After waking from a coma in an abandoned hospital, police officer Rick Grimes finds the world he knew gone – ravaged by a zombie epidemic of apocalyptic proportions. Nearby, on the outskirts of Atlanta, a small encampment struggles to survive as ‘the dead’ stalk them at every turn. Can Rick and the others hold onto their humanity as they fight to live in this terrifying new world? And, amidst dire conditions and personal rivalries, will they ultimately survive one another? AMC’s The Walking Dead is an epic, survival adventure series from the director of The Shawshank Redemption and the producer of The Terminator and Aliens.
I love horror and outre film and television, but, no pun intended, I thought until “The Walking Dead” that the zombie genre was a played out mining town. Starting far back with Bela Lugosi’s fantastic “White Zombie” all the way up through the masterpiece “Night of the Living Dead” and ending in satire with the hilarious “Army of Darkness” and “Shaun of the Dead,” I thought myself to be on safe ground in this harshly critical assessment. Sometimes, it’s a pleasure to be flat wrong.
I watched all six episodes of The Walking Dead: Season 1, and cannot wait for the next season. It’s an ensemble acting piece, so focus never lingers too long on any one particular character. This is a brilliant opening gambit for television since the viewer can, in a way, vicariously share the dread of “just getting to know someone” and then have them ripped away, either by the evil of men, mischance, or zombie attack. Some think that the acting is contrived. I do not. All of the characters are on edge, just up to the point of hysteria, and played consistently thus. True, it can make for one-note dialogue and predictable, archetypal situations, but what other notes might there be in the opening month of the end of the world, and a world not only ending but grown hideously hostile to boot? It will be interesting to see how the actors manage the change into something “else” as they adapt to a zombie-filled world, and I hope they are up to the challenge. From the looks of things thus far, they are.
And this makes the title especially provocative. One would assume that “The Walking Dead” refers to zombies. I am not sure of that at all. Here, the undead are the backdrop to the action, not the action itself. The action lies in the excellent ensemble acting and cleverly turned scripting. It may well unfold that the living are the ones who end up truly meriting that disturbing title, not the once-human shambling mounds of flesh haunting the desolate streets of “Necropolis Atlanta.” I have an odd suspicion that by the end of season two, the mindless juggernaut of zombie hordes will be a pale shadow compared to the darker and more malevolent forces that can shape the human soul into something far more fearful and terrifying. And these six shows set up that subtle possibility with suprising elegance as the normal turns suddenly abnormal and the “brave new world” or both urban and rural America comes bloodily undone.
This is not a show for the faint of heart. The make-up and effects for television are very well done and almost entirely convincing. The adult situations, profanity, and desperate sexuality also make “The Walking Dead” unsuitable for minors. But for adults, this is nothing less than a treat and not a “guilty pleasure.”
So spread the word. Zombies are back, and very scary again. Almost as scary as the people trying to outlive them. Five stars.