The Walking Dead, Season 1 (2010)


(Streaming on Netflix as of 10/12/2011)

Take Stephen King’s The Stand, subtract all the sentimental good vs. evil B.S., then add thousands of zombies, and you have The Walking Dead.

For someone like me, that formula is inherently interesting enough to get my attention, but what holds my attention—and what really shines in this show—are the characters. Most are interesting and likable (and enough are interestingly unlikable), and they feel real in an entirely unrealistic world. So a five-minute scene of two sisters in a fishing boat talking about their father holds my attention as much as a night-time zombie attack on their camp.

It’s ironic that a certain criticism of this show caused me to wait so long before checking it out, and that very waiting is what caused me to not have the same criticism. Let me explain.

If you don’t want to risk spoilers, stop reading now. Otherwise…

The main criticism I’d heard back when The Walking Dead first aired on television was that the titular antagonists were largely absent from the show. And I can see how it would feel that way if you were waiting a whole week in between episodes. But I watched the entire first season (6 episodes) in one sitting, as a 4 and a half hour movie…and I loved it. I never felt like there weren’t enough zombies.

Watching it straight through, I can say it works very well exactly as it’s paced and structured. It takes its time as needed to build the world and populate it with characters we believe in and care about.

The only time the show dragged a little for me was in the aftermath of the zombie attack on their camp. It felt like the show was trying too hard to make me feel the “tragedy” of the situation. It’s enough that I care about these characters. I will naturally empathize with them and feel their pain as they do.

My only other criticism is that at times I get a whiff of “Zombie Survivor,” as the show seems to feel obligated to kill off one or two characters towards the end of each episode. Which one will it be this time? I understand the reality the writers are trying to establish, that these characters are constantly surrounded by mortal danger. A solution could simply be a matter of not repeating the same structural story patterns from episode to episode. And in all fairness, there have only been 6 episodes, so it may be an unfair criticism at this point.

Season 2 begins on Sunday. I’m thinking of stockpiling a backlog so I can watch a bunch of episodes at once. We’ll see if I can hold out. I’m just dying [groan] to see what happens next…

More info at IMDb , RottenTomatoes, and Amazon.com.

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