Tuesday, November 2, 2010

AMC's "The Walking Dead"

With an astounding series premiere, "The Walking Dead" received the highest ratings for any series in AMC history. Competing with 3 time Emmy Award winning series for Best Drama, "Mad Men", that is quite an accomplishment, especially for Halloween night.

I have never been much for zombies. It's not that they scare me, it's that they don't. More often than naught, I find zombie films to be dull and boring. Very rarely do I find them to have a story and characters that are compelling and fun to watch. Sadly, it's one of those genre's that are so overdone, creators feel that they only need to make it look cool, throw in a lot of blood and they have a hit on their hands. Some people fall for that, and some don't. As the intelligence of a movie audience continues to get smarter, less and less viewing members will fall for that, and I am definitely one of them.

Satisfyingly, "The Walking Dead", based on the graphic novel of the same name, does not fall into that category. After hearing about this series at Comic Con this summer, I wasn't too excited. However, in the last few months as AMC has really been pushing it's promotion with all the press, promos, and buzz on Twitter, the series premiere finally won me over. And I was beyond happy that I decided to watch it.

AMC's motto "Story Matters Here" definitely proves to be right in this case. Right from the beginning, it's not the zombies that pushed to hook the audience, it's the story of the main character, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), a Sheriff's Deputy in a small town in the Midwest. It's his story of survival, and his search for his wife and son, that keep our attention. Without this story, it would just be another dull and boring zombie story.

Although the story of the supporting characters is just as compelling, especially that of Rick's partner Shane (Jon Bernthal), it's Rick's story that will keep me coming back every week. After getting shot on the job, he is taken to the hospital for what seems to be a long stay. After an unknown period of time measured only by the death of the flowers beside his bed, he wakes up to a nearly deserted city, to humans at least. The Undead aimlessly walk the streets day and night. After finding that his wife and son are gone, Rick is apprehended by what seems to be the only humans left in the area, a father and son who are still struggling over losing their wife and mother to the infection.

They fill Rick in on the time he lost while in hospital, and he decides to head to Atlanta, which has apparently been turned in to a refugee sanctuary. Rick heads out in a squad car, broadcasting on his radio for any other survivors. The transmission is picked up briefly by a small group of survivors camped in the woods outside Atlanta and try to warn him not to enter the city. Within this group of survivors we find not only Rick's partner Shane, but also his wife, Lori, and son, Carl. Immediately, the audience is made aware of a secret relationship between Shane and Lori, which makes me wonder if they left Rick in the hospital on purpose. Or perhaps Shane told Lori that Rick was already dead?

After running out of gas, Rick is forced to continue his journey to Atlanta on horseback. At first, the city seems to be deserted, except for a zombie here and there. However, once he tries to pursue a helicopter, Rick is surrounded by mobs of the undead from every side. As they close in, he is forced beneath a tank, and nearly shoots himself, before finding refuge inside the tank just in time. Once locked in, the radio activates and hears the voice of another survivor who just watched his escape into his hiding place.

I have never heard of Britain native actor Andrew Lincoln, but after only episode of this series, I am beyond willing to search out other films and TV series he has starred in just because of him. I also love Rick. From what I have seen so far, he is one of the best characters that I have seen on a cable series since the ending of "Battlestar Galactica". Within the first few minutes, we are willing to follow his journey. We understand him, and sympathize with his position. He is a man that is dedicated to his work, loves his son, and struggling with his wife. An everyday man, not a superhero with any extraordinary gifts, that must learn to survive in this new strange world. It is this story that the audience grabs hold of, and wants to follow. That is exactly what will make me willing to tune in every week.

This is definitely the zombie story that every zombie-hater will love.

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