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The Walking Dead #1.1: Days Gone Bye

By Julio Angel Ortiz on 05 November 2010

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of ‘The Walking Dead’ comic book. It ranks as one of my all-time favorite series, right next to ‘Cerebus’, and when I heard that it was coming to television as an ongoing series, I was more than a little skeptical.

‘The Walking Dead’ comic has always primarily been about the characters, with the zombies providing a background threat that drives them into dark corners of their humanity.

While the comic has had its gory moments, it has never been the focus. But even so, how do you translate that into a television series that is as uncompromising as the source material, and not dumb it down or resort to shock horror tactics or action drivel?

Thankfully, if the first episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ is anything to go by, then producers have wisely settled on the former.

As a fan of the comic, it’s not fair to compare the television series to the source. As has been previously stated by the producers, the television series will draw inspiration from the comic but also go in different directions. This is a wise decision, and in several areas the first episode actually improves upon the original material.

English actor Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy wounded in the line duty. His injury places him in a coma, and when he awakens, he finds the hospital abandoned and bodies everywhere. As he makes his way home, he finds that not all of the dead are staying put, and an encounter with father and son Morgan and Duane opens his eyes to the reality of world he has awoken to.

The episode has an excellent pace to it, and establishes the feel for the series. The opening teaser, with Rick hunting for gas and coming across an infected young girl, maintains its power even though you can predict the outcome.

This is followed up with Rick and his sheriff partner Shane having a discussion about women while sitting in their car. It is simply a regular discussion, two normal people in a normal world whittling away the time in an unhurried scene. But in this simplicity the show establishes just what its core is: the characters.

This is used to even greater effect later on when Morgan Jones (played by Lennie James) tells Rick about the fate of his wife, and his subsequent inability to end her zombie existence (juxtaposed beautifully against Rick putting down the first zombie he encountered after leaving the hospital).

These scenes highlight the high grade writing and direction. Not only does it keep you drawn in, the episode also plays with your expectations (none more so than in the scene when Rick is attempting to leave the hospital, and enters the completely dark stairwell).

If I were to fault anything in the episode, it would be the shootout scene in which Rick becomes injured. It clashes with the tone of the rest of the episode and comes off as a bit gratuitous.

‘Days Gone Bye’ is a near-perfect start to the series. Long-time fans should not be disappointed with the changes made, as they are all for the better. The grittiness and desperation make for a very modern take on a classic formula, and the quality acting, writing, and direction give us the best iteration on the zombie survival horror genre in years.

‘The Walking Dead’ is a refreshing addition to television, and promises to make for an entertaining ride.

‘The Walking Dead’ airs on AMC in the USA and FX in the UK.


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By Julio Angel Ortiz

Julio Angel Ortiz maintains his collection of curiosities at www.julioinprogress.com. You can also Like him on Facebook as well and check out his latest writing projects.




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