Walking Dead pilot

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Hey there zombs! Sorry I missed yesterday’s News Day Tuesday—I have been struck by THE PLAGUE (or possibly the common cold) and I have felt far too puny to be my usual chipper blogging self. I promise to make next Tuesday extra-newsy for you!

Who watched The Walking Dead pilot live Halloween night? How exciting was that?! We had a small spooky party and a group of 10-or-so people cozied up in my tiny living room to watch the mayhem unspool—commericals and all!—on my big, pretty TV. And jeezy chreezy, am I glad I have such a nice HD television, because The Walking Dead is, if nothing else, GORE-geous. The stark lighting and bleak landscapes make stunning supplements to the not-insignificant blood splatter.

pilot thriller

Just PRETTY, you know? (pretty scary!) I’ve been waiting breathlessly for this show to premiere since it was first announced. Robert Kirkman’s comic is elegantly told, structured around the depths to which society can plunge when, well, there is no more society. The Walking Dead is not a horror comic, although there are certainly horrific elements in spades. Rather, Walking Dead strives to tell a sprawling character-driven epic, delving into how such havoc and devastation can deeply change a person. Even a good, strong, God-fearing person. Sometimes ESPECIALLY that person. The Walking Dead is a marathon, not a sprint, and Frank Darabont’s adaptation gives every sign of being in it for the long haul. The 90-minute pilot ends approximately 40 pages into the first issue of the so-far 13 volume series. There is a LOT of story left to tell, and after watching the pilot, I am convinced that Darabont is the man to do it.

Darabont’s exceptional film The Mist (reviewed here) is, in part, a capsulized version of the same story: incomprehensibly scary shit goes down and a small group of survivors embark on a bleak journey lead by a reluctant but courageous family man with integrity. And goddammit if Darabont didn’t GET THAT RIGHT. With Kirkman himself on the writing staff and AMC by all accounts being entirely flexible as to the content, it bodes well for a story that Hollywood NEEDS to get right, lest they piss off a legion of nerds. We’re scary en masse!

pilot pile-up

Darabont doesn’t slavishly adhere to the source material, either, which would be a mistake. The art, the approach and the characters are what make The Walking Dead a beautiful story—the story itself actually needs a little work, particularly in order to be presented as a cohesive television series. The pilot strengthened some of the comic’s finest moments (Rick’s encounter with Morgan and Duane Jones, his desperate escape from the hospital) and, by showing  Rick and Shane’s friendship before the shootout, the shootout itself, Rick’s problems with Lori, and Shane’s relationship with Lori, bolsters some actions to come that appear to have little motivation in the comic.

pilot dont open

Yes, Rick makes several stupid decisions in the first episode, but how do we watch a show about zombie apocalypse that takes place in a universe that has never seen fiction about zombie apocalypse? Sure, we’ll yell at the characters: “SHOOT THEM! NOW! IN THE BRAINS! YES, EVEN THE LITTLE KIDS! GAHHH!” but it’s by necessity that Rick and company live in a world without George Romero or Leslie Hall. Otherwise the story becomes too meta, too wink-wink-nudge-nudgey, and that’s not scary. That’s Zombieland, which is a fun movie to be sure, but it’s not The Walking Dead.

As Walking Dead is such a character-driven story, the casting is obviously key here. We’ve only met a fraction of the characters that make up this hopeless ensemb, but I’m very pleased with the casting so far.

pilot rickrick

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes has just the right amount of honesty and openness in his countenance.  He’s sort of casually conventional and you can root for him. That’s important.

pilot shane 2shane

Do I want to punch Jon Bernthal‘s Shane Walsh in the face, while still finding him disarmingly attractive? Yes, yes I do.

pilot wifefamily

Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori is annoying but hot and Chandler Riggs as Carl is annoying but cute? Sounds about right!

morgan and duanemorgan jonesduane jones

I loved the expansion of the story with Morgan (Lennie James) and Duane (Adrian Kali Turner) Jones. They eventually prove themselves to be as affable as in the comics, but they start out duly FIERCE considering the bullshit they’ve been forced to suffer.

glenn 2glenn

We’ve just BARELY met Glenn (Steven Yeun) at the end of the episode, but I cheered and fist-pumped as soon as I saw him, much as I did with the comic, so that’s promising.

dale 2dale

Likewise, we saw very little of Darabont favorite Jeffrey DeMunn as Dale, but take my word for it: he’s PERFECT.

The show’s done a favorable job so far of storytelling, character development and cinematography. That’s all you need, right? ERRONEOUS! The Walking Dead may focus on more profound and encompassing societal issues than on zombies, but HOLY SHIT, you guys. There are zombies! And effects make-up genius Gregory Nicotero (Piranha 3D, Jennifer’s Body, Drag Me to Hell, The Mist and many, many other of my fave gory flicks) is NOT fucking around. These mothers are spectacular!

pilot no legs zombie

He’s continuing work on the series, thank lordy, because I swear that a good 45% of my enthusiasm for the pilot stems from the above pic. JUST LOOK AT IT! Glorious!!

The Walking Dead pilot, while ultimately satisfying, is still a pilot. There’s plenty of dreary build-up, expository dialogue, and characters reeling far too long from the events of the outbreak. But ratings for the pilot were AMC’s highest ever, so I’m pleased to note that we’ll get plenty of opportunity to rage with and against these fallible survivors in the future. If you haven’t seen the pilot, I urge you to download it from iTunes, or at least watch the video recap at AMC. Tune in this Sunday at 10/9c for the second episode. Lemme know, dear readers–should I make these reviews a weekly feature? Damn, I have a lot of weekly features. And also a day job. But I am at your disposal! And now, for a glimpse of the absolute coolest scene in Sunday’s pilot or any other episode of any other show in the history of television…et voila:

pilot horse 3

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8 Responses to “Walking Dead pilot”

  1. Christopher Borders Says:

    It was a very good premier. I’m so excited about having a zombie TV show :D

  2. Yep, that was one hell of a premiere. I’m not sure Darabont can top his work in The Mist on a very, very similar subject, but I sure am gonna enjoy watching him try!

    I’ve been a fan of Nicotero for years, as well. Anyone who’s resume STARTS with Day of the Dead, Invasion USA, and Evil Dead II and includes every episode of Deadwood (Swedgin! Cocksucker!) is A-OK in my book. Jesus that zombie makeup was amazing.

    My favorite scene, by far, was from that still image you show at the end, Marla. When Rick Grimes rounds the corner on his horse, I think the entire room screamed “Oh shit!” at the exact same moment, and I don’t think I breathed once the entire time he was under that tank. Amazing and intense, and really really cool.

    Awesome show! Can’t wait to see it unfold.

  3. It was SO GOOD AHHH. I have not read the source material, but I am already all over this show. It’s just so . . . pretty! I honestly think that the acting and writing could go to shit, and I’d still watch just for the cinematography and make up.

    Excellent recap, Marla!! I for one would love a weekly write-up, because I know the other options won’t come anywhere close to your level of detail.

  4. You are so nice, lady! This is why you’re my favorite.

  5. OMG ANDREW LINCOLN IS IN THIS?!!!

    you guys HELLO HE’S THE SIGN GUY IN LOVE ACTUALLY!!!

    i might actually watch this show now, because it’s possible that his swoonworthyness might outweigh my sheer terror.

    or i might just keep reading marla’s recaps, so i can get all the goods without the insane fear.

  6. Christopher Borders Says:

    As of the second episode, this show continues to be super awesome. And it gives me wonderful zombie dreams :D

  7. So glad you’re enjoying it, Chris!! I’m going to review the second one later today. Yay!

  8. The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 16 Online

    blog topic

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