TV Review: The Walking Dead – S01E01 – Days Gone Bye
This is one of two reviews from All Too Convenient, a project I recently cancelled. It was originally published on October 18th, 2012, and features a humor-based writing style. Hope you enjoy!
Spoiler Level: Mild
Yep, a zombie TV show – a slightly different take on a genre that’s been done to death, so to speak. When I heard about it, I liked the fact that it was a TV show, not a movie, and that it was based in Atlanta (a city I frequent yearly), so I bought the first season and got to watching. Here’s a brief description I got off Wikipedia in case you never heard of it:
The series stars Andrew Lincoln as sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes, who awakens from a coma to find the world dominated by flesh-eating “walkers,” resembling the zombies of George A. Romero’s horror movies. He sets out to find his family and encounters other survivors along the way.
The episode starts off with the main character, Rick, looking for gas while walking through a field that’s full of broken cars. He sees plenty of overturned vehicles, a rotting corpse, an empty donut box (sorry, Rick), but not much else. It’s pretty clear that no one’s throwing a party in there, it’s silent, it’s creepy, and there doesn’t appear to be any gas around. Then he hears a sound, and eventually identifies the source: a little girl that’s slowly trudging along in a pair of bunny slippers and a bathrobe, both of which are dirty. In her left hand is a stuffed animal, but there’s one catch: Rick can’t see her face, only her back. He tries to tell her he’s friendly, and a cop, but she doesn’t react immediately. There’s a lot of screen time devoted to the sequence, and the silence plays a major role in building an ambiance. But then, the expected happens – the girl stops walking.
UH-OH, THIS SHIT’S ABOUT TO GET REAL. Message received, writers, it’s all lining up to be a shocking zombie reveal. The signs are all there: the creepy silence, the fact that the girl had her head conveniently turned away from us the whole time (while being perfectly centered in the screen), and finally, they spend a lot of screen time focusing on her. If there’s one thing I dislike, it’s predictable storylines. I remember hoping that she would turn around and have a golden retriever’s face, that way I would actually be taken aback. But instead, she turns around to reveal that she’s… wait for it… a zombie! SURPRISE. Really, guys? Why not do something creative where she’s a human, or a human that’s right about to turn into a zombie, something like that? Why do exactly what everyone expects you to do?
Well, anyway, it wasn’t long until the little girl realized that she had a sudden craving for some pork, and started shuffling forward to get her first bite. Rick, clearly disturbed by someone so young having been transformed, reluctantly (but violently) puts a hole in her forehead using his magnum. The scene then cuts to a bad computer generated (CG) death sequence, one that shows the zombie girl falling to the ground, her stuffed animal rolling away. It’s at that moment that the dramatic theme music starts, and the intro sequence for The Walking Dead begins.
As you can see, the writers were trying to show how dramatic the zombie illness was, and used a little girl as a way to shock the audience. Unfortunately, in my case, the scene was too predictable, and it took away from the realism of the show, something that I value greatly. Now, there’s something else I’d like to mention: normally, a bad CG scene can bring a potentially good show to its knees, realism-wise, but in this case, I really didn’t mind. You see, it’s not often that kids are killed on-screen, as it’s understandably a bit disturbing for people to see – even video games typically shy away from such violence (not that I, uh, tried). Therefore, I don’t mind that it was clearly a faked death sequence. As an animator, wouldn’t that be a really creepy thing to have on your resume, too? “Little girl getting shot in the face.” Dude, it’s a child.
Aside from the first scene’s predictability, I do have positive things to say about the show. First of all, it has one of the best title sequences I’ve seen, and a great soundtrack by Bear McCreary (best known for Battlestar Galactica). But also, there was a point in the episode where I genuinely thought that the main character would die, and that, ladies and gents, is not something that happens often. It also seemed that The Walking Dead had a fairly high budget, despite the bad CG scene I mentioned earlier. I won’t get into details, but I can say that both the zombies and the violence generally looked awesome.
In the end, it’s best to approach this type of show expecting a typical zombie story, because that’s pretty much what it is. It’s sometimes flawed, sometimes predictable, and sometimes impressive – a fine mix for this type of blog.