Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The Walking Dead Season 1 Review: A Series With Life And BRAINS!

The Walking Dead was bound to be a series hit at the start, because not only is it on a channel with a strong reputation for quality series (AMC) but it also happens to be about subject matter that is hip and trendy right now. Next to sparkly and sexy vampires, zombies seem to be the mythical monsters that are all the rave in pop culture right now. Though it was probably inevitable that The Walking Dead would boast a rather strong rating its first few weeks, the real challenge was actually becoming a series that people would remember to tune in to see each week. This meant that it would take more than just being a show about zombies, but actually have an engrossing story that would reel in the viewers on a weekly basis.

The premier of The Walking Dead was a undeniable smash hit. The episode not only achieved the highest ratings for a AMC premier episode, but was loved by almost all critics that bothered to review it. Plus I liked it a lot, which doesn't really mean much for the long term success of the show, but at least ensured it would get an occasional mention on this blog (which again probably doesn't mean much other than my horde of readers get to read me gushing about zombies). The premier proved to be much smarter and much more well written than one may assume from a show about zombies. It created characters that the viewer could really care about and want to see how they'd survive this apocalypse. It was a strongly acted and fantastically written show that just happened to have some zombies in it. The premier did a good job of providing the necessary amount of action and satisfaction, while also raising a lot of questions and cliffhangers in order to make you want to return to the series. Then again, there is a lot of series that have been able to kick off with a hot premier that gets thousands and thousands of people stoked for the show. The bigger issue is the ability to follow through, and continually provide the quality and excitement that was presented at the start. I've always felt that writing an engaging and exciting beginning is easy, but the true test is being able to follow it up with something of equal or even better quality.

Was The Walking Dead able to successfully follow up on its hot premier? To answer that question, I'll say this: Sunday was the finale of season one, and I am now eagerly anticipating the arrival of the second season (which sadly may not be until next October). The show was able to keep me hooked all the way through, and has made me care about the characters and the stories. There is still so many questions left unanswered, and I have faith many of them will get resolution as the series progresses. Plus there has been some major issues that started simmering at the start of the season, which we're still waiting to explode on the screen. The series us now in a spot where there are so many different directions and avenues it can take. As any good show, I am sure many fans will guess and debate what they think will happen next. It is a compelling show, and one that provides a lot of tension and drama, plus it has zombies.

The show isn't perfect, though. I felt the premier provided a rather glaring plot hole (how the hero remained unscathed in the hospital), and at the time I decided to ignore with the faith it would be resolved in time. It does seem that the writers tried to resolve it with a scene in the finale, but unfortunately, it was about as thin and weak as a 100 year old corpse. Also there is moments in the show that rush through some issues far too quickly, and other times they dwell on others far too long. But the thing is, for the most part the writing is so strong and the story so compelling that I am always willing to forgive and ignore. I won't claim the series to be flawless, but it is good enough that you can easily miss most errors or weaknesses.

The true strength of this show, is one that you wouldn't expect from a series about zombies, and that is the characters. Unlike your typical horror or monster movie, the characters are actually multi layered and incredibly deep. They are not here as snacks for the zombies to munch one, but rather they are written as real people who have personalities. Each of the characters have redeeming qualities and blemishes, and this allows the viewer to easily connect with them. The show still does have the type of characters you mostly want to root for, and the characters that you are more prone to detest; the important part is that they are not cardboard cut outs, and as the series progresses, these characters have grown as well. That is the huge difference between this show and some of the lower rent horror that has clogged up the cinemas. When The Walking Dead has a zombies attack and a character is killed, it actually means something because it is the death of someone you've actually emotionally invested in. This isn't a killing for killing sake, but rather a major moment in the story. The strength of character development has made the death that much more emotionally impactful, and forces the viewer to really see the attacks as the gruesome and horrific things that they are (rather than cheering for the death of some big breasted, personality devoid blond).

The strength of this series is proven by the fact that many of the moments that I'm intrigued or captivated by has little to do with the zombies. Though, that isn't to say that the zombies aren't still a crucial part of this show. But I am interested in the many relationships that have grown throughout the series, or how each characters responds differently to the massive crisis they have been met with. The character development has been rather interesting in the redneck bigot who is still rough around the edges, but seemingly has become more accepting of those around him. The inner turmoil that is obviously tearing apart one of the characters has been fascinating, because in some ways he has come across as a villain but at the same time you know his intentions are mostly good (other than his desire to sleep with his best friend's wife). The viewer is still waiting for the moment that the inner struggle comes out in the most hellish of ways. The many scenes where characters have to deal with loss or try to cope with their situation has been incredibly powerful. The last few minutes of the finale was an especially heart wrenching scene, that really proved the excellence of the writing. And of course there is the gory battled with the zombies, which provide the visceral effect you'd expect but also aren't too over the top. Speaking of killing zombies, it has been incredibly interesting watching how the characters have changed in their views towards the walking dead. Early on they struggled at killing the zombies or needed to remember that they were once living humans, but as the series progresses, it has becomes much easier for the characters to see them as mindless monsters.

The first season of The Walking Dead was a rousing success. It is a series that all horror or zombie fans will get a kick out of. But I also know it is a well written enough show that people who don't typically enjoy that type of entertainment will still find engaging and entertaining. I've actually watched almost every episode with Emily, who is not a fan of the typical horror. I'd say that is proof this is a series that can appeal to those that just like a really good story (that can be gory).

4 comments:

  1. Anonymous1:13 am

    ScottandAngela Bayley via Facebook:

    I couldn't be more disappointed with Walking Dead.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Come on now, if 'The Walking Dead' barged into your house drunk, vomited all over your couch, ate the last of your pop tarts, lit your lawn on fire, and scratched your car before leaving, then I am sure you would be more disappointed with it.

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  3. Anonymous11:39 am

    ScottandAngela Bayley via Facebook:

    No. At least then it would have surprised me a little.

    ReplyDelete
  4. When Summit was about 4 months old, he ended up getting out of his cage in the middle of the night. He also made sure to leave a little surprise for us when we got down the stairs the next morning. Surprises sometimes can be shit.

    ReplyDelete