(Ed's note: Say hello to Jake, an old pal and someone who'll hopefully be writing a lot more for us about televisual entertainment.)
Words: Jake Tobin
'The Walking Dead' Episode 1: 'Days Gone Bye'
SYNOPSIS: Graphic novel adaptation, developed for television by Frank Darabont. The pilot episode sees Sheriff's Deputy Rick Grimes waking up alone in a hospital, having been shot. He then sets out to find his family amidst a zombie apocalypse.
Starting in medias res, the first shocking thing about 'The Walking Dead' in the pre-titles scene is Andrew Lincoln’s ('Teachers', 'This Life') American accent, shortly followed by him shooting a young girl in the face. The girl was a zombie, and here we have the key element of the show: it’s a zombie apocalypse. Post-titles, we reach the beginning of the story and are introduced to our hero (actual name: Rick Grimes), then shown how he survives until the action truly begins (he survives by getting shot - seriously).
'The Walking Dead'’s pilot episode swings between touching scenes in which characters deal with being alone or the loss of family members; dramatic scenes in which tensions are raised due to the problem of living in a world inhabited primarily by zombies; and action scenes which are comparable to any zombie film, which range from distressing and morally dubious to awesomely gory and exciting.
The pilot does well in explaining the mythology surrounding this particular style of ‘walker’, as well as introducing us to most of the secondary characters who will populate the other five episodes in this series. The pilot also gives us a good look into the psyche of the lead character Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes, played well by Lincoln, despite the accent which most British viewers will probably find disconcerting when first hearing it.
At the moment, a lot of television programmes and films are finding their source material in comic books and graphic novels. Like many of the others, 'The Walking Dead' has a large amount of source material to draw upon (78 issues so far), so the story is unlikely to stagnate for the rest of this six episode season, or the 13 episode second season which has been announced after only two episodes have aired on the other side of the Atlantic.
As with all of the other television series, which were originally produced for the channel AMC in the States, the production values are high - as are almost all other aspects of the programme, the script, acting and direction. Three-time Oscar nominated director Frank Darabont helms this pilot, for example. 'Mad Men' and 'Breaking Bad' have set high standards for a channel which has 100% pilot to pick up rate and I expect 'The Walking Dead' to live up to them, much like 'Rubicon' which will be shown on BBC4 sometime in the near future.
The final scenes of the first episode of 'The Walking Dead' are action packed and introduce the audience to the true dangers of a large pack of ‘walkers’, even if you are on a horse with a massive bag of guns on your back. The episode finally reaches the haunting and grotesque possibilities the setting warrants, and also concludes after one of the few comic moments. We are left with some horrible images, but with interest about what the future holds for Rick Grimes and whoever else has managed to survive in the post-apocalyptic world of 'The Walking Dead'.
The first episode is repeated tonight at 11pm on FX in the UK. New episodes air Fridays at 10pm and are repeated throughout the week. Viewers elsewhere should go here