The Walking Dead– Me included

The Walking Dead

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Ok, so, fresh back from a wine tasting tour of Hermann, MO, I have contracted some respiratory thing and am coughing and spewing massive gross things. Like you needed to know that. Bleck. Married life is fine, however, life and all the ordinaries go on. The weather has turned snowy and colder and television is just the ticket. What have I been watching in Mad Men‘s stead? How about a nice zombie series with lots of gore and violence? I’m talking about AMC’s The Walking Dead.  For me, watching the first episode is like reading the first chapter of a book. You can tell a lot from that. And the first episode of this TV serial is very, very good. However, that’s the last I was interested in this series, although I watched all of the episodes.  (Hey there wasn’t anything else on!) In this case the first episode was not a herald of more to come.

The opening episode is all kinds of good. It has the wonderful surreal feeling of 28 Days, when the lead character wakes up in a hospital with no one around. The feeling of not being aware of your surroundings, having been in a coma, and missing out on one of the biggest events in human history; the zombification of everyone but a few has to be the greatest way to start a show like this! Andrew Lincoln plays Rick Grimes, a sheriff who is in a coma from a gunshot wound he sustained in a car chase during his normal life. He wakes up weeks later and the world has changed. He is bewildered and cannot take it all in. He encounters his first zombies and does what we would all do, defend himself by instinct. He’s not sure what to think! We have great questions thrown at us about the humanity of seeing our loved ones become zombies and how we would react to that. Rick meets up with a man and a boy who, unfortunately, we never see again. But that too seems like how things would really go in this instance. Compelling television here.

The greatest scene in this whole series is the one where Rick encounters a half “dead” zombie crawling through a park. The zombie woman is driven by the extremely harsh need to eat human flesh; a drive so strong that she is crawling by pulling herself along, grasping the earth and grass with her hands and we see she has no bottom half of her body. All “she” it wants is to eat.  She tries and tries to chase Rick but can’t. He runs on, but toward the end of the episode, when he’s found his house, met other people, and formed a plan for finding his own wife and sone, he goes back to the park, finds the zombie woman still crawling, and performs a supreme act of human kindness. Brilliant.

That’s as good as this series gets. Somewhere in the second half of the second episode the show turns into just another Stephen King, end of the world, ensemble cast. The only standout is Steven Yeun who plays Glenn and probably Michael Rooker who plays Merle. Stereotypical characters abound and we even see some of the same people who have turned up in King’s televised works, like Jeffrey DeMunn and Laurie Holden. This is no surprise since the creator/producer is Frank Darabont; a King devotee and partner in serialized graphic novels, television series, and books.  It’s SO Stephen King that I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that “Frank Darabont” is another alter ego of King’s. King seems to have a lot of them. But alas, Darabont is a real person!

King’s influence on Darabont abounds however. King’s decline as the KING of horror began, I’m sad to say somewhere in the 90s after publishing Bag of Bones his last really good novel. But that’s a whole other post. King has become clichéd and never more so than this series as a supreme example. If you’ve seen “The Langolliers” and “The Mist” you’ve seen The Walking Dead. All are fine stories but suffer from one-dimensional characters and horribly overdone stereotypical behaviors. It appears that Darabont can only deal in the same stereotypes that King thrives on; the religious fanatic, the abused and/or adulterous wife, the alpha male, the child, the longsuffering wife,  the wise older gentlemen, the loose cannon, racist, etc. You name it, it’s all in there and I could have written the screenplay from Episode 2 onward, it was that predictable.  I wish that the quality of the first episode could have been carried on into the rest of the series. As it stands now, I don’t care to see any more, especially anymore of the awful acting by Sarah Wayne Callies. Puh-lease!

I’d give the first episode a watch though, but know this going in… episode one is the best it’s going to get. Read the graphic novel instead!


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