Tv, apocalypse, zombies, survival horror, Walkers, Virus, Infected

WALKING DEAD REVIEW: S01 E01: "DAYS GONE BYE"

Sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes wakes from a gunshot-inflicted coma to discover the world overrun with walkers. He goes back to his house to find his wife and son but meets survivor Morgan Jones and his son Duane - Rick decides to head to Atlanta to find his wife Lori and son Carl, unaware they are safe with other survivors led by his former partner Shane. He encounters hordes of walkers and becomes trapped inside a tank.

An open road....huge trees on either side reaching towards the grey clouds overhead. Everything is quiet, except for the sound of a lonely car travelling on tarmac.

The sheriff's blue and white sedan drives over the four way crossing as he passes by a vehicle that is lying on its roof. The police car slows down and parks beside an overturned truck. The engines dies as the sole occupant of the vehicle climbs out. He walks to the boot and retrieves an empty gas can.

He walks between cars that have been burnt or turned over, sidling down a grassy hill towards his destination while his eyes take in the surrounding carnage and abandonment. Signs of life everywhere... dolls, a kid's plastic bike, clothes left on the ground. And yet, no sign of anyone, except a decaying body within one of the cars.

When he reaches his objective, a sign warns him that there is 'No Gas'. There is a flapping in the wind as he looks around, wondering what he could do, or if any of the abandoned vehicles have gas.

As he walks back, something catches his attention from behind. Are those steps he hears? Is there someone around? He looks underneath a car and sees small legs walking on the road. The feet have bunny slippers on as the kid reaches down and grabs a teddy bear.

He gets up and runs after her, surprised to see any sign of life. "Little girl," he calls softly, aching for her attention. "I'm a policeman. Little girl..."

She stops. "Don't be afraid...ok? Little girl?"

She turns around, and he realises it is he who should be afraid. Her face is terribly torn around her mouth, revealing the right side of her jaws and teeth. Blood covers her clothes. He breathes heavily, as she groans in return.

She walks towards him as he backs off, each increasing their pace as he removes his revolver. As she gets closer, he has no doubt of her intentions. Rick Grimes raises his firearms and lets a bullet fly. It sails true through the air and strikes her in the forehead, as the once innocent girl falls to the ground...the undead dead once more....


STORY, CHARACTERS AND EVENTS


Welcome to my Walking Dead review series. I will be taking you through an in-depth review, not only looking at it from a viewer's point of view, but dissecting each episode from an author and screenwriter's point of view. It may just make you watch these episodes in a new light.

When I started watching the first episode, I didn't know that it was based on a comic book series. That knowledge would only come later. Apparently the entire first season is based on the first six comic issues.

My interest in the Walking Dead arose when I was started playing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and I wanted a zombie fix. I was informed about this series when it was already five seasons in. I managed to obtain copies of the first season and I was hooked. It became a binge week of catching up.

I was immediately caught up in the story. After the introductory in medias res scene, we are cast back in time slightly. We meet Rick Grimes and his police partner, Shane Walsh, having a discussion in a police car. We soon realise just how close they are and that they've been friends for almost their whole lives.

So, as men do in their spare time bonding, they are talking crap about being married and the joys thereof. What I loved about this scene was that it gave us a foreshadow to a later character, Rick's wife Lori. You might miss how important this information is until a later stage. When directors and screenwriters create such a foreshadowing event the right way, it can create tension, intrigue and a wealth of emotions that toys with the viewer's hearts. Walking Dead hits this nail right on the head, so to speak.

The last thing she said this morning, 'Sometimes I even wonder if you even care about us at all.' She said that in front of our kid. Imagine going to school with that in your head. The difference between men and women... I would never say something that cruel to her. Certainly not in front of Carl.

This is probably one of the most loaded conversations in this episode. Being a screenwriter, I can instantly pick up on a load of information just from this one discussion from Rick:

  • We're introduced to another important character, namely Carl Grimes, creating another foreshadowing event;
  • We learn something about Rick, not only that he stereotypes men and women based on his relationship, but mainly about what he believes his personality and character is. This will become essential in future episodes and seasons and is constantly tested and tried. It becomes his greatest cause of conflict;
  • That Shane cares as little about how Rick feels as Lori does, and that these two men are on opposite spheres of personalities, perhaps even good and evil, if you will.

This type of character and story development is what kept me watching to the edge of my seat. It's the calm before the storm, the screenwriter teaching the viewer about things to come without them even realising.

And then of course the main event happens. They are called out to an incident involving a wounded officer. When they do apprehend the culprits racing madly down the open road, they believe they have everything in hand until Rick gets shot. He is rushed to hospital, and all hell breaks lose.

We see through the eyes of Rick as we see his best friend Shane paying him visits. The important element of these visits that caught me off-guard was that the flowers Shane brought were fresh. When Rick wakes up and responds to him, the flowers are wilted. Classic passing of time element! There was no better way to show that lots of time had passed, and was preferred over the cliche clock hands spinning over time.

Everything from this moment on reveals how much the world has turned upside down. We are shown dead corpses, the first signs of the Walking Dead, or Walkers as we will get to know them, and Rick realising that he is completely alone. Of course, he does what any one of us would do: heads home to check on his wife and child. These scenes were absolutely gut-wrenching. The emotional pain of thinking you lost your family...

Enter Morgan Jones and his son Duane. Duane's son knocks him out with a spade, but not before Morgan tries to find out what Rick's wound was from. The parallel between one who knew exactly what the Walkers were and could do and someone who knew nothing is incredible. It plays out nicely for the viewers, who can relate with not knowing what is happening.

Rick spends some time with them, learning that Morgan's wife had been turned. He has a quick tutorial on Walkers, before deciding it was time to find his family. He leads Morgan to a stash of weapons, before filling a bag with guns and ammo and heading his own way.

Suddenly we are introduced to new characters as we switch scenes. Shane is alive and well and at a camp filled with survivors. Not only is he alive, but he looks quite cosy with Lori, that we see for the first time, as well as having become a father figure for Carl.

We don't meet any of the other characters properly at this stage, but that will be resolved in episodes to come. When we head back to Rick, he has found a horse and rides into the main town. This is where we get to see the hordes of Walking Dead in all their glory. Rick gets pulled off his horse and trapped on the streets, where he finds a military tank to hide in after losing his bag of goodies.

Which leads us to our epic cliffhanger of an ending. A calm voice that calls over the tank's radio:

"Hey you...dumbass. Hey you in the tank. Cosy in there?"


VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS


Of course, this whole series is meant to be about zombies, right? Well, they've thrown in some Walkers for good measure. There are even some Crawlers where they no longer have the use of their legs, or simply have no legs at all. Our first episode introduction to them swings from single moments in the beginning, to some herds in the middle with Morgan, and then a whole city full in the end, as we reach the climax.

The sound definitely adds to the atmosphere. When there is silence with slight motion sounds, you wonder what's coming. Then there are the cries and moans of the hordes which can be deafening. The music only adds to the tension, and the silence usually foreshadows something to come.

There were some unnecessary scene and effects of course, added for no other purpose other than to just to gross you out. After the cliffhanger ending, they could have just faded to black. Would have had the same effect. But no, they decided to end it off with some Walkers eating guts and pulling them out of bodies and such. Just to make sure they get their airing time. The show is about zombies after all.. right?


FINAL WORD


Overall, this was a pleasant first experience with the series that definitely had me wanting more. It had me wondering what type of zombies we could be expecting from the series, or would it be the same staple Walkers throughout, used simply as obstacles while we focused on the main characters instead. I was left hoping for more development of the monsters, and maybe something new and exciting in time to come.

What I absolutely loved as an author was that there was more than one storyline happening here. There was the main protagonist, Rick, whose mission was to find his family. I expected that this would take several episodes to happen as usually happens in today's television stories. Then there is Morgan and Duane, who are hiding in their house while Morgan grows the courage to killing his Walker wife. I wondered if he was just a character that Rick would meet once and if we would ever see them again. Finally, we have the story of Shane, Lori and Carl at the camp, which is actually Rick's objective. It made me wonder how Rick would react if he ever discovered them and found out that Shane has been fondling his wife....er, widow... er something.

All in all, this episode left me heavily invested in each of the living characters, and had me wondering who that voice in the tank was. Perfect cliffhanger...

RATING: 9 / 10



Shaun M Jooste

Author of Celenic Earth Chronicles and Silent Hill: Betrayal

Chief Publisher at Celenic Earth Publications