TV Show Review: The Walking Dead

Story by Eric Larson

In almost perfectly-timed fashion, AMC premiered its new zombie apocalypse drama, The Walking Dead, on Sunday evening, closing out its annual “Fearfest” movie and TV series marathon for the Halloween season.

Filled with promising character development, clever spooks and unseemly grotesque zombies, the show – written and executive produced by Academy Award-nominee Frank Darabont (of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile fame) and executive produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens) – triumphantly (and eerily) lives up to its hype.

The synopsis is simple: Atlanta sheriff Rick (Andrew Lincoln, Love Actually) awakes from a coma to a completely vacant hospital room. After dizzily stumbling out of his bed and into the hallway, he notices, to his upmost terror, that the entire building is empty.

Slowly, he realizes that – while comatose – the world he once knew has somehow become infected by ravenous, flesh-chomping “walkers.”

Terror, adventure and bloody violence shortly ensue.

Now admittedly, the premise for the show isn’t that original. The opening hospital scene is almost identical to the beginning of Danny Boyle’s 28 Days Later (2002), and the basic gist – that the world has been taken over by zombies and one main character must fight for survival while searching for fellow humans – has been put to the screen a dozen times before.

Despite the somewhat lack of originality, though, it still delivers a highly-intriguing, addicting premise on several levels.

For starters, the characters are fantastic: Rick, a rough-neck, southern police officer with a tough outer shell, appears to be at war with his own emotions. During a flashback, it’s revealed that he’s struggling with marital problems, terrified of what devastating effects a divorce would have on his son. He’s convinced his family is still alive, and the motivation to reunite with them is obvious as he shoots and clubs his way through the undead blood-suckers on the streets of Atlanta. It’s clear that, aside from being a terrifying, bloody fun-ride, the show also promises to deliver quite emotional character development of a struggling family trying to cope during an Armageddon-like epidemic.

Secondly, the zombies are unlike anything I’ve seen in recent cinema. Instead of focusing on just bloody faces, the makeup artists of TWD present zombies that are decayed and missing limbs (not to discredit their ability, though – they’ll still chomp your ass.)

In a scene where Rick stumbles across a child zombie sprawled out on a lawn, I found myself gasping out loud as the creature stared blankly into the camera, hissing and stretching its bony arms as its skeletal face and decaying teeth snapped viciously. Creepy with a capital “C.”

Even if you’re not a fan of zombie flicks, I’d still highly recommend giving this show a shot. From the ninety minutes I’ve seen of it so far, I can only hope it continues to impress (and terrify) me.

Check out TWD on AMC at 9:00 p.m. on Sundays.