Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Taliesin Meets: The Walking Dead (Seasons 1 and 2)

I am rather good, apparently, at missing TV shows and catching up on them a little ways down the track. I am sure you will have heard of the Walking Dead. The show has been getting rave reviews and its third season has just completed. So I just watched the first two seasons and I can see why the reviews have been so good.

For those unaware, the series (based on a comic book series) takes place in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by the living dead. Walkers (as they are known) are very much the Romero-esque zombie. They hunger for human flesh (and any other form of flesh, though human seems preferable), they have very rudimentary skills (we see a walker bash at a glass door with a rock) but essentially are driven only with the need to eat.

Herd of the dead
Noise attracts them and smell is an element (they can smell the difference between live and dead flesh). Science is at a loss. We are shown (in a CDC facility) the resurrection process as the pathogen (they aren’t sure exactly what it is) kills off the human and dims the electrical lights of a functioning brain and then restarts the stem area, all the things making that a unique human dying and leaving only a creature of instinct and appetite. If bitten then the victim quickly succumbs and dies, however all humans are now infected and will become walkers when they die. We have seen the fact that herds of walkers seem to be crossing the land.

Coma waking
What is really good about the series, however, is the amount of time that they have spent building characterisation. We begin in the company of sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). After an opening in the post-apocalyptic world we are with Rick when he is shot in the line of duty. Rick ends up in a coma and, when he awakens, it is to a dead hospital, wrecked and blood-stained, bullet holes peppering the walls. He stumbles along, looking for someone, anyone.

a crawler
A door warns of the dead inside. It is chained shut but fingers try to pry the doors open, white, dead flesh. Rick manages to stumble through the town, past piles of bodies wrapped in sheets and shot in the head. He sees a body, no legs below the trunk and is horrified as it grasps for him. He takes a bike and rides away, eventually reaching his abandoned home. For Rick this could all be a coma dream or a view of his Hell. Of course the waking to the apocalypse, in a hospital, was the opening to infected (rather than zombie) flick 28 days later, which pre-dates the comic book.

Norman Reedus as Daryl
Eventually, through the kindness of strangers, he heads to Atlanta and a refugee centre. Unfortunately the city is overrun and it is by sheer luck that he is able to escape the dead and join a group of survivors. Miraculously his wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), and son, Carl (Chandler Riggs) are amongst the group – she was saved by Rick’s cop partner, Shane (Jon Bernthal), and – believing her husband dead – she has started an affair with the man. As the two seasons progress we grow to know more and more about the group. Redneck Daryl (Norman Reedus) is a particular favourite of mine. The series is not above killing a main character, however, which keeps a tension running.

in the sights
What the series does is show that the living are as dangerous as the dead. The world and structures they knew are gone. Rick tries to do the right thing but there are hard decisions to be made and one is left to ponder as to whether the moral thing or the immoral is right after all. The series does seem to be a journey with Rick as he spirals and the script writers show the tensions building within him as well as between the various survivors.

Dead Inside
The series is given a gritty, dirty look and that works very well. The zombie effects are fantastic – look out for a thigh clenching scene in season 2 where a walker pushes his head through a hole in a windshield to get at the human inside, ripping away the flesh from his cheeks as he does. This is a great series, that cannot be doubted, one you should watch if you haven’t already and I for one am looking forward to catching up with season 3. The imdb page is here.

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