The Walking Dead – Season 1, Episode 1: “Days Gone Bye”

Created by: Robert Kirkman, Frank Darabont

Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, Sarah Wayne Callies,Laurie Holden, Jeffrey DeMunn, Steven Yeun, Chandler Riggs

Synopsis: Based on the popular graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, this adaptation is spearheaded by the efforts of Frank Darabont to get it to screen.   The series has been an absolute hit overseas, and now those with Foxtel are able to see it here in Australia.   It follows the story of Rick Grimes, a cop who wakes from a coma to find himself alone in the middle of a zombie outbreak.

In anticipation for the release of this series on local networks, I got a little impatient so went to the material I could access, that being the original graphic novels by Robert Kirkman (thank you once again, Gametraders Blacktown!).   I am not on volume 6, and have been thoroughly entertained, chilled and horrified by the post-apocalyptic world that poor Rick Grimes has found himself in.

So I will admit, coming from that source it was initially difficult for me to adjust gears.   For me, Lincoln does not look like lead character Rick Grimes, nor does Bernthal remind me of his best friend Shane.   This is only a very superficial comment, as within this episode, the performances were certainly up to the task.   In this one episode, Rick shows varying emotions from confusion, remorse, fear, and absolute horror.   He does this quite well, however there are instances in which the cinematography goes a bit to far to try to represent Rick’s distraught state.

Not many other main characters appear just yet, which I was surprised by as they all appear in volume 1 (which bore the same name as this episode), however in the 67 minutes of this episode, the rest are at best briefly glimpsed.   This indicates the series is going for an even slower burn than the graphic novels, allowing relationships to be established on-screen with more ease.   This option I had no issue with, especially as the roles of travellers Rick meets away are beefed up.   As such,t he pilot episode is going for much more of a character piece than for all out horror, and I am soothed by this, as it is the human condition under extreme circumstances that makes the original instalment so thrilling.

When the horror elements are on-screen though,th ey do not disappoint.   Early in the episode we see a legless zombie pulling itself along the grass in search of a feed.   It is at the same time both sickening, and yet there is also a certain degree of pathos behind it.   This is where the effects of the show really work.   At times like these we are reminded that these are not just mindless hulks, but that they were once people too.

Inevitably, elements of the story have been tweaked, and fans I guess have to decide for themselves how happy they are with that.   This, and having to alter the image of characters in my head have to a degree hindered my enjoyment of the show, though taking a step back I can really appreciate what Darabont is trying to achieve in this adaptation.   Regardless, I will be watching episode 2,  “Guts” (not an original volume title), tomorrow night.

3.5 stars out of 5

 

The Walking Dead on IMDB

Season 1 trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgvgAFzldMs]

 

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