“The Walking Dead”
Season One, Episodes 4-6
Stars: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Steven Yuen, Jeffrey DeMunn, Emma Bell, Iron E Singleton, Michael Rooker, and Noah Emmerich
Writers: Robert Kirkman, Glenn Mazzara, Adam Fiero, Frank Darabont
Directors: Johan Renck, Ernest R. Dickerson, Guy Ferland
It has been some time since the zombies have shown their sharp teeth on this tiny little blog. Both of your humble reviewers have been incredibly busy with, uh, real-life stuff. But, as we know, zombies never truly die. So, here we are; a return to the living dead with part 2 of a review of “The Walking Dead” season 1…
Rick has led a few of the survivors into the city to retrieve both Merle and the bag of weapons he dropped earlier. Upon arriving in the city, and discovering Merle found a way to his own escape, the focus shifts to the bag of guns. While executing a plan to grab the guns, Glenn is kidnapped by a gang of Hispanic thugs, while Daryl captures one of the “thugs’” own. After a brazen plan by Rick, the real noble purpose of “The Vatos” gang is revealed. Meanwhile, back at the camp, Jim is losing his mind, digging hole after hole atop a sun-baked hill, scaring the crap out of everyone, ultimately causing Shane to take action and settle him down. Rick and his crew learn their return vehicle has been taken, and as they race back to camp, they hear screams — screams of those at the camp, realizing they have just have been ambushed by the dead. Just in time, Rick and his newly armed troop arrive at the camp, taking out the remnants of the walking dead. At the same moment, everyone is beginning to realize the cost of the ambush, including a minor character.
The zombie attack has subsided, and the camp is cleaning up the bodies, both of the former living and the walking dead. During the disposal of the bodies, Andrea keeps watch over her severely bitten sister, awaiting for her inevitable reanimation, and Jim is discovered to have been bitten by the infected during the attack. A recurring theme appears in the series — again: Daryl needs to be stopped multiple times from killing a living being. Jim is quarantined to Dale’s camper, while Rick begins devising a plan to head to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta as a last-ditch effort to rescue Jim and the camp — and find an answer — from/about the plague. After forming alliances with his wife and his estranged friend Shane, Rick convinces (almost) everyone to mount a caravan to the CDC. Along the way, Jim decides his place to die is alone in the woods, and, after too much debate, the caravan decides to leave him on the side of the road. Meanwhile, the audience is treated to a glimpse into the life of Dr. Jenner, a seemingly alone scientist who has settled into a daily routine of trying to find a cure for the plague … as well as seeing a tragic mistake that may have set Jenner back years. As the caravan reaches the CDC, night has landed and, aside from Rick, the caravan members are growing weary of the prediction that the CDC is the last place to go. While the undead converge on the caravan as it arrives at the CDC, Rick pleads to a watchful eye…and it seems to answer.
The episode begins with a plot-filler — Shane at the hospital with Rick, still in a coma. Shane witnesses the slaughter of both patients and the undead by the military while he tries to rescue Rick from his hospital bed. Ultimately, Shane flees.
Flash to the present, and the survivors are underground, getting drunk on wine, eating a hearty meal, while their host, Jenner, sits off to the side, quiet and slightly amused. As the guests begin to question their gracious host, they learn that the plague has no hope of a cure, and the best chance for survival donated herself to the cause. In a brilliantly filmed scene, the protagonists see what the infection does, how it changes a once normal person into a flesh-finding beast, and, ultimately, the only known cure for the undead. While Mrs. Grimes and Shane (drunkenly) fight off feelings for each other, Jenner’s acceptance of humanity’s fate is soon revealed. And the countdown to survival begins, with some deciding if life on the outside is worth a chance, or if incineration is a better option.
Romero Rules Followed: I saw a few quick little bastards in the zombie hordes, but these are, almost to a “T,” Romero zombies.
Gore factor: It grew in later episodes, especially the camp attack.
Zombies or Wannabees? Absolute zombies
Classic, fine, or waste of time: Classic
Additional comments: I can’t help but admit I was royally disappointed by the first two episodes of this series. I waited until it was all over (the whole six episodes) until I dived in. It has a few pitfalls (the most zombie-fueled episode came near the end, and the overly-emotional, although nearly touching, zombie transformation was dragged out far too long [not to mention foreshadowing was fist-pounded at the beginning of said episode], and Jenner was too interesting of a character to not have been introduced earlier; the writers could have decided to introduce him in the same way (a sprinkle of his diaries at the end of each episode would have added a tad bit of mystery and intrigue into his character, rather than simply shoe-horning him into the last two episodes — but that’s just me).
I cannot say “The Walking Dead” sucked. I simply expected more. Once again, I admit I have not delved into the graphic novels as of yet, but seeing numerous Facebook/Twitter/emails about it, I really expected a new generation’s “Night of the Living Dead.” “The Walking Dead,” as a TV series, doesn’t even come close. It has some great moments, but some moments are (majorly) overshadowed by some issues I cannot ignore (How did Rick have all the answers at the beginning, seemingly holding it all together, and suddenly forget how to form a logical thought by the end of the season? He looked completely lost by the end. And, please, if women are going to survive the apocalypse, they should not cry so much. Seriously. I think any woman who could survive a zombie apocalypse would not sit around crying all the time. Cut back on that, please. For some reason, I prefer to think of women as strong, not crying sissies).
All in all, these are minor complaints. “The Walking Dead” had a lot of high points. Despite my hurtful slings and arrows, we really were given a set of characters to which we could relate. We were given top-notch zombies (great work, KNB EFX; I have admired you since my youth). We were given a zombie story that felt mostly real. We were given characters and (some) situations we could relate. Not shabby for a basic cable channel. I now divert my focus onto the graphic novel (which, certainly will wind up here for praise/slaughter).
And, yes, without reservation, I gave this one a “Classic” rating. I’m not entirely stupid.
— ROB PERRY