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'The Walking Dead' recap: Blood and entrails make for a sumptuous zombie feast

101_RT_PhotoSpread_BlackWomanZombie

Midway through tonight’s debut episode of “The Walking Dead,” our hero Rick Grimes, the small-town sheriff played by Andrew Lincoln, encounters a former colleague who has succumbed to the mysterious zombie plague that has gripped the American South, and possibly the rest of the country -- or even the world. Rick, determined to give the man the peace of the grave, shoots him in the forehead at point-blank range. His brains explode from the back of his skull. The camera watches, unflinching as the gruesome scenario plays out.

One thing’s for sure. Nothing like this ever happened on “Mad Men.”

In interviews leading up to tonight’s “Walking Dead” premiere, series creator Frank Darabont had promised that the show would skimp neither on character development or zombie gore, and while he certainly seemed to deliver on that promise with this first episode, it was the copious amounts of blood and brain matter that left perhaps the strongest impression.

Maybe it was just odd to see such strong horror movie violence on a channel best known as the home of the perennial Emmy-winning, cocktail-swilling drama. Or maybe it’s just plain disturbing to watch as a good guy guns down a little girl carrying  a stuffed animal in the opening segment of a new program. Granted, she was a zombie, but still.

As for the characters, this first episode focused largely on Rick, a seemingly stoic man with a troubled marriage, a young son and a chatty partner named Shane (Jon Bernthal). Before long, the duo is caught in a shootout, and at its conclusion Rick is severely wounded, ending up, we learn, in a coma. When he comes to, it’s obvious that some considerable amount of time has passed -– just how much is unclear –- but the hospital is deserted and in complete disarray.

Rick wanders past an empty nurses' station and discovers the partially devoured body of a young woman lying on the tile; he wanders back the other way, past fixtures hanging from their sockets and exposed wiring, to find a set of padlocked doors with a warning spray painted across them in black ink: “Don’t open, dead inside.” Moaning sounds come from behind it, and a hand reaches toward Rick, who bolts and flees the building.

Outside, the scene is just as grim; he wanders through a parking lot full of dozens of bodies, some covered by white sheets.

If the hospital scene is reminiscent of Danny Boyle’s horror film “28 Days Later,” the rest of the show is straight-up George Romero. The zombies (or walkers as they’re known on the show) move slowly, the virus -– or whatever it is that is the source of their taste for flesh -– is transmitted through a bite or a scratch and the only way to stop them is a shot through the brain. They devour their victims with full-on, entrail-ripping delight, courtesy of special effects maven Greg Nicotero, who worked with Darabont on his underrated film “The Mist” and who also had a hand in several of Romero’s own zombie projects.

In this new world, Rick is determined to be reunited with his family. After gaining his bearings thanks to the kindness of two fellow survivors he encounters, he begins his quest, one that ultimately finds him on horseback, riding toward Atlanta where there is rumored to be a settlement of people that might include his wife Lori and son Carl.

What he doesn’t know is that although Lori and Carl are alive, they’re holed up in the countryside with a small group headed up by Shane, who seems to have embarked on a romantic relationship with Lori, judging from a kiss they share.

Atlanta, naturally, turns out to be a death trap –- the city is overrun with walkers; Rick loses his horse to the ghouls and finds himself trapped inside an abandoned tank, alone and surrounded on all sides. Just then, he hears a voice over the radio speaking to him, asking, facetiously, if he’s cozy. Cue “Welcome to My World” by Wang Chung (!) and lots and lots and lots of zombie gore as the walkers feast on Rick’s trusty horse, and Episode 1 is done.

It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks how Darabont manages to maintain the balance between the drama and the horror on the show -- pilot episodes are always tricky, after all, since there's so much exposition and character introduction to include in not a great deal of time. Certainly, though, the premiere didn't skimp on the scares; in all, it was a solidly entertaining way to spend Halloween.

-- Gina McIntyre

 
Comments () | Archives (17)

This Was So Great I Watch Both Showings

I've been waiting for a quality network and creative team to create such a thing... a zombie tv drama! Maybe the comeback of a dying genre, one that continues to try and get up and walk again.

i realy think anyone who calls this nonsense entertaining are BRAIN DEAD , no wonder you go around blowing up other country,s and killing inocent people. God knows , I HATE USA .

GOODBYE,

MIKE THE ENGLISHMAN

yes it was a good start. Had some good emotional moments. And to mike the overly serious english guy... yes most people that are rational can seperate entertainment and tv shows from the real world realities..maybe you should take a step back and figure out the little things that have nothing to do with another. Apples and oranges man.

loved it--just wish they had decided to make 13 episodes

Hey English Mike-

2 of the best Zombie-centric pieces in recent years have come FROM Britain!
Shaun of the Dead
and
Dead Set.

Add in Englishman Danny Boyle's "28 days later" and you've got an English Zombie uprising!

Based on your reasoning, these three pieces would explain why Britain is considered so weak in the eyes of the world.

So, next time, think before you talk out of your arse, okay?

I waited all month to see this episode, so I went out with neices, nephews, and other kids for trick or treating... I saw that an episode came on at 10 p so I was looking forward to being home and spending my last moments of Halloween with this show! HA! Through a fun series of events, I got home at 11 p and thought, watching the last 30 mins. was not worth it, a tease if you will.

I hope it was good and maybe they will rerun this episode before they show the second.

Ha ha ha. Sounds great - can't wait to watch it on DVR. I started watching it with my wife and after the girl with the stuffed animal, she started crying.

Finished the evening watching two episodes of The Office on Netflix to erase her memory. Oh, well, guess I'll be going this one alone!

To Chris the Trick-or-Treater:

Among probably some other options, you can rerun the episode on iTunes, Amazon or your XBOX 360.

Even better, this coming Friday Walking Dead plays at 7 pm, followed by 28 Days Later at 8:30 pm (btw, British filmmaker, MIKE THE ENGLISHMAN WHO IS FULL OF NOTHING BUT FLESH-EATING HATE), followed by the Walking Dead pilot again at 11 pm.

Plays again at 11 pm on Saturday night, too.

Entertaining -- certainly beats "The Prisoner," which was awful.
However, one thing, Mr. Darabont: Please, no more scenes of animals being harmed.
Yes, I know ...

And to Mike: Look, there are things about my country that aggravate -- and sometimes infuriate -- me, too. But please, sir: It's a show. Get some perspective. You don't have to watch it.

It was OK, I guess. (yawn) But nothing to justify all of the excitement.

Perhaps it's my age, or the fact that I have seen every zombie flick worth watching too many times; but this one offered nothing truly "ground-breaking", and in fact was rather disappointing after all of the build-up given it.

The best Sci-Fi/Horror movies require the "suspension of disbelief"; and this one does little to help accomplish this. To suspend disbelief, one must first carefully make the characters, places, and situations BELIEVABLE.
A guy in a coma after a gunshot wound is believable. A guy wakening from that coma to wander for miles BAREFOOT and half-naked is NOT! Especially not a veteran LEO, whose training & instincts would kick-in in the face of such surreal circumstances.
As an ex-Marine, and former LEO (Law Enforcement Officer) my first thoughts would have been "There must have been a massive chemical/biological warfare attack!", and immediately seek to dress & arm myself for the worst. For a "Leading Man", this movie offers up a "wuss", and one who few could accept as a Leader.

Sorry, try again.

Why is Mike the Englishman complaining? There were more Brits in here...and in the leading roles at that...than one could expect to find Americans in British productions!

I think h must resent the fact that the zombies bear too close a resemblance to the British Labor Party members, and seeing them shot makes him squeamish!

It's OK Mike, I think the mobs of zombies resemble Liberal Democrats...ACORN members...and Obamanites! hehehe

The first episode was fair. If I had to grade it, I'd give it a C-, because I'm going to give it the benefit of a doubt and hope that it can pull it together. The survivors in the show, especially the cop, are written far too stupid. The characters all behave like they have never seen a zombie movie and they don't have any idea how to really protect themselves. A group of them is camped out in the open by the side of the road. The cop runs out of gas? How is it possible that a reasonable person wouldn't stock up to make sure that didn't happen? And then he rides into a heavily populated area, unprotected, on a horse.

Did Darabont not see Zombieland? Because it looks like he doesn't know the rules.

Bebe, here is a video that answers why they didn't know about zombies. In "their world" zombies didn't exist as part of the pop culture.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfIE7DWF3N8

Guys, you have to remember that this is based in a comic book series. So the storyline is somehow already drawn

I loved it and can't wait for the next epi

I haven't seen any zombie movie, even though my boyfriend insists I should. I told him, I'd give this show a chance and I'm glad I did. I taped it on my VCR (probably the last person in L.A. with one that still works) and had to watch it during the day. I love Dexter so I think I wasn't too grossed out by some of the scenes on this show, I was creeped out a lot but it was all in a fun way. I'm looking forward to the rest of the episodes.

I think that everyone needs a little zombie in their life, and if you are watching The Walking Dead on DirecTV, you are paying too much for TV! You can get AMC in HD for less with DISH Network. That means you get The Walking Dead for less! As a customer and employee of DISH I can’t say how happy I’ve been since I made the switch! Now with DISH you can get AMC in HD!


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