The Walking Dead [Pilot]

Posted: 11/01/2010 in Review, TV Review
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In all honesty, I’m not a huge horror fan and I’m not much of a zombie fan. I don’t have the Zombie Survival Guide nor have I ever taken a quiz about how zombie proof my house is. Resident Evil and Zombieland are the only films in the genre I own. I did however read the first three volumes of The Walking Dead in trade paperback, so I’ve got a good idea of what to expect. My interest in the series is mostly to see how the first premium cable adaptation of a comic book works out and how it’s going to influence genre programming. I’m sure that everyone at Vertigo have their eyes on The Walking Dead.

The pilot itself was good, but I’m not going to go out waving my arms saying that it was a revelation or anything. The initial premise is still as reminiscent of 28 Days Later as the comic was, and it works well enough. It’s pretty much a stock zombie film adapted to television. It’s heavy with genre tropes and as far as pilots directed by acclaimed film directors go, Scorcese has Darabont beat by a mile. You didn’t need the opening credits to know that the pilot of Boardwalk Empire was helmed by a visual master, but then Darabont’s films are known far more for the performances he gets from his actors than any kind of visual artistry.

Probably the first thing that jumped out at me about the pilot was that I didn’t remember Rick being a bit of an idiot. He probably did get up and start mouthing off with his back to the criminals’ car before they cleared the scene in the comic, but it just seems that much more glaring when it’s live action I suppose. Chris Sims probably said (or tweeted rather) it best that walking around in bare feet in a zombie apocalypse will get you zombie tetanus. Rick spends a bizarre amount of time wandering around barefoot in a hospital gown, without even bothering to check the nurse’s station for scrubs, a lab coat, or shoes. He then bypasses an entire military encampment without looking for clothes or a weapon. Maybe it wasn’t obvious enough that there were zombies around yet, but at the very least he should have been expecting some kind of Red Dawn/Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 situation considering the fact he just came out of a war torn hospital with an abandoned cavalry base beside it. Instead he rides a bicycle barefoot and doesn’t bother to put on any of his own clothes strewn around his bedroom. Crawling under the tank at the end of the episode probably took the cake though, either that or failing to check if the soldier was actually dead before taking his gun.

The only other complaints I have are the digital blood and the awful tension destroying indie rock song during the final shot. You go the whole episode with a good, subtle score and then at the end decide to drown everything out with a really, really stupid song that doesn’t match the tone or content of the scene whatsoever. Why? Beyond that baffling decision, it was a solid pilot overall. The zombie effects were just as well done as the early production pictures suggested, which in and of itself is pretty remarkable for TV given the kind of effects you could come to expect out of a genre show prior to Fringe. AMC is clearly putting a lot of time and money into the production, and it’s being used well on the production end. Beyond just the make up effects and whatever mix of puppetry and computer effects made that horrific half corpse dragging itself through the park, the set construction and production values in general are all fantastic. What I would like to see from successive directors on the remaining five episodes is a better command of the visual language of horror film. There’s very little sense of tension or suspense in the pilot, which felt incredibly bizarre. Hopefully, it’ll resolve itself by the second episode, otherwise it’s going to quickly open up as a glaring flaw in an otherwise promising series.

Overall, I enjoyed it and I’m committed to riding out the rest of the six episode run but I’m expecting it to pick up the pace pretty quickly because The Walking Dead could learn a great deal from Breaking Bad, which started out with much less and soared far higher from the very beginning.


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