Review: AMC's The Walking Dead

No guts, no glory
By RYAN STEWART  |  October 28, 2010

There's quite a lot to like about The Walking Dead, Frank Darabont's adaptation for AMC (debuts this Saturday, October 30, at 10 pm) of Robert Kirkman's celebrated graphic novel about life after the zombie apocalypse. That is, if you can make it past the opening sequence.

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) — already a long way removed from his life as a sheriff's deputy in the Deep South — is searching for some gas for his broken-down vehicle. He comes across an abandoned filling station. Then he sees something moving — a young girl, probably eight or nine, instantly recognizable as a zombie to viewers (though for a moment Rick thinks she's ordinary flesh-and-blood). She advances on him and he shoots her, the blood gushing in slow motion from her forehead wound.

I'm not sure it works as a beginning — what it reveals about Rick (that he has learned how to survive in this changed world) could have been illustrated in a number of ways and doesn't really need to be our first impression of the guy. That said, though the shock value is mitigated by the rest of the pilot (the show demonstrates that killing these zombies is an act of mercy as much as anything), I understand why they chose this image as an opener. It's a message to viewers that TheWalking Dead is not playing around when it comes to violence and gore. If you can't handle that, this isn't the show for you.

If you stick around, you'll be taken to the beginning of Rick's story. He and his partner, Shane (Jon Bernthal), wind up in the middle of a standoff with some perps, and Rick catches a bullet below the shoulder. Next thing he knows, he's waking up in an empty hospital. After realizing that nobody will come to his aid, he starts wandering the halls and finds that things are not as they should be. After a quick check of his house — nobody home — he encounters a man and his son, two neighborhood survivors, who bring him up to speed on what's happened and the zombie rules we're all so familiar with. (Those bitten by zombies become zombies, blows to the head kill zombies, etc.) They mention something about a government-sponsored refugee camp in Atlanta, so Rick heads there in search of his wife and son. No surprise as to what he finds.

It's tough to call TheWalking Dead a straight survival-horror show, but like many of the best horror films, it does draw a lot of tension out of its quiet moments — like Rick's escape down a darkened stairwell and his exploration of a backwoods farmhouse. The show takes its time placing Rick in his new circumstances — which is probably for the best, though I prefer the quicker pace of the comic. And, of course, there's plenty of blood and guts. In one memorable sequence in episode two, Rick and some other survivors dismember a zombie's corpse and cover themselves in its remains, thinking that the scent might camouflage them from the other undead.

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