By theredraylives | March 21, 2012
The Walking Dead
Developed by Frank Darabont
Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Laurie Holden, Sarah Wayne Callies
Three out of Five Stars
If there is an important lesson to take away from Season 1 of “The Walking Dead” it’s that, ultimately, humanity deserved it. We’re greedy, we’re ignorant, we are racist, we are abusive, we are emotional and we sacrifice others to save ourselves. Fortunately for humanity, once the zombie apocalypse occurs (okay, okay… IF…), the absolute worst of us are the only ones who are going to survive, and they’ll survive in much the same fashion they did before there were zombies floatin’ around: by being greedy, ignorant, racist, abusive, overly emotional pricks who travel in a large group, though their survival instincts will extend to them and only them and their family members. “The Walking Dead” was a wonderful combination of great scenes and scenes that will only make one wish the zombies would show up faster and kill these people and that maybe the show will go somewhere more interesting or follow a group of people somewhere else who aren’t so bitterly unlikeable.
The premise centers around sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who wakes up from a coma to find that the zombie apocalypse has beset the Earth and everything has completely changed. While the set-up lacks some believability (viewers are supposed to believe that zombies, who can smell living flesh and beat their way through various types of barriers, can’t push a hospital bed out of the way and push open a door), it is meant as a vehicle for the viewer to experience the world first-hand (the audience surrogate).
Rick heads for home to find that his family has gone, and he resolves to get them back any way he can. He runs into another group of survivors- Morgan and Duane- who are bunkered down in the small town, living day to day avoiding the flesh-eating masses. They explain the status of the Earth, and soon accompany Rick to the police station to load up, where they instantly part ways (why isn’t apparent, and Morgan and Duane are never seen again). Rick sets off for Atlanta, where the CDC was to have set up a safe zone. Sadly, once he reaches the city, he finds that safe is the last thing he’ll find there, and ends up trapped in a tank (in one of the most absurd scenes ever witnessed, ever).
Rick happens to be found by survivors who happen to be linked up with a camp of survivors living outside of the city, where he is thrilled to find his wife and son (Sarah Wayne Callies and Chandler Riggs) and his best friend and former partner, Shane (Jon Bernthal). Other happy campers abound as well, including sisters Andrea and Amy (Laurie Holden and Emma Bell), T-Dog, Daryl, Glenn, and all the rest. Sadly the moment the remainder of these characters are introduced, the writers seem to forget the show they’re writing for, and the zombies become little more than flesh-eating plot devices that only show up when a little bit of intensity needs to be thrown on the screen. All of the episodes become a mixture of awesome and absurd moments, and rather than summarize them in an unorganized fashion, let’s break them down episode by episode with a note on some of the more cringe-worthy moments:
Days Gone By (Pilot)
Awesome: Pretty much the entire pilot, though HD viewers be warned- this thing looks terrible in HD, if one cares about that sort of thing. The episode didn’t need to go into Rick’s backstory before he wakes up, nor did we need to see the intro with the little girl zombie- it was meant merely as a hook for viewers, to open the series with him shooting a little girl. A much more effective opening would’ve been to open it as he wakes up. Backstory (including backstory with himself and Shane) can be handled later, and the little girl zombie can get shot some other time.
Absurd: Once Rick reaches Atlanta, he runs into a rather large group of the undead, and like everyone in a city full of zombies on horseback, he just… sits there. Okay, so he tries to turn around and slowly gallops the other way, but then stops. Rick, there were a few zombies the other way. Charge on the horse and plow your way through. Yes, I know the plot needs you to get trapped here so you can be found by Glenn and link up with the other survivors. It just didn’t have to be so ignorant. It gets even worse when he crawls underneath the tank, and magically finds a hatch leading into the tank (not suggesting the hatch wasn’t there, just suggesting that a small-town bumpkin sheriff’s deputy stumbling upon it at the last possible second is, kinda, well… yeah).
Would’ve Been Better If: Rick, how about trying to start the tank? I know it’s not a car, you don’t just turn the key and go, but see if you can do something with it. Of course, if you’d charged through the three or four zombies while on your horse and gotten out of the city, you wouldn’t be having this issue at all.
Awesome: Rick narrowly avoids being eaten by zombies and meets up with our other survivors. Of course, one of them has to be a racist southern neo-nazi (Michael Rooker is hilariously over-the-top in the role). Rick puts on his sheriff’s hat (figuratively) and “arrests” the big meanie, handcuffing him to a pipe on the roof. Because Rick has decided to fire off an entire clip worth of headshots he has attracted every walking corpse in the city, it seems, and the group must escape. So Rick comes up with the absolutely amazing plan of rubbing zombie guts all over himself. It is one of the greatest scenes of television that will ever be witnessed- the survivors chop up the zombie and smear themselves in it, then drape intestines and other guts over themselves, and head out into the crowd to go get a rescue truck.
Absurd: It started to rain. Really? The scene of them shuffling through the undead was tense enough, this was overkill. But the real eye-roller of the episode had to be when T-Dog went back to un-cuff Merle (Rooker) and dropped the key down a storm drain. The show goes so far as to cut to a slow-mo shot of T-Dog falling with the storm drain ominously in the foreground and the clearly CGI key flying from his hand and perfectly flying straight into the drain. T-Dog leaves Merle to his fate, even though there was a rather large bucket of tools nearby that he probably could’ve used to maybe break or remove the bolt the cuffs were attached to, but, Merle is an angry racist, who cares?
Would’ve Been Better If: The show didn’t rely on absurd stereotypes and the run-of-the-mill humans-fighting-against-each-other-in-the-face-of-the-apocalypse scenario. Is everyone who survives any apocalypse just determined to become an idiot? “Falling Skies” had this exact same problem where, when faced with a threat on a global scale that has murdered most of humanity, humanity still does a great job of being ignorant and petty with itself and relatively uncaring about the actual threat, such as Merle sniping zombies left and right on the rooftop to attract even more noise. I get it, he’s a dumb racist, but is anyone that dumb? I suppose when the actual apocalypse happens, humanity will find out.
Tell it to the Frogs
Awesome: Norman Reedus comes into the cast as Daryl, Merle’s brother. Oh, great, another neo-nazi, how incredib… oh, he’s just a bit hot-headed, nevermind. The remaining survivors return to camp where Rick is reunited with Shane, his wife, and son, oblivious to the fact that Shane and his wife have been having a rather torrid affair in his absence. Of course Lori reacts to Rick’s return by taking it out on Shane and blaming him for taking advantage of her. Rick decides to head back to Atlanta to get the giant sack of guns he dropped there and to save Merle. They do so, but, Merle is already gone. Oh, and he cut off his own hand.
Absurd: Not sure where to even begin with this episode. Is it with Ed, husband of survivor Carol, the Hank Hill of domestic violence who gets beaten up by a dejected Shane after Lori spurns his advances? Yes. Yes it is. What exactly does this add to the show? It’s bad enough we had to deal with racist Merle in the last episode (and in the future as well, apparently), but now this? Seriously, these characters are cardboard cutout stereotypes and most of them are decidedly unlikeable. See? We deserved it. All of the campers also continue to make absurd amounts of noise, but no zombies show up. Oh wait, one does, but it’s only eating a deer. I’m sure it’s fine. Also, taking issue with Shane’s character arc because the show is clearly pushing him toward being an antagonist when he’s a hero (at best, an anti-hero). He tried to save Rick (we learn this later), and he saved his wife and son and has kept them safe. One can only hope that Shane ends up going out a tragic hero or something, but spoilers!!!! he doesn’t.
Would’ve Been Better If: They hadn’t introduced the character of Ed? Even better, he’s not a character in the comic on which this is based (neither are Merle or Daryl). So the writers for television were sure the way to make it even better was to include ignorant stereotypes. Sadly, his character is only setting up more predictable and cringe-worthy moments down the road…
Awesome: Almost nothing. This episode was a joke from start to finish, and it does annoying stereotypes one better by using one and then flipping it and doing a 180! Also zombies attack the camp and kill all the characters one might expect, since they’re either abusive (Ed) or it’s their birthday and they shared a poignant scene with their sister earlier (Amy).
Absurd: Where to even begin? We can start with Daryl running around Atlanta screaming when the survivors know that making noise will attract zombies. Or will it? Curiously, none show up. Must be having a buffet on the other side of the city. Things really reach a head, however, when Glenn is kidnapped by some Latino thugs and Rick and company capture one of their crew. They take him as bait to trade against these hardcore gangsters, who tell them to bring all the guns and their man or a bloodbath will ensue. When Rick decides to bring the bloodbath, tensions are high until someone’s grandmother interrupts it and we collectively learn that this “gang” is actually a group of compassionate guys who are guarding a nursing home and protecting the helpless patients who live inside. Whoa! See? Totally flipped that stereotype. The problem was, it was unnecessarily perpetuated to create drama. Why would it be so wrong to just see a group of survivors who are actually decent people? Hardened, maybe, due to the whole zombie apocalypse thing, but decent? Why kidnap Glenn? The bag of guns was right there and struggled considerably less than Glenn did. When civilization gets re-formed, can we please get Daryl some anger management? Also, remember that noise will attract zombies. Dozens of shots are fired when the walkers invade the camp, so our survivors are going to need to high-tail it out of there in a hurry.
Would’ve Been Better If: The episode was never written or was substituted with something else. Going back for Merle and the guns, fine, the zombie attack on the camp, fine, but the show is starting to get full of glaring inconsistencies, particularly when it comes to the flesh-eating plot devices. I’m sure it’ll get better, though.
Awesome: Oh, wait… no it won’t. The only awesome thing? One of the families at the camp says “screw you people” and leaves to fend for themselves elsewhere. Smartest people in the show to date.
Absurd: Remember, it is made very clear early on that zombies are attracted to noise. So surely the massive shootout in the quarry would’ve attracted some attention, right? The not-so-shocking answer is no, because the plot doesn’t need our survivors to be in danger. The flesh-eating plot devices simply do what the writers need them to do. There is no logic to how they behave or what they do. Clearly-established rules about them are cast to the side when the plot finds it inconvenient. The survivors have time to clean up, argue a lot, and wait until the next day to decide their next move before actually doing so. No zombies. None. Not one shows up at the sound of the massive shootout that ensued. Also, we get to see Amy die and come back as a zombie before her sister shoots her in the head- of course, Andrea is practically cuddling with her the entire time, holding her close, but zombie Amy seems to be completely inept at the few things zombies are supposed to do, I.E. bite and scratch. And, to top it all off, we get to see Carol take out her revenge on her bitten husband by destroying his brain repeatedly (you go sister!).
Would’ve Been Better If: It followed the logic it has established and the survivors would’ve had to book from camp the second they finished off those walkers, dead of night be damned. I guess nothing would’ve heard the gunfire, though. It’s not like they have established that the zombies were moving out of the city in search of tasty people.
Awesome: Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich) is at the CDC, where our heroes venture, and he gives them a warm welcome. His character was awesome. He will be missed.
Absurd: Again, no idea where to even begin here. For starters… there are hundreds of dead bodies in front of the CDC, many of them military. How did they die? Were they killed by zombies? If so, why are they still dead? Were they, as zombies, re-killed? There should either A.) be a horde of zombies there feasting on them, B.) they should be zombies themselves, or C.) should have been completely ripped apart or killed. Instead, there are a couple of flesh-eating plot devices, but nothing our heroes can’t easily handle (I swear, whoever makes this show just throws in the random zombie here and there to remind viewers that, yes, there are zombies around somewhere). Second, they’re mostly military. So… weapons raid? Pretty sure a few dozen assault weapons and tons of ammo might come in handy. Jenner takes up 5 minutes of screen time to explain that… the virus brings the dead back to life. Wow. He then locks everyone inside as the CDC is about to detonate, Daryl still needs anger management, Shane is further pushed toward antagonist and Glenn should never drink again (his words). The survivors barely escape the destruction of the entire CDC facility (why is the entire building destroyed when the laboratories where the deadly germs are kept could just as easily be decontaminated?), and are off to parts unknown.
Would’ve Been Better If: Rick had any real leadership ability? Shane’s character wasn’t being turned into a bad guy just for doing the right thing? (It should be important to note that his actions are completely understandable given how he is being treated, it is just a shame he is being treated that way by Lori). They learned anything useful about the virus? If the last three episodes were erased and replaced with episodes that didn’t completely suck?
And thus the first season is concluded. Can’t wait to check out the second season and see how much more our characters haven’t learned and how little they have developed, and whether or not Daryl finally gets into that anger management program. Will Rick finally learn how to do things that aren’t ignorant? Will Shane be the bad guy? Will Glenn drink again? Questions soon to be answered. That said, just a few more nitpicks about this show, such as-
01.) Why is everyone in this show a sharpshooter? Seriously, every shot EVERYONE takes at a zombie is a headshot. I play Call of Duty Black Ops zombies a lot and can manage to get my headshots over 50%, but everyone in this show- regardless of circumstance, range, motion of shooter/target, etc- has pinpoint precision. While watching people continue to shoot at zombies and not kill them would be decidedly less fun, we can’t expect them to be perfect shots, can we? It’s okay. Shooting will almost certainly only be an issue for a character when the plot requires it to be.
02.) If zombies are attracted to sound (and they are, if the plot needs them to be), why not have Glenn take his Dodge Challenger, with its alarm blaring, into the city to lure all of the undead out and away from it so the rest of the group can scavenge for supplies? Seems that if you needed a way to get supplies but to get through the zombies easily to do it, you’d use the same tactic they did previously that totally worked. Same goes with going after Merle and etc.
03.) If the undead can smell living people (and they can, when the plot needs them to), why do they leave the van well outside of the city and walk all the way in? Seems at least a few of the flesh-eating plot devices would’ve caught wind of four living, sweating, breathing humans out in the Georgia sun in the middle of the city.
With all of its faults, there’s something about “The Walking Dead” that makes it nearly impossible to turn off. Some might say that it is riveting. Others might say it is the great human drama. Actually, it’s rather like watching a train wreck. It is horrible and terrible and we all want to look away, but we keep watching anyway. For this reviewer, it is the hope that with each passing moment, we the audience come closer to the moment when this group of imbeciles is torn apart by the undead and the show decides to find more interesting characters to follow around. Except for Daryl, he’s awesome. Three out of five stars.
By Nicholas Haskins
Check out this video for a taste of what “The Walking Dead” is all about (and in the first part, please, count how many of those shots are headshots). Check out my full review of the second season of “The Walking Dead” here. Like my reviews? You can find this and others over at examiner.com. Want to become my fanboy/girl? You can follow me on Twitter or book my face, and you can subscribe to my reviews.
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