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The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead: Season 1

The Last Dragon

What He said:

After having heard about the announcement that AMC was making a zombie-centered drama, I totally geeked out. Then, when I finally saw the trailer, I just about lost it.  I though it looked fantastic.

I was so interested; I went out and checked out the comic book (which I highly recommend). I had heard about it for a while and finally forced myself to give it a try. Well I was very happy with what I read and even more eager for this (hopefully) groundbreaking drama. When have you ever heard of a zombie drama in primetime?

My excitement was upped a few more notches when I heard who was involved. AMC has established themselves as a serious network when it comes to original programming. I don’t watch Mad Men, but between that and Breaking Bad (which I think is awesome) it’s clear the network has gained a certain level of respect.

I became even more excited when I heard Frank Daranbout (The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile) was directing, while Gale Ann Hurd (The Terminator, T2, amongst other things) was the executive producer.

Good horror is supposed to be a character study. It places people in horrible, sometimes unthinkable circumstances and shows you what they are really made of. There are, of course, there are all kinds of moral/ethical questions to go along with that. We start questioning things that – in everyday life – we believe (or at least are told) are clearly wrong. The comic does that very well, so I was excited to see it in even more visual medium.

The Walking Dead is about a group of survivors’ struggles after the outbreak occurs.  Everything we see takes place after the initial panic and focuses more on people trying to rebuild their lives (or some semblance of it) afterwards. It is an ensemble cast, but focuses largely on police officer Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln).

The show begins with Rick waking up in a hospital bed; completely unaware of what has happened to the world around him.  He begins to roam around and notices something isn’t quite right, though he doesn’t know exactly what.

After connecting with a man named Mogran and his son Duane, he’s filled in on all the details of this new post-apocalyptic world. Though obviously still alive, all three of them struggle with this new world. Being forced to do things they wouldn’t under normal circumstances and really being pushed to the brink at times. Rick shacks up with them for a while and eventually decides to begin searching for his family, whom he firmly believes is alive.  

This is about where the pilot episode ends and up until this point I have no problems whatsoever. Truth-be-told, I thought it was very well done. The characters face some very tough choices and that was reflected in the actors’ performances.

As the series progresses, Rick eventually meets up with a larger group of survivors in Atlanta. From this second forward, the series differs vastly from the comic. I’m not a purist and am usually ok with some changes. God knows I was more than ok with them in the reimagining of Battlestar Galactica (a truly excellent show if you’ve never seen it). But the differences in storylines are quite noticeable and more importantly not for the better.

In the comic, when Rick meets Glenn (played by Steve Yeun), it’s just the two of them. On the show there were about half a dozen of them, so anything that happened to them from that point on was completely made up and didn’t follow the comic at all. Again, not a huge issue, but it introduces new characters and storylines that do not exceed or equal the comic. So what’s the point?

This group of people ends up being part of a larger group that is also happens to be where Rick’s wife, son, and best friend are all set up. What Rick doesn’t know is that his wife Lori has been sleeping with his bestie Shane. Shane also happens to be the leader of this group. Needless to say, some uneasiness occurs when they three are united. Discovering her husband is alive, Lori wants to end her relationship with Shane, but Shane doesn’t see it that way. Shane is also threatened by having another cop around, especially since people seem to value Rick’s input.

I think the performances by the actors playing Shane (Jon Bernthal) and Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) are on point. They take what the original characters personalities are and amp them up, particularly in Shane’s case. I felt the same way about the both of them as I did in the comics.

As time goes on the group is faced with some challenges. Do they stay where they are or look for someplace safer? What do they do about food and water long-term? You know,  all sorts of things of that nature. This is where the show really takes several steps back.

The emotion that existed in the pilot is almost completely gone. I know they were attempting to portray it, but I simply wasn’t buying it at all. There were snippets of the pilot here and there, *spoiler* Amy’s death for example. Andrea’s emotion during that scene was the type of thing I remembered from the first episode. It was genuine and the best example of that I had seen in some time. But aside from a few moments like that I found the drama to be really lacking. Not to mention, it was pretty boring for about 3 or 4 episodes.

Well the season wraps up with them facing another issue while locked up in a CDC building with a scientist played by Noah Emmerich. This storyline doesn’t exist in any way, shape, or form in the comic, but its execution is not all that bad. It was easily one of the better episodes outside of the pilot.

Aside from a few moments, I find this show to be a rather large disappointment. Most of the time there’s no drama or tension. I mean I know it’s supposed to be there, I just don’t buy it at all. I find most of the show to come off as very amateur.

I am currently undecided as to whether I’ll even bother with season 2.

Rating: Thumbs down.

This review was written for your consumption on January 14, 2011. Enjoy!