review: the walking dead

By Stefanie Lee on 12/04/2012

If you haven’t yet gotten into AMC’s The Walking Dead, you have until Sunday, February 10th to catch up on 27 episodes. The show just went on its winter hiatus, and you’ll be doing yourself a favor by hibernating with zombies.

the-walking-dead-20101027-103130Synopsis: Police officer Rick Grimes leads a group of survivors in a world overrun by zombies.  Trailer                                     

Premiered: October 31, 2010

Airs: Sun. at 9 p.m. ET (returns Feb. 10)

Starring: Andrew LincolnJon BernthalSarah Wayne                               

Dingo Dictum: B

 

 

The Walking Dead isn’t the most brilliant show on television, but man is it fun to watch. It’s based on Robert Kirkman’s popular graphic novel, so it’s already got a lot of fan support behind it. However, the plot of the show doesn’t parallel the plot of the comics exactly, so veterans have something new to look forward to and newcomers don’t have to feel left out. At its core the show is a delicate family story, which I’ll get to in a bit, but you’ve really got to dig in your heels for the gore. Innards spew everywhere, faces rot off, chunks of flesh get consumed, and people sneak around in the dark a lot. It’s fantastic and disgusting. I’ve already converted two very squeamish people to this weekly watching ritual, and I know there’ll be more to come.

Like I said, though, there is a very human element to the show. It’s not what I’d call the heart and soul of the show, since most of the characters lost their souls soon after all the zombies started roaming around (and are barely clinging to their hearts, at least from a sentimentality standpoint). But it does draw you in, if only by appealing to your curiosity. At the helm of the group is Sheriff Rick Grimes (Love Actually‘s Andrew Lincoln), a leader who makes up for what he lacks in charisma with an unquestionably level head. His wife, Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies), is even less charismatic and much less likable, given that she had been sleeping with Rick’s best friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) up until she learned that Rick was alive and they were reunited. There’s also Carl (Chandler Riggs), Rick and Lori’s pre-emo son. A slough of other characters fill out the family tree, even if they’re not all related by blood; my favorite is Darryl (Norman Reedus), the hickish loner, and my least favorite is Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), the old man who won’t stop complaining. If the characters sound intolerable, that’s because they are. I don’t particularly like any of them. But, since a zombie apocalypse is such a dire situation, I can’t help but root for them and hope that they find shelter and safety, both temporary and permanent.

The show’s first season, six episodes short, follows the group as they search for answers to their growing list of questions. Over the course of the season, they begin to come to terms with the fact that they are facing the end of the world. And by the time they reach their destination, Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, they’ve developed a comfortable rapport and become more adept at fighting the enemy with each life-threatening zombie battle. Because this is a television show that does not end after the first season, we’ll just say that the CDC doesn’t exactly give them what they’re looking for. And so the group continues along its not-even-close-to-being-merry way, shedding the weak to zombie attacks here and there. (Word to the wise: don’t get too attached to any one character; he or she may get eaten.)

The second season, a full 13 episodes long, takes place mostly on a farm that the group stumbles upon in its search for safety. After a few too many episodes consisting mainly of talking (and not nearly enough of slaying the undead), the group settles into a symbiotic relationship with the farm’s original residents and, eventually, comes to consider them as family. The farm’s patriarch, Hershel (Scott Green), has got several hottie daughters, the eldest of whom (Maggie, played by Lauren Cohan) gets involved with one of Rick’s group, Glenn (Steven Yeun). It’s weirdly cute. Even though the season is very overly feelings-y, I think it’s fair to say that the characters with potential for likability get more likable. We watch Yeun’s Glenn transform from errand-boy to leading man, and Cohan’s Maggie spares us the whininess of most of the show’s other female characters. Carl (the pre-emo son) learns how to shoot better than some of the adults, and Hershel provides the whole gaggle with some much-needed medical care. (Unfortunately he’s in denial about the whole zombie thing being more than a curable disease.) Eventually, despite Hershel’s misguided optimism, the farm is overrun by zombies and the group has to move on, once again, in search of refuge.

It’s worth all the soapy torture – I sometimes find myself yelling at the TV like I’m watching playoff baseball or something – to get to Season 3. The group finds a prison, befriends a few surviving inmates, and even encounters a few old friends. Unlike the first two seasons, which are lopsided in their focus (the first on the visuals, the second on the emotionals), the current season strikes an appealing balance between both necessary elements. Andrew Lincoln gets a chance to really prove his acting chops, as the writers let him break through his character’s expressionless existence and reveal just how much turmoil is happening underneath the surface of the guy who’s supposed to keep it together all the time. It makes for some truly powerful scenes. Plus, unbeknownst to him, there’s another guy out there playing a very similar leadership role; a “Governor” (David Morrissey), who presides over an enclosed community not far from the prison. The two have yet to meet, but their egos are ripe for some sort of excellent showdown once the show returns (again, on February 10th).

It’s December 4th now. You have 68 days.  Δ

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