Waking from a coma, Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes (Lincoln) finds that the world as he knows is it is a post-apocalyptic wasteland where flesh-eating zombies have wiped out most of the population. Escaping, he heads off in search of his family…
Zombie movies might not be in short supply, but a TV series? Now that’s something to get excited about. With The Walking Dead though, there’s extra reason to be, not least that Frank ‘Shawshank Redemption’ Darabont is at the helm. Whilst the end result might not quite live up to the promise, Darabont and co-runner Robert Kirkman (who wrote the comic this is based on) craft a high-quality drama well worth chewing on.
And it starts out brilliantly. Just brilliantly. Written and directed by Frank himself, the extended-length pilot is every bit as cinematic and visually-stunning as you’d expect. Yes, it inevitably reminds of 28 Days Later and I Am Legend, but the opener is still edge-of-your-seat stuff. Its eerie as Rick wakes in a hospital to witness the surreal aftermath, iconic as he rides a horse along a deserted highway to the city and chilling as he’s attacked by a swam of “Walkers” (what zombies are called here). As for Greg Nicotero’s make-up, well done that man and his team. Rotting flesh has never looked so real.
So why no five-star rating? Well, whilst also high in quality, the rest of the 6-part series doesn’t maintain the brilliance. There’s a few niggles that start to creep in (subplots start and then vanish), but the main problem is actually character development. Bet you never saw that coming. In Shawshank, we were glued to every inmate. Here, frustratingly, not so much. Attempts are made, but aside from Rick none of the ensemble are suitably (wait for it) fleshed out so that we care when they inevitably cark it.
That being said, the season is bookended by great turns from Lennie James as a surviving father and Noah Emmerich as a guilt-ridden scientist. In the lead, Brit actor Andrew Lincoln (yes, the dude from This Life and Love, Actually) struggles initially with the accent and is a little under-written, yet does himself proud as our de facto leader.
All-in-all a decent first season, but also one which feels like a letdown given how great the Darabont-directed pilot is. But with Frank firing the entire writing staff (he apparently did extensive re-writes on most eps) for next time, there could be (cough) redemption ahead.