Friday, November 5, 2010

The Walking Dead: Pilot Episode

Well, as pilot episodes go, I thought this was absolutely phenomenal.

I'm not sure if it will make a brilliant, enduring TV series, since the premise is a bit thin and overdone by this point (a world taken over by zombies), but as a single episode of TV, it was amazing and well worth watching. It's available for free online at AMC's website, so you have no excuse not to check it out right now. If you are a fan of horror, the zombie genre, or just great writing, directing, and acting, you'll enjoy it. Anyway, I did. As I said, I thought it was just fantastic, and I don't think I can stress that enough.

I also have my doubts, of course, as I mentioned above. So far, it hasn't really shown that it will bring anything new to the zombie genre, although the writing and acting was definitely better than anything we've seen in any other zombie production, and that's saying a lot because there have been too many too count. Also, the original comic book on which this TV series is based also started strong and fizzled out, in my opinion, although many people might argue with that point. I started reading the comic because I'm a zombie junkie, but I grew bored quickly from writer Robert Kirkman's boring plots, unlikable characters, and lack of any real excitement or entertainment value. I basically got sick of paying $3.00 a month to buy single issues that only really had enough content to fill a page of any other comic. Very little happened in this comic, so I jumped ship after the issue where that woman spent an entire issue torturing and murdering the man who raped her. Twenty pages or so of a woman chopping at that guy's genitalia was enough for me.

Although it's too early to make a call like this, I'm a bit confused as to why it's even based on the Walking Dead comic anyway, since the only real similarities are that there are zombies, the main character is a former cop named Rick, and he woke up at the start from a coma (all of which Kirkman stole from Romero's zombie movies and 28 Days Later anyway). I'm guessing it was more of a marketing thing, since the comic is fairly popular and well respected within the zombie fan community. Or maybe series creator Frank Darabont was just a huge fan of the comic and plans to follow the storyline very closely. I hope I'm wrong about that, because the comic, as I said, was boring.

But then, I could see how people might find this pilot episode boring as well, since very little happened other than that Rick woke up from a coma, found the world was full of zombies, and set out on the road to find his missing family. It was mostly an hour-long set up of this world overrun by zombies, as well as a set up of the overall mood and atmosphere of the series. There were a lot of very long scenes of Rick walking through fields as he just looked around, taking everything in. As I said, I could see how somebody might be bored, but I was rapt with tension the entire time. Frank Darabont is just a wonderful director, and if you've seen The Mist or Shawshank, you'll already know the level of quality of which he's capable.

Darabont also assembles wonderful casts and gets the most out of their talents. Series lead Andrew Lincoln was unknown to me, but this performance is going to make him a star. He was incredible. The first scene of the show (well, after the intro where somebody killed a zombie) was just ten or so minutes of him talking to one of his deputies in their squad car, and it was one of the best scenes in the entire pilot. The two actors were both so good and the dialogue was so well written, I would've have minded if the entire hour was just those two talking. And every other actor was at that same level, and they all got pretty good monologues to read.

Anyway, the episode is free and at that price it's the best deal you'll find all day. I loved it and will check out the next episode this Sunday. It hasn't brought anything new to the zombie genre yet, but this pilot was the best entry in the genre since Romero completed his original dead trilogy 25 years ago. Check it out.

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