Arguably the biggest hit of the 2010 television season, the apocalypse drama The Walking Dead pulls the zombie subgenre out of its overexposed doldrums and finds, ironically enough, the humanity and emotion beneath its rotting shell. Produced by Frank Darabont and Gale Anne Hurd and based on the acclaimed graphic novel by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead follows a band of Atlanta-based survivors of a viral outbreak that has caused the dead to rise up and consume the living.The group’s nominal leader is a sheriff’s deputy (Andrew Lincoln) who wakes from a gunshot-induced coma to find the world in disarray and his wife (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son missing. His search for his family and the survivors’ attempts to make sense of their lives in the wake of the outbreak is handled with intelligence and sensitivity, which helps to elevate the show beyond the grindhouse take on zombies, which favors spilled guts over character development.
That’s not to say that the blood doesn’t flow plentifully here: the special effects are on par with zombie-movie mayhem, but again, they aren’t the show’s raison d’être. Solid performances, including Jon Bernthal as Lincoln’s partner, Jeffrey DeMunn as the group’s leading rationalist, and Michael Rooker and Norman Reedus as a pair of trouble-making rednecks, and gripping suspense make each of the first season’s six episodes compelling from start to finish for both horror fans and those who dislike the genre as a whole.
The story in these six episodes, for the most part, adheres to the first few individual comics or the collected “Volume One: Days Gone By.” This is the series’ jumping off point–and, in truth, sets things up in a fairly typical way. After being involved in a shoot-out, cop Rick awakes from a coma isolated, but not alone, in a local hospital. Apparently, in the time he was out, something has shifted in the world and now the dead walk.
The program introduces Rick and many other principles as he tries to figure out what is happening while he crosses the state to locate his family. On the outskirts of Atlanta, Rick is reunited with his wife Lori, son Carl, and police partner Shane with a group of other survivors. I was afraid, with so much story to draw from, Darabont might rush things. Instead, “The Walking Dead” takes its time setting up the premise, introducing the cast, and establishing a bleak new world. It is a tremendous accomplishment that really allows the viewer to identify with the action, to become emotionally connected with the horror.
Character to watch: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the series.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?