by Shannon O’Leary
So, does The Walking Dead (premiering this Sunday, Halloween, on AMC at 10:00/9 PM C) live up to the hype?
One Word Answer: Ewwwwwwwwww!
It’s definitely the grossest basic cable show of all time and possibly the grossest TV show ever. Seriously, even the gorier episodes of True Blood or Keeping up with the Kardashians don’t come close. Definitely don’t plan on handling meat of any kind after watching it.
Is it groundbreaking and amazing? Only in the sense that you can’t believe something that gnarly is on TV. The storytelling is very good and the style and pace of the first two episodes are great. The show was either shot with a warped lens or something was done in post-production to create an unsettling, claustrophobic 3D space for the viewer. There’s not a wasted minute in either the first or second episodes. Both move quickly and maintain suspense for their entire running times. Series Writer, Director, and Executive Producer, Frank Darabont left nothing to chance and it shows. His teleplay is tight and the production is meticulous yet epic in scale.
But where The Walking Dead really succeeds is in how well it realizes the source material while reinventing it. There are new survivors who don’t seem tacked on and whole new scenarios for old familiar survivors that are tweaked just enough to be different without straying too far from the original template. The Walking Dead has always been a typical zombie set up but it’s never been a typical zombie story. Just like in Kirkman’s comics, there are significant stretches where the survivors don’t interact with (or even say the word) zombies. The real investment for readers of the comic has always been seeing how the characters adapt in the face of zombie adversity and the TV incarnation seems to be setting viewers up for the same kind of payoff.
I’m cracked out crazy about AMC’s other dark, more character driven dramas, Breaking Bad and Mad Men, but I didn’t realize I wanted to see some decent, unassuming TV folks faced with making indecent, inhuman choices until I saw The Walking Dead. This is a dark, plot driven story that pummels its characters mercilessly as opposed to a dark, character driven plot where the characters pummel themselves and everyone around them. These are uncomplicated characters who, prior to the Zombiepocalypse, were living simple lives. And right now, putting straightforward, salt of the earth types in a bad, total gross out situation is a TV twist that will still appeal to the current zeitgeist’s taste for the distasteful. People might cringe with self-recognition and secretly want to be like antiheroes Don Draper and Walter White, but I suspect they’ll wind up relating to and rooting for everyday hero Rick Grimes just as much, if not more.
Sheez, two episodes in, and I’m already hoping the best for the guy – even though I know the worst is yet to come. Watch along with me, whydontcha, then check back here at The Beat for episode recaps starting November 1st.