These Zombies Were Made for Walkin’

“I’ll be the zombie and you be the sexy father protecting his home! Where’s my ball gag?”

Up until the last minute before The Walking Dead aired last night, I was still trying to get someone else to watch and review it for us. Finally, I surrendered to the fact that I had to watch it myself. Since I am not a fan of the zombie genre, I prepared myself for the absolute worst…and was very pleasantly surprised.

First and foremost, The Walking Dead, based on Robert Kirkman’s popular comic book series, is a character study. We are given only a brief glimpse of life before the zombie apocalypse, and it’s full of the usual palette of human suffering: distrust, painful relationships and violence. It’s an interesting place to start, really, making the point that life is hard enough without zombies, thank you very much. 

Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes, a deputy sheriff in a Southern town somewhere outside of Atlanta. Grimes tells us right away he’s the strong, silent type, who keeps his feelings to himself, plays by the book at work, yet can’t seem to meet his wife’s expectations. In this regard, he’s an old-fashioned kind of all-American hero archetype. A post-modern sort of hero (think Simon Pegg or even Bruce Willis) would be wise-cracking and karate-chopping his way through the story. So, it’s rather refreshing to have a seemingly blank and reserved slate for the audience to project its own thoughts and feelings upon. Directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), the quiet and desolate landscape of the series is both haunting and picturesque. A tree-lined suburban street appears idyllic, until a zombie comes staggering around the corner.

I would have liked to see more of the characters’ lives before the apocalypse, just to have a frame of reference for what comes and what the characters become. Maybe we’ll see flashbacks as the series progresses. Shortly after viewing the episode, I had the following IM exchange with Long-Suffering Boyfriend. I share it here to provide a little counterpoint to my own critique.

Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Did you watch The Walking Dead?
Me: Yes. It’s pretty good.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Really? I thought it was dismal.
Me: Did you think it would be cheerful?
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: No, but I thought it would at least be intriguing. Perhaps I’m just not the target audience. It made me long for the cleverness of True Blood.
Me: True Blood?! You wanted the zombies to have sex with Anna Paquin?
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Just something less predictable. There wasn’t a moment during the whole 90 minutes that I didn’t see coming.
Me: It’s going to be a character study about the survivors.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: You didn’t think it was painfully slow? And the gore was just so gratuitous.
Me: The slow pace didn’t bother me. I knew it was going to be gory. People were cheering the gore at Comic-Con.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Well, I’ll watch again, but I didn’t care for this episode. Is it a series or mini-series?
Me: A series. Didn’t it make you wonder what you’d do in a zombie apocalypse?
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: I’d speed things up a bit.
Me: I’d tie shirtless southern deputies to the bed.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: That sounds about right.
Me: I like this resurgence of shirtless men getting tied up. Reminds me of the days of The Big Valley and Wild, Wild West.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: You should not be allowed to watch television unsupervised.
Me: The story could be about any sort of disaster or tragedy. It’s all about how to survive and yet also maintain your humanity.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: The one thing that bothered me most is that if I had been Morgan, I would have just told Rick everything that was going on, what had happened, etc. It seemed like they were just drawing it out for story purposes, but it didn’t seem real.
Me:  He did tell him everything. You’ve got one guy who has no idea what’s going on and another who thinks everyone already knows what’s going on.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: I felt there was some unnecessary withholding going on.
Me: Even by morning, Rick was still asking, “Are you sure they’re dead?” It’s a lot to take in.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Also, if he knew that sound attracts the zombies, why did he play his siren when he said goodbye to Morgan and his kid? It’s like he was telling the zombies to come and eat them.
Me: They were already coming because of the gunshot, so he probably figured, “What the hell?”
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Too many holes.
Me: I’m going to use this conversation in my review.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Your people are going to hate me.
Me: Nonsense. My people adore you. They especially love anyone who’s not me.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: Go right ahead, then.
Me: If I ever turn into a zombie, please don’t shoot me in the head. I’d like some time to enjoy the weight loss. Maybe try on some skinny jeans.
Long-Suffering Boyfriend: I can’t promise that.

I still think The Walking Dead is a very promising drama about the struggle to stay human in a non-human world. I’m looking forward to the rest of season one, which is comprised of only six episodes, and will be adding it to my weekly viewing list.

What did you think of The Walking Dead? Did you find it compelling enough to continue watching? Or, like Long-Suffering Boyfriend, did you find it dead on arrival? Let us know your thoughts!

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