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The Walking Dead by Frank Darabont, Gale Anne Hurd, Robert Kirkman (p)
Review by Drew Bittner
AMC TV  
Date: 01 November 2010 /

Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a sheriff's deputy in Georgia. One day on the job, he's shot and falls into a coma...and wakes to a nightmare. The dead have risen, civilization has been erased and survival is the name of the game.

Welcome to the world of The Walking Dead.

Based on the Image comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard, The Walking Dead keeps on going where other zombie movies leave off. Yes, the dead are walking (and eating people), but what happens after that? This series, produced by Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) and Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator), with a pilot written and directed by Darabont, takes you there.

For Rick Grimes and the handful of (still living) people he gathers up, it's about staying alive. Apart from what they can scavenge, including weapons, these survivors have no modern amenities while facing the danger of annihilation every minute of the day and night.

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD

The television show has a singularly brutal opening. Searching for gas, Rick comes upon a little girl in bunny slippers--who turns out to be missing half her face. She stumbles toward him, growling hungrily...and Rick shoots her in the head. Yup, it's just like that. Cue opening credits.

After waking from his coma, sustained in the course of helping his fellow officers shut down a high speed pursuit with his partner Shane (Jon Bernthal), Rick staggers through an empty hospital. Flickering lights, blood stains and bullet holes in the walls show something really bad happened while he was out... and then he finds the cafeteria doors barred and padlocked, with the words DON'T OPEN DEAD INSIDE scrawled on them. And, as moans fill the air, tattered fingers push through the tiny gap between the doors.

Rick finds his house deserted, his wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) gone, having taken some clothes and photographs with them. He encounters a father and son who teach him the rules of this horrific new world--that bites induce a fever that kills, then reanimates, the bitten and a shot to the head is the only thing that puts down a "walker"--then sets out to find his family.

But he's unprepared for the danger (and the horrors) he's going to face.

The show is off to a powerful start, with dynamite writing by Darabont and a cast that's raring to go. Lincoln projects the right amount of vacant disbelief and growing horror as he realizes what is going on, and the likely fate of his family, while Bernthal is first flippant and then gravely serious as Shane. We only get small glimpses of the other characters, but there are amazingly powerful emotional beats in this pilot as well-- I won't spoil them, but you'd have to have a heart of stone not to react to certain moments.

Much more than "can we avoid being zombie chow?" action fare, Walking Dead is a serious look at the horror of surviving when the entire world has gone away, where every house, backyard and grocery store may be enemy ground, and the things you take most for granted aren't there. And that isn't even starting with the dangers posed by other survivors...

This is going to be appointment viewing for Sunday nights. Kudos to AMC for being bold and offering up a series that doesn't hold back, either on the horror or the heartbreak.

Strongly recommended.

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