Zombies have long been a part of film lore (even to the point that nothing shocking comes from these types of movies anymore). However, what is shocking (and definitely new ground) is a zombie television series. In comes the thrilling new series, The Walking Dead (that just completed its first season on Sunday).
The Walking Dead follows a group of survivors after the zombie apocalypse. The group is led by the protagonist and sheriff’s deputy, Rick Grimes. Also among the group is Rick’s wife, Lori, and “best friend”, Shane. The first season followed the group as they tried to find weapons, deal with an ambush by zombies and try to find the CDC (which Rick believes will be their best chance at survival).
The series was created by the accomplished movie director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption). Darabont wrote most of the episodes and directed the pilot. His presence is definitely felt as the series is expertly crafted and the series’ tense and disturbing tone rarely fades away. Other series directors and writers are great too. Of particular interest are Michelle MacLaren (director of “Guts”), Ernest Dickerson (director of “Wildfire”) and Glenn Mazzara (writer of “Wildfire”), who all display great ability in their craft.
The cast, although adequate, does not do as much for the series as the crew does. Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes is very inconsistent. He is great at being a tough guy crusader but his monologues get annoying quick with his terrible attempt at a southern accent. The rest of the series regulars range from okay (Joe Bernthal as Rick’s friend and fellow cop) to downright awful (Sarah Wayne Callies as Rick’s wife) with the exception of Jeffrey DeMunn who quickly grew on me as the father figure of the group. The guest stars were definitely the saviors of the cast with knockout turns from Lennie James (as a father with trouble letting go), Michael Rooker (as a villainous racist), Norman Reedus (who plays the brother of Michael Rooker’s character) and Noah Emmerich (as a CDC scientist).
The behind the camera aspects of this series are what make it unique. Not since the Lost pilot and the days of Battlestar Galactica has a tv series looked so gorgeous (sorry Breaking Bad fans, I still haven’t watched that entire series yet). Visual effects genius Gregory Nicotero, in particular, works wonders for the series. If his work on the makeup was eligible for an Oscar, it would win in a cakewalk. It is that good.
The Walking Dead has been a very consistent series that has maintained a “very good status” from episode to episode (despite a disappointing finale). The pilot was the best episode (with “Wildfire” being another standout) but there is not much difference between The Walking Dead’s best episode and its worst episode (probably “Tell it to the Frogs” which focused too much on building up its epic third act rather than building characters properly). That being said the pilot and any other episode was nothing revolutionary and not something that will be remembered for years to come. However, due to its consistency the series itself probably will.