Pilot Review: The Walking Dead

Do you like zombie films? If you do, the good news is that you’ll like this. The bad news is, that at least as far as the pilot goes, you’ve pretty much seen it all before.

Give or take a couple of teaser scenes, the pilot starts with a cop waking up in a hospital to find that while he’s been asleep everything’s gone to hell in a handbasket. Deserted streets, blood smeared walls, bodies piled up, doors rattling. Eventually the zombies shamble their way on to the scene, our befuddled hero finds some exposition laden humans and off he trundles with a bag load of shotguns and a snazzy hat in search of his missing family.

The pilot really did feel like a middling-budget zombie film. That’s not to say it was bad, just a bit average. The characters are pretty one dimensional, falling into reasonably tried and tested slots. The dialogue is fine, the writing tidy enough, but it’s all a bit too unremarkable. Waking up in a hospital has been done in everything from Day of the Triffids to 28 Days Later and the plot doesn’t get massively more original than that, each cliché is solid and the transitions smooth, but at the end of the day, they’re all still clichés.

On the positive side, the production values were superb for television, with extremely good direction, make-up and special effects. The zombies themselves were pitched about right – individuals are no real threat, they’re too slow and stupid more creepy in their unrelenting pursuit and vacant stares than anything else. But they flock together in a slightly terrifying way, gradually building in numbers until they just over-run you. Then they eat you. Being on Cable in the US means it can be a bit more graphic, and they certainly make the most of that opportunity.

I was disappointed in the pilot to be honest. Maybe I was being unreasonably demanding, but I was hoping for something more. While zombies are a new subject for television, that’s not enough to make it original over all. I just expect a bit more flavour and originality from my supernatural based tv shows, a bit more self-awareness and spark. I struggle with shows set in the present that aren’t aware of the rest of the media that has come before them – Supernatural just did a vampire episode referencing Twilight the whole way through, Buffy had seen the Dracula movies… but The Walking Dead felt like it existed in a vacuum.

The interest I think will come in a couple of episodes time, when it becomes clear that this is a TV show, that this can run for hours and hours. The frustration with zombie films for me has always been that they are forced to stop too soon. I want to see how they continue to rebuild and deal with long term issues. So I’ll keep watching it, partly to see where it goes (there’s only half a dozen or so episodes in the first season) but mostly because even if it’s not particularly original in the history of the genre, it’s still a more interesting concept than 90% of the rest of what’s on television at the moment.

The Walking Dead is on FX, 10pm Fridays in the UK.

TVSquad -On the whole, I’d say ‘The Walking Dead’ worth a look, no matter what your genre preferences, but horror aficionados are more likely to enjoy this intense, blood-spattered tale, which, like all AMC dramas, is about as aesthetically well-crafted as a TV show can be.

CliqueClack – So far I’m very pleased with how the series has been translated to television. I can’t imagine that existing fans will be disappointed. As for newcomers, you either know what you’re getting into and should be happy with it, or will be revolted and/or frightened to the point that you’ll quickly know the series isn’t for you. I give the first couple of episode high marks, for sure. I cannot say I’m disappointed in the least.

Links: wikipedia, Official site, imdb, tv.com


2 thoughts on “Pilot Review: The Walking Dead

  1. I had a similar reaction, but for a different reason: I’ve read the comics that this series is based on, so most of the pilot was very familiar to me (including character names). There were a few changes, and apparently it will gradually diverge from the comics, but I was satisfied that they did a good job of conveying it to the screen. My main gripe is that Rick didn’t say “Over” when he finished talking on the radio; as a Sheriff’s deputy, he should know better than that!

    By the way, if you’d like to borrow the comics (paperbacks), just let me know.

  2. Pingback: The Walking Dead: Season 1 | Narrative Devices

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