Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Walking Dead 1.1-3: Gone with the Wind, Zombie-Style

I'm generally not a fan of zombie movies or books.   The dead have no appeal for me, neither does cannibalism or whatever the word for zombie humans eating living persons.   So I was not expecting to watch The Walking Dead on AMC, and when I decided to watch the first episode On Demand last night, I was not expecting to watch the second two, or even sit through the first.    But I did, and I can see the appeal and the big ratings received by this adaption of the dark violent comic book (or horror graphic, to use the genre term) series.

The Walking Dead, as at least one review I heard quoted on AMC said, has a cinematic sweep.  Unlike the close quarters of True Blood - likely the closest to The Walking Dead on television - The Walking Dead deals in big pictures.   A character speaks of Atlanta falling.   The dead bodies in the street, the military ruins along the way, reminded me of similar scenes in Gone with the Wind.   A hundred and fifty years later, zombies being the bad guys rather than the Union, but there's more than a whiff of this in the powerful new television series situated in the South.

And in fact there's a important racial theme as well.  The white cop - Rick - from the small town who is the main hero of the series is saved by a black man and his son in the first episode.  In the second episode, we meet a racist who's shooting zombies from his perch on a roof, but is only slightly less hostile to African Americans (good to see Michael Rooker back on the screen).  Rick has to give him a lecture about humans needing to stick together in these torn times.

There's even a triangle of sorts, born of what has happened to this world.  Rick's best friend and fellow officer Shane sleeps with Rick's wife Lori, who has every reason to think Rick is dead (whether walking or otherwise).   When Rick returns,  Lori is furious at Shane for misleading her - not clear at this point whether Shane did this deliberately or honestly assumed Rick was dead. 

All of this is good story telling, distinct from the blood and gore.  And though there is not shortage of horribly painful scenes - like walking dead who can't even walk, because they lost the bottom of their bodies - there are also some excellent, powerful action scenes, as a small band of humans escape the clutches of the zombies against almost impossible odds.

Just three more episodes of The Walking Dead - AMC only went for a short six-episode season this year - but I'll be watching, as well the next thirteen, when The Walking Dead returns for another season.





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