December 10, 2010

Shuffler's On the Prowl

So, there's a new show on the block, one that's a bit different from anything else out there. Though it seems like just yesterday it premiered, the first season has come to an end. The show in question? The Walking Dead, aka, my new favorite show.

Yeah, I know. You're amazed that I watch anything other Glee. To that, I say, nay! I don't watch much TV, and when I do, a lot of it is taken up by that musical showgasm, but, give a guy a break. At least I'm diverse. Being that zombies are the only form of horror that I can stand, and the only form that I view as something more than a cheap way to scare people, I was super excited for The Walking Dead. What did I think about the first season of this season's hottest new show? Well, if I told you now, you wouldn't have to read the rest of the post. I wouldn't be a good blogger if I did that. How could you think that of me? Jeez!

Must Go Faster!

The Walking Dead follows a group of survivors struggling to survive in a world over run with shambling, cannibalistic corpses. The main focus is on Rick Grimes, a sheriff's deputy who was in a coma while the world ended. He wakes up to something out of a horror movie, and quickly sets out on a quest to find his wife and son, who are, conveniently, being kept safe with a group of survivors under the leadership of Shane, Rick's former partner. Once Rick is reunited with them, they must contend with the various problems that arise within the group, the lack of resources, and the constant threat of the dead, who are always looking for a new meal. Serious stuff.

Based off the first few issues of the comic of the same name, The Walking Dead is unlike any other TV serial to ever come along. It's more akin to a full fledged horror movie, albeit in smaller chunks. The overarching story is fantastic, with each main character sufficiently explored and built up. So good is the development, that when characters inevitably die, it's actually tough to stomach. It's good stuff.

Alright, I find myself in a bit of a quandary here. Reviewing a whole season is kinda difficult, since there are so many factors to consider. Strengths and weaknesses of each episode. Sustained interest. A whole slew of things. So, I guess I'll just briefly touch on each episode. Lay it all out on the table. You know you love it.

Episode 1 - Days Gone Bye: As a pilot, it doesn't get much better than this. A brilliant set up leads to strong episode filled to the brim with horror and pathos. And the ending, which sees Rick evade a whole horde of the undead in the middle of Atlanta, is aces!

Episode 2 - Guts: Easily the most disgusting of the first six episodes, Guts is a small step down from the amazing pilot. Merle Dixon is not a very good character. He is just mean and racist for no reason. The part where they smear guts on themselves and walk with the dead is great though.

Episode 3 - Tell It To The Frogs: An improvement on Guts. The reunion of Rick and his family is beautifully done. The introduction of Norman Reedus as Merle's brother Daryl is a great addition to the cast. Not enough zombie stuff. Only two zombies are killed. That's an issue.

Episode 4 - Vatos: Best of the season, by far. Plenty of good character development, and plenty of zombie action. The finale is one of the most grisly things ever put on TV. Truly devastating.

Episode 5 - Wildfire: The group decides to head to the CDC following the attack on the camp. Jim's goodbye didn't carry the same weight as Andrea blowing zombie Amy's head off, but it was still emotional. The inclusion of the CDC doctor is interesting, and very haunting.

Episode 6 -TS-19: The finale of the first season is very haunting, and does a great job of explaining the true scale of the situation. The undead epidemic has not been contained, and the world has fallen to the walkers. This realization if perfectly realized, and the scene where Jacqui and Jenner resign themselves to their fate as everyone else escapes is heartbreaking. Awesome explosion to close out an awesome first season.

If I had to rank them, I'd say that Vatos comes first, followed by Days Gone Bye, with every other episode thrown into the back in some random order. All in all, there really wasn't a weak episode. Sure, there were some minor qualms, but nothing that deterred me from feverishly anticipating the next installment.

One thing that's always annoyed me about TV shows is that the acting quality can vary wildly from episode to episode. This wasn't really the case with The Walking Dead, whose actors stayed at a pretty good level of excellence for the whole run. Andrew Lincoln as Rick was perfect, convey all the confusion and stupid honor that the character was supposed to. Jon Bernthal is also great as Shane, doing a great job at balancing his desire to keep everyone safe while simultaneously being really difficult to cooperate with. And Norman Reedus as Daryl, though not the deepest of characters, stole the show in my mind, though that could just be because I thought it was awesome seeing a Boondock Saint shooting zombies in the head with a crossbow. It's strong stuff.

Boondock Saints 3: Dead Men Walking

Frank Darabont, the guy behind such cinematic achievements as The Shawshank Redemption and The Mist is the creator and writer of The Walking Dead. Apparently, the plot deviates significantly from that of the comic, especially in the end of the season. The whole thing with the CDC doesn't happen in the novel, and quite a few of the characters were created for the purposes of the series. Now, I haven't read graphic novels, so I have no idea if this is true or if the interwebs are just jerking me around, but I have to say that the writing and direction in this show is top notch, and on the level of most blockbusters. The show is clearly taking cards from other zombie movies of past eras. The scene of Rick waking up in the hospital to find it deserted bears a little more than a striking resemblance to the same scene in 28 Days Later..., many of the scenes of zombie carnage are very reminiscent of Romero, and the plot of a scientist trying to cure the plague from an underground bunker has a lot in common with Resident Evil or I Am Legend

That being said, the combination of all these elements, and the skill with which they are implemented makes for a product that's quite unlike anything we've seen before. The characters are all fleshed out to a great level; the writing is fantastic. And then, there's the blood. Darabont and Co. weren't hampered by the censors of network TV, so they could go all out. And, boy, do they ever! The scene in Guts where Rick chops up a corpse, spilling its entrails, removing limbs, and causing blood to flow like a river on the floor, and then proceed to smear said entrails, limbs, and blood on himself is one of the most, flat-out gory scenes I've seen, easily beating anything seen on Dexter or True Blood. You can't tell a zombie story without some serious gore, and thankfully, we are covered in that department. 

The Walking Dead is awesome! What basically boils down to a zombie movie turned into a TV serial is actually one of the best new shows this season! Though it was painfully short, it was so sweet! Can't wait for the next season! I hope it comes soon!

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