WALKING DEAD - 1.1 - "Days Gone Bye" Review - Mania.com



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Mania Grade: A+

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  • Title: The Walking Dead
  • Episode Title: Days Gone Bye
  • Starring: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Lennie James, Jeffrey DeMunn, Laurie Holden, Derrick McLeod
  • Written by: Frank Darabont
  • Directed by: Frank Darabont
  • Network: AMC TV
  • Series: Walking Dead

WALKING DEAD - 1.1 - "Days Gone Bye" Review

Zombified Realism

By Joe Oesterle     November 01, 2010
Source: Mania


WALKING DEAD - 1.1 - "Days Gone Bye" Review
© Mania

From the opening shot of a solitary survivor traveling a desolate thoroughfare, to the closing scene of that same man trapped in an army tank as the camera pulls back to a bird’s eye view of an entire city of hungry zombie honing in on their prey last night’s premiere of The Walking Dead was a tense, emotional and ghastly depiction of a world gone mad. Zombie apocalypse mad.

The series is an adaptation (and judging from last night’s episode, a faithful one at that) of Robert Kirkman’s black and white monthly graphic novel. The comic book series was launched in 2003 and is still going strong, so as long as they stick to the source material and deliver the same caliber of horrifyingly tense entertainment as last night, I have nothing but the highest of hopes for this program. If Sunday night is any indication of the level of programming we’re in for with this show, this is very good news for genre geeks as well as so-called normal fans of quality television. The writing, acting, art direction, special effects, make-up, stunt work and cinematography were all top notch.

Zombie movies typically make the biggest impact during their attack scenes, and while the sight of or hero Rick crawling underneath an army tank for safety only to realize his zombie predators are pretty good crawlers as well was terrifyingly claustrophobic, some of the tightest moments came from what we weren’t shown.

Imagine the sheer dread of waking up in a hospital bed days later from a severe gunshot wound only to find you’re the only living soul in the entire building. No other people, no electricity, no cell phone, just a half eaten rotting corpse in the hallway and an ominously locked door you instinctively know not to open.

Horror has become almost mainstream on TV in recent years, and as good as shows like True Blood and Supernatural have been, The Walking Dead has the potential to be leagues better. The trick here is the absolute believability in which this story is being told. Sure a campy gay vampire who runs around with the bloody remains of his centuries old lover in a huge glass jar declaring war on human beings during a live news broadcast is great entertainment. So is the tale a couple of battle weary brothers who fight off different weekly paranormal evils in between clever quips, but what sets The Walking Dead apart from those similarly themed, but altogether differently toned programs is the realism that comes through in the performances and the writing. True Blood and Supernatural are pleasurable pastimes, but you never get the sense that those worlds could become your world. That’s the appalling and pragmatic beauty of The Walking Dead. No detail is too small for this team, and the attention given to the small details presents the viewer a greater appreciation for the larger ones.

The fact that the windshield on Rick’s car is filthy made perfect sense, and allowed the viewer a sense of elapsed time. Not a lot of television shows would have the forethought to make sure a seemingly insignificant detail like that is taken care of, and we the audience may not have complained if the windshield was clear, but that tiny element delicately reminded us of the bleak situation. Similarly, a lesser show would not have taken into consideration the effects on the auditory system of firing a live inside the cramped quarters of a homogeneous steel box. These guys did.

Another nice detail I noticed was how Rick did not become automatically desensitized to his awful situation. Too often in zombie fare, the main character goes from neophyte to grizzled veteran almost immediately after his first encounter. Here, we are being taken for a slow and intense descent into hell on earth. In a relatively short span, hero has now seen some revolting sights, and has had to face the fact that even if his wife and child are still alive, he may never see them again. His will not be an easy journey – but it’s a good bet none of the human survivors are going to be overly joyful.

10 seconds of silence in television terms is widely regarded of as an eternity, but actor Andrew Lincoln (Rick) played many of his scenes without the benefit of a single line of dialogue and the scenes rang true. Undoubtedly he’ll start talking to himself down the line, and of over the course of time Rick will become less and less responsive to the day-to-day agony he will come to endure. For now however, the character has not yet become hardened to his austere surroundings and watching his measured decline/evolution will be one of the more interesting components to this show.

Let me put it this way, I’m a grown man. I’ve seen more than my share of zombie movies, and I’ve hated some, and loved others. You know what I’ve never ever done during a zombie movie before? Cried. Andrew Lincoln is a fantastic actor and his work was stellar, but it was Lennie James, of Jericho fame, who gave such a moving performance as the husband/father trying to keep himself and his son safe from harm, while he wrestles with the heartbreaking fact that he is incapable of putting the love of his life out of her zombified misery that moved me to tears. It was a powerful scene in an hour and a half of gripping drama.

To put it succinctly, here’s my review of the pilot: If you didn’t completely and utterly love this program then you are a big, fat, stupid douche bag. I give this pilot episode an A+, and I can’t wait for next Sunday. What say you, Maniacs?

 


 

Joe Oesterle’s new book, “Weird Hollywood” is out. Here’s an unedited story from the book. It’s Halloween appropriate. Read, if you dare, the bizarre, twisted and unsolved murder of The Black Dahlia.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

Showing items 1 - 10 of 52
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jedibanner 11/1/2010 12:35:27 PM

Yep, I loved it too, I'll admit. Even some scenes were more gory then I expected. It's still not what it coulv'e been on HBO but, it's as close as it could be so far.

My one issue though is when Rick sees the half-dead zombie moving for the first time, that alone should bring anyone to ask questions and wonder wtf is going on...and then by meeting someone alive, that would be my first question: what IS going on (adding the hospital's dead bodies, streets all messed up and the noize from the dead zombies inside the hospital with a big sign that says ''do not open, dead inside'').

I mean, it's one thing to think of your familly but, when something as big and large as ths is happening, why the heck would you not aks yourself questions about a body who is cut in half and clearly decapitated and not wonder ''hmmm, shoudl this happen??''

Everything else was A for me, looking forward to the rest of the show.

jdiggitty 11/1/2010 1:06:14 PM

Wholeheartedly agree with the review. This is going to be the best show airing. Not sure how AMC does it but whoever is in charge of their original programming deserves a get a bigger cut from all those commercials they show.

DaForce1 11/1/2010 1:17:55 PM

 There were a few little changes from the comic, which I liked. Adding Morgan's zombie wife to the mix was a very nice touch by Darabount. Leaving Rick trapped inside the tank instead of being rescued by...well, I'm not spoiling that....makes for a good place to leave off for a weekly tv series. The hospital scene could have played out like in the comic and had a more horrific impact then the tv version, but what're gonna do?

I liked that the tone of the series was set from the beginning with the zombie girl being shot in the head without hesitation, and without having it occur off screen. It showed that there was going to be some serious consequences for any of the characters, and that the series wasn't going to be squeamish about showing it and/or about going to that dark place. 

Joe, I still have to take you task though for writing about Supernatural when you still really know nothing about it other than the shows you've seen this season. Because if you had seen the previous five seasons you would see just how plausible a world the Winchesters live in fits in with our own, and with the one The Walking Dead occupies. True Blood, falls so far into fantasy that it could never be mistaken as having the possibility of occurring.

swisshammer 11/1/2010 1:56:31 PM

I loved this. The makeup and special effects were FANTASTIC! I was blown away. I've heard that we're only getting 6 episodes until next year, though. That kind of bothers me, but what can I do? I'll just keep watching and enjoy as many episodes as I can.

This was much better than many zombie horror FILMS. I'll be buying this when it comes out on blu-ray.

joeybaloney 11/1/2010 2:23:32 PM

An amazing adaption! Everything I could want made it into this first episode. Having read the comic from the beginning it's tough to talk about without getting into spoiler territory but there was a lot in this episode that fits in nicely with what Kirkman, at least, had/has in store. Lennie James' inability to kill his zombie wife being one of those very nice touches (I miss me some Jericho. Hawkins would kick Jack Bauer's ass!).

I had no problem with the "lack" of gore in this episode. There were some very gruesome parts and if you're tuning into The Walking Dead for splatter you really aren't getting what it is about. AMC puts out some truly amazing original, adult television and this is a great channel for this series. If only they didn't hack their other programming to death.

Jedi, Rick was probably questioning his own sanity until he met up with Morgan. Considering he was probably so dehydrated and malnourished after waking up that probably leant to the surreal feeling of the situation and his ability to think it through clearly. I'm surprised his first questions wasn't "got any food?"
Good review Joe. Looking forward to next week, Anyone got any thoughts on how they're going to handle Carl? They're going to run into a problem of Walt proportions with the actor growing up way too quick. The book has been around for seven years now but only 1 & 1/2 or 2 have passed in the story.

LocoLobo73 11/1/2010 3:23:01 PM

I have to say that the first episode rocked , it hit all the major parts from the CB series and added some new and un expected parts as well that made , I think , for better story telling. Joey I think the age thing works better with the tv show more than you would think, especially when we start moving towards the second arc, alot of the episodes will cover multiple issues of the comic, so time may not be a huge factor, but it will become one if we see multiple seasons , but Kirkman has the comic mapped out to issue 150 so there you go... so yeah we might hav a problem houston, considering a normal season is 20-26 episodes , now lets say they cover two issues each episode , we are still looking at least 4 seasons.

which if you ask  me is fricken awesome lmao.  So cant wait till next episode, Until then keep an eye out for the WALKERS

creekwoodkid 11/1/2010 3:27:17 PM

Great show! I haven't been this amped about a show in a long while, and I have never even read the comics. It's great to have a solid delivery on all that hype. My only concern is that it doesn't separate itself from the other zombie-apocalypse stories, because the first episode seemed an awful lot like 28 Days Later meets Dawn of the Dead.

calhob 11/1/2010 3:45:50 PM

Not one bad thing to say about this show.

 

Well, maybe that I wish the next episode was on today.

PappyVanWinkle 11/1/2010 4:14:18 PM

@joe, your review was spot on.  it's also good to know that i am not a douche bag in your view.  i felt the same way as you did (except i didn't cry because i'm a MAN, not some pansy ;).  this is easily my favorite tv show now. if the other episodes are in the same ballpark as this pilot episode, i'll be a happy man.  this tv show is significantly better than most zombie movies.  i'll be getting the blu-ray when it comes out.  too bad i know how the comics go - i'd rather be surprised and there are tons of surprises in walking dead.  apparently the tv show does deviate from the comics somewhat (with the creator's blessing) so i guess i'll have surprises to look forward to.  the only thing that would make this show better is if erica durance was cast as a master zombie killer who wears skimpy and/or tight outfits with a goofy sense of humor.  since smallville ends after this season, my wish may come true. LOL!

animefanjared 11/1/2010 5:16:05 PM

Jedibanner, I have to disagree.  I thought his reaction was entirely believable and realistic.  Waking up alone in an abandon hospital, with no power and nobody around, then stumbling upon hundreds of dead bodies, and then seeing a half-dead corpse move?  That would be such a mindf**k that I don't think most people could even begin to handle it.  So what does Rick do?  He seeks out the most comforting thing he can think of, his family.  I completely buy that. 

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