I stayed up late last Sunday. Consequently, I might have been shot on Monday by Sheriff Rick Grimes, the protagonist of AMC's new series The Walking Dead. I was a little slow on my feet, and I moaned at the occasional passing dog.
The series, based on a series of comics written by Robert Kirkman, who has an excellent story in the recently released The Living Dead 2, shows a lot of promise.
I've heard that zombies are the next vampires. Whatever. Maybe Steph Meyer is bunkering down in some subterranean Provo money-lab, ruminating on how she can instill some wholesome family values in the undead canon.
I mean, seriously...zombies? I love to write the stories and I dig reading the good ones, but I think the wave crested with Romero's Land of the Dead, many years ago. I can be corrected by an awesome text, of course, but I just don't expect one--written or visual. If zombies are "new," then I'm extremely "old."
AMC does a fine job with The Walking Dead. They enlisted one of my favorite storytellers in Frank Darabont to produce the series, and to write and direct the first episode. It feels like vintage Darabont--intentional, artistic...carefully expositional.
I like that Frank takes his time to establish character. When Grimes returns to the same park that was the scene of one of his first horrific encounters, and when he enacts a sort of cathartic release (I'm sorry this happened to you, he says, as he pulls the trigger on a legless zombie), we begin to feel for him. It's pathos, people, and Darabont knows how to push those buttons.
Episode one is quietly horrific. That, in my view, is how it should be. Roads clogged with abandoned cars. Cities bereft of their denizens. Silence. Those elements make for a chilling narrative.
In the third act, things become decidedly difficult. There's a horrific scene with a horse, a live-or-die moment with a tank.
But this series will live or die with its attention to humanity and, with Darabont behind the curtain, I'm confident that will be its focus. It was the highest rated series opener in the history of the network. It will have some traction, and it might spike a mini-revival in the zombie canon.
But it doesn't do more for cable television than Snyder's remake of Dawn of the Dead did for the silver screen. Heck, it's not even (right now) as good as Breaking Bad.
But the good thing is that it can be that good. There's an old adage: you can't win a pennant in the first month of the season, but you sure as hell can lose one.
Well, at least in this case, Darabont and crew are still in line for the big prizes that await at the end of the year.