Nov 2010 03

by Damon Martin

On Sunday night, the The Walking Dead came to life on AMC bringing with it masses of the undead to stalk Sheriff Rick Grimes and his happy band of wanderers. The show, based on Robert Kirkman’s longstanding, Eisner Award-winning comic book series of the same name, was optioned for TV in late 2009 and made its television debut on Halloween night, 2010.

Grimes, played by Andrew Lincoln, shows up in the opening seconds of the first reel of the show looking for gas on an abandoned highway. Within moments, he is faced with the reality of the new and horrific world in which he lives when a young girl turns on him, faced ripped open and bloody, lunging for his flesh to feed her dead and reanimated body.

This sets the tone for the following 90 minutes. The inaugural episode felt almost like a movie, and if the commercials hadn’t popped in every 15 minutes or so most audiences would have likely been as captivated by the show as they would have been for any big screen Hollywood thriller.

The Walking Dead follows Grimes as he wakes up from a gunshot wound in the hospital to find that the dead have taken over the world, and his wife and young son have fled the house they all occupied, presumably looking to escape the horrors that the undead have reaped upon the town. Facing his new reality, Grimes’ raison d’être is to find the family that somehow left him behind.

The show’s brilliant storytelling, acting and directing does justice to the original source material – a series that G4’s resident comics guru Blair Butler has called her favorite ongoing book for several years. Ironic as it may be, the dead truly come to life on the screen as Grimes tries to understand what exactly happened in the days and weeks that passed since he was wounded on duty and woke up in a George Romero movie.

Fans of the comic series aren’t the only ones that will appreciate The Walking Dead however, since structurally there were changes made to the story for the television series which will likely broaden its appeal. While subtle, the plot tweaks in the first episode were a positive, and would likely help viewers new to Kirkman’s tale to get invested in the characters right away. An example of this being the scene in which former “Jericho” actor Lennie James points a cocked and loaded rifle down on a pack of zombies surrounding a house he now shares with his young son. As the crosshairs of the rifle’s site bear down on one particular undead walker, James’ character finds himself unable to pull the trigger – the zombie haunting him every night just happens to be his wife, and mother to his son.

The compelling story and characters in the opening episode of The Walking Dead are just a precursor to the remainder of this complex and visceral story. Fans of the comic book may think they know what’s coming next, but a surprise could hide behind any corner in this new show. And just like the comic book, no one is safe in this world of the undead.

The initial order for The Walking Dead was for six episodes, but after Sunday night’s debut it’s more than likely the network will pick up more of the undead drama. As announced by AMC on Monday in a press release, The Walking Dead drew in 5.3 million viewers, the biggest debut in the network’s history and the biggest debut for any 2010 cable series in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

If you missed the first episode of The Walking Dead do yourself a favor and go watch it as soon as possible. While the show may focus on a world run by zombies, the drama goes much deeper – and it’s reach should extend beyond horror and comic book fans, to those who simply enjoy great TV.

The Walking Dead airs on AMC Sunday nights at 10 PM EST.


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