Monday, October 10, 2011

The Walking Dead: Season 1: Days Gone By

With the Walking Dead second season about to start (which we intend to do weekly episode reviews on) we're doing 6 recaps of the previous series to bring us up to date

The opening scene of this pilot is one of the best I've seen. We see the protag in an obvious disaster zone, surrounded by wreckage and scraps of people's lives – including children's toys. He is carrying a petrol can, looking for a resource most of us today take for granted. It is eerily silent except for the buzzing of insects clinging to the corpses of the dead. And then we see the Walker – a child, a little girl (evocative of all what we're supposed to protect) even carrying a teddy bear. And he shoots her.

A perfect introduction to the world of the Walking Dead..

Which is followed by a rather pointless scene with Shane (thus beginning my series long dislike of Shane who never has the decency to be eaten which I just call rude) complaining about women and Rick complaining about his relationship and relationships until Rick is shot in a shootout (Shane, alas, is not shot).

Rick awakes in a hospital bed – and the dying flowers next to him show he's been unconscious a while – and after it quickly becomes clear the hospital has been wrecked and he's all alone – except for the bodies. And we're treated to one of the most on-the-edge-of-your-seat filming I've seen in a long time. I kept screaming at the screen “don't go in there! Don't open that It's dark! Get out of there!”

Leaving the hospital we get a greater sense of how widespread the carnage is, the mass grave, the wreckage, the destruction. This is really a wonderful scene for how great the scale of this was. We also see the very first Walker – bicycle lady who has her own very powerful, very sad webisodes. I have to say I found Rick's reactions a little... off here. There was surprise and then... bemusement? Not how I'd react (admittedly I'd probably react by having the screaming meemies right there). But I liked how the Walkers were also presented as tragic victims

Rick runs home, unsurprisingly, to try and find his family – but the house is abandoned. This acting I found much more true – it's not just sad or shocked or scared, it's utterly overwhelmed. Rick knows his family is alive because all their photo albums are missing – which I can see – not sensible but definitely what people will cling to.

He is smacked across the head by a shovel and he wakes up restrained to a bed by Morgan and his son Duane. This is the first introduction we have to the paranoia of strangers, of having to check to see if they've been bitten or not, of not being able to trust until you're sure. With even good people who want to help having to be very careful before they can. I also appreciate how Morgan tried to maintain his standards and values – a blessing at the meal, not tolerating his son swearing, even as the world falls apart he holds on. We also see one of the other tragedies of the time – loved ones who are now Walkers as Morgan's wife tries to enter the house. We see this again later as Morgan cannot bring himself to kill his wife and later when Rick feels he has to put down a Walker that used to be a colleague – a lot of mixed feelings with what to do with a Walker you knew.

In the police station to re-arm and shower – again another great scene on how much things have changed, with hot water becoming a luxury. I'm, impressed with this first episode how many little scenes like this there are to show how much the world has changed without being blatant. Rick decides to head to Atlanta and Morgan will follow, keeping in touch with walkie-talkies.

As Rick approaches Atlanta he tries to call for any help, he contacts a refugee camp outside of Atlanta but he can't hear their responses. In the camp is Rick's wife Lori and son Kyle – and Shane (who isn't dead) who is quick to lay down the law and be grossly condescending and patronising to Lori (sadly, she doesn't kill him).

Running out of petrol, Rick swaps his car for a horse and arrives at Atlanta – and supposed safety. Except it's eerily empty - except for the gazillion Walkers who block several roads and bring down his horse forcing him to run and hide in a tank, trapped and surrounded. I'm actually shocked they did this and wonder how many complaints they got. I mean violence against people is one thing – but violence against an animal? And against horses? That tends to rile people up! You can slaughter a bus full of school children but gods' help you if you lay a finger on a kitten

It all seems very hopeless... until the radio comes to life.