So I have just watched series one of The Walking Dead. I must confess that I haven’t read the comic books so whatever thoughts I have about this stem directly from the series.
What do I think about it? I thought it was good. It was some fun entertainment but it does have a lot of problems (possibly teething problems) that need to be addressed in series two. Although having a longer run of episodes might help that.
My first problem is the whole coma thing. A guy wakes up from a coma and the world has gone to shit and the streets are deserted. It’s completely 28 Days Later in that respect, but in all honesty there probably isn’t a better way to drop a character or the audience into that situation. Nothing new but it is tried and tested.
Problem number 2. Wooden characters. I know that these characters may be in the comic books. But the definition of good and evil stretches quite easily in comics. While a guy can be an arrogant redneck racist (Merle) in a comic and get his just desserts, on television the character just comes across as stale and out of date. The Jim character is basically introduced to be killed. The whole grave digging and sunstroke angle is designed for you to feel empathy for him when he gets bitten. But he’s not needed other than to show dwindling numbers in the group. I’m surprised that the character wasn’t cut when they trimmed the fat, so to speak. Again this goes for the guy who hits his wife and gets beaten up. His only purpose is to show how unstable Shane is becoming with Rick’s reappearance. Even Shane’s actions when he attacks Lori are pretty poor. It’s meant to aid the tension that will build between the two but instead of making you hate the character, you kind of hate the show for making the character do that. I may be spoilt though, when you see some of the characters (and actors) that are really multi dimensional from other current shows such as John Luther (Idris Elba) from Luther, Tyrion Lannister (Peter Drinklage) from Game of Thrones and Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) from Broadwalk Empire.
However, I’m not all about the negative. There are several things that are really good about the show (which is probably why the lower points annoy me so much). The first episode with its feature on Morgan and Duane Jones is brilliant. The whole scene where he’s crying, shooting Walkers from the window after putting a picture of his wife up is absolutely beautifully acted and written. Genuine humanity there. Also, the character of Dale. In the last episode after Andrea decides to stay, his choice to stay is well acted. You can see how much of a betrayal he considers it that she would be so selfish as to rob others of her life. The entire last episode, where you finally get some answers, is very well done and you get a sense of the show progressing beyond the characters basic survival into something greater, as well as Noah Emmerich’s great guest starring role. By the way, I score huge geek points for getting the reference to the Wildfire complex*. Finally, the series itself is wonderfully shot, beautifully constructed and the make up is incredible. There is always a certain foregone conclusion when it comes to zombie movies that they are either comical or scary. This thankfully does neither and is all the better for it. The Walkers themselves are a nice combo between your run of the mill ‘zombie’ and the super fast terrifying ‘zombies’ of 28 Days Later and I Am Legend.
All of this does make me want to carry on into the second season. Now that the camp is unsettled, more knowledgeable and on the run, it does lead the show into some potentially great territory. Let’s hope it carries it forward and leaves some of the poor characterisation behind.
*Wildfire is the name of the top secret underground laboratory in Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. Originally designed for chemical warfare experimentation, it was used to try and find a cure for the spreading Andromeda epidemic.