Recurring Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah-Wayne Callies, Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Melissa McBride, Chandler Riggs
The Walking Dead is one of those ideas that it strikes you odd that haven’t been attempted before: zombies on television. Of course, we have had a few attempts at bringing zombies to the small screen, but none have really committed themselves to the memory. However, with the Walking Dead, the producers finally get it right. Take one of the finest graphic novels around and throw as much money as they could at the project. This is how the Walking Dead was born.
If I was simply reviewing the first episode of this season, the phenomenal pilot, this would be one of the most glowing reviews on my website so far. It is truly a remarkable piece of television. Andrew Lincoln’s sheriff character, Rick Grimes, wakes up from a coma and finds that the world around him, as fallen to pieces. Zombies, dubbed Walkers by society, run riot around America and Rick must try and find survivors, preferably his wife and son, who he has no idea if they survived or not. The pilot is an hour and a half long, but it is so worth the time put into it. It is chilling, takes two characters (Lennie James guest-stars as another survivor), and throws them into the scenario of a zombie apocalypse. The entire running time is spent wisely. We get some great action, some genuinely scary moments and then some slower pieces, where we can actually get to know the characters. The Walking Dead is well known as the kind of comic that kills off its main character whenever it gets too bored, so we are always left unsure of how the story is going to turn out. Quite simply, we are glued to our screens. This is better than most zombie movies.
Sadly, the other five episodes can barely live up to the pilot. They are not bad, just nowhere in the same league. Mainly it is because there are slightly too many characters for the show’s own good and they seem intent on killing them off as often as possible. Every time you have a new favourite character, they would be removed pretty sharply, meaning that no character who isn’t a member of the Grimes family never really gets the characterisation they deserve. While Rick is thrust into a fairly interesting story (his cop partner has taken in his wife and child during the apocalypse and is roughly thrown aside and forgotten as soon as Rick returns), everyone else becomes stereotypes and never really make an impact.
I do enjoy how the series embraces the primal side of human nature. This apocalypse is treated like a resetting of our society, so everyone is brought back to a hunter state. The weird redneck brothers become the most helpful members of the group. Women are reduced to menial chores and the one black guy of the group sleeps with one eye open. As the season progresses, these hideous traits are corrected accordingly, almost as if humanity is convinced to do evolution right on a second attempt, which is a really interesting theme to explore. Carol, especially, embodies this change well and while in this season, she is one of the most annoying characters, keep an eye on her, because her character arc becomes something quite spectacular.
The final episode is the worst episode of the lot. While the rest of the season keeps the action to a certain pace, for some reason, the finale becomes a more thoughtful creature. If this episode was found bang in the middle of the season, I may have quite enjoyed it, because it introduces the government and the role they have to play in the Walking Dead. However, when the entire first season comes to a close, when the exposition is over, you cannot help, but feel a little let down. You would have liked some actual zombies, the whole reason we are tuning in, to make an appearance. I assume the budget ran out. My one other gripe is that the show is a little dark and devoid of hope for me, but I guess that is probably what the fans of the Walking Dead want, so I won’t let that grievance effect my marking of the first season of the Walking Dead.
Final Verdict: A terrific pilot, followed by an average season, concluded by a lacklustre episode. It could be worse… it could be Season Two.