The Walking Dead: A new show about Zombies on AMC?

On Sunday night  I sat down in my bedroom, switched on the television and flipped around for a bit. I was pleasantly surprised to see the last few minutes of the Dawn of the Dead remake. It was a free for all of zombies and gunplay on an unparalled level. Bullets! Brains! Explosions! Escapes! Ving Rhames with a big effin’ gun! But, alas, it wasn’t the work of zombie fiction I wanted to watch. I had a jones for something special. I was waiting for the premiere of The Walking Dead, the new zombie-themed drama on AMC.

I’ll preface things by saying that I am a loyal devotee of the source matter from which the show is derived. I read the Walking Dead every month in comic book (no, not graphic novel) form. With the exception of the odd issue here and there, it’s by far one of the best written and illustrated titles on the shelves. Created by writer Robert Kirkman and artists Tony Moore & Charlie Adlard, it’s the tale of a group of survivors seeking safety in a world overrun by the undead.  It’s riveting drama that never strays into melodrama and never disappoints in the gore category. With that said, I was both excited and nervous when I heard it was being developed by Frank Darabont as a television show. While immensely talented, I didn’t know if Darabont (or anyone, for that matter) could adequately bring this work of fiction to the screen. I was wrong. Dead wrong.

Right off the bat, what struck me was graininess of the film stock used for the show. It isn’t 35mm and definitely isn’t high definition. My keen eyes (all four of them) tell me that it was shot on 16mm. The comic version is black & white (as in ‘absolutely no color’) and, while the show doesn’t follow that stylistic choice, the film grain gives a gritty realism that echoes the artwork of series artists, Moore and Adlard.  The cinematography, by frequent Darabont collaborator, David Tattersall is refined and straight-forward.  There are no random shifts in visual quality or crazy lighting schemes.  More importantly, each scene is lit and framed to convey the dire straights of those who have survived.

The same can be said for the almost non-existent score by former Battlestar Galactica composer, Bear McCreary.  The music is sparse and goes almost unnoticed throughout the majority of the episode, but it fits the tone of show nicely. The characters drive the drama and the music enhances it. The music for the credit sequence is simply epic and hints at the horrors to come. Check it out  here.

The performances are uniformly strong by everyone involved. It is fair to say though, that the majority of the episode is stolen by Andrew Lincoln as Deputy Sheriff Rick Grimes. Played with a mix of unflinching determination and quiet vulnerability, Rick gives us a hero that we can root for and identify with. In the face of societal collapse and a threat unlike any humanity has ever seen, he just wants to find his family. Like the best of us, he’s brave when he needs to be and loses it later. Another notable performance is Lennie James as Morgan Jones, one half of a father /son duo who Rick comes across early in the episode.  James echoes Lincoln’s performance and his character illustrates the strength needed to survive a world gone mad…even if the cost is madness itself.

The direction, by writer/director/executive producer Frank Darabont, is slow and deliberate. It calls to mind a perfect mix of his work on the Mist and The Shawshank Redemption.  The story is adapted from the first issue of the comic book and, while it varies in spots, sets up the series nicely. The zombies are frightening and, in some cases, quite sad. I won’t ruin it for you, but there are one or two featured undead that almost made me tear up. The make-up effects by Greg Nicotero & KNB are top notch and give us some of the most visually arresting zombies ever to grace the screen.

For fellow zombie enthusiasts, we are treated to zombies of a pedigree we usually don’t see. The argument over the last few years amongst the zombie-fiction elite is which type of zombie is better: Fast or Slow? The walking Dead goes a step further and gives us mid-speed zombies. They aren’t the Olympic-level sprinters of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead remake, nor are they the classic shambling roamers of Romero zombie films. These zombies move in a slow, lumbering gait and occasionally speed up when prey presents itself. Regardless,  the undead of this piece, as with most zombie-fiction, are most dangerous in large groups. The Walking Dead displays this fact with an alarming scene that’ll make you want to hide your kids (and hide your wife).

From viewing the first episode alone, I’m convinced everyone involved is bringing their A-game. I can’t find any glaring problems and any issues I did have were so miniscule they don’t deserve mentioning. I’m happy to see a smart, well-produced serialized show grace television again. Losing LOST and Battlestar Galactica left me craving something. Maybe the Walking Dead can feed that hunger.

4 Responses to “The Walking Dead: A new show about Zombies on AMC?”
  1. krizgee says:

    I have to say, I think Lennie James deserves a way bigger part than he was given and MORE PRAISE! The man is a superb actor which he’s proven time and time again. He made this show seem almost “human”. It is that acting that will allow others to see that this isn’t about the zombies being the “walking dead” but the alive and well humans on the run.

    • Ricardo says:

      agreed! the ratings were amazing and I agree on Lennie James. I’ve been a fan since I saw him on an episode of MI-5 back in ’05-’06. He was amazing on Jericho and quite good during stints on Lie to Me & Hung. as a fan of the comic and tv show, i REALLY hope we see him again.

  2. krizgee says:

    It should also be noted that the show produced a higher rating than almost any show on CBS or NBC and ABC (minus the few break out hits like Modern Family etc). A freaking 5.3! Insanity for a show on AMC.

  3. Fernando says:

    Thanks for hooking me up to the comic book series. I have to inform all Zombie lovers. If you ever see one, you better have your best running sneakers lon. Their walking speed will surprise you and if not careful, one big chunk of flesh will disappear from you.

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