willing to play zombies in Georgia.
- Slower Than a Zombie: We understand the need for a deliberate pace, at least somewhat, but the show takes an awful, awful long time to establish Rick’s situation, where he’s going, and what he’s doing. Sure, every zombie movie has to go through the moment when characters refuse to believe they’re being attacked by the walking dead, and Rick’s been in a coma for weeks, but it takes the guy too long to get with the program. Hasn’t he at least seen one Romero movie?
- Dumber than A Zombie: There’s a lot of nice things we can say about Rick, but boy is he stupid. Yeah Rick, there’s probably not a lot of help in an area where the crows are snacking on soldiers. Just saying.
- Reply Double Exposed, Try Again Later: Frank Darabont did lean on that whole double exposure effect a little too much. Apparently remembering what people say to you in a coma and having your eardrums blown out by the echoes of a gunshot have exactly the same effect.
- What, You Couldn’t Get the Rights To “Monster Mash?”: The closing song struck us as both really out of nowhere and incredibly heavy-handed, the one off-note the episode struck. Still, we freely admit that’s a nitpick.
A great start to AMC’s latest series, and it’ll seemingly diverge from the comic to make its own way. We’re looking forward to seeing where it goes with Kirkman’s ideas.
“The Walking Dead” airs Sundays, 10pm ET/9pm CT
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