Exclusive Review – The Walking Dead: Days Gone By

We have laid eyes on the very first episode of AMC’s brand new series The Walking Dead, and it is truly awesome! From the opening scene to the frighteningly claustrophobic finale… this premiere episode delivers on its promise, and lives up to the hype. The Walking Dead is a series that should please zombie fans everywhere!

Of course, the pilot episode isn’t perfect. It’s obvious that the show is still finding it’s footing, and occasionally it stumbles. In the rush to establish it’s premise, some situations or dialogue simply don’t ring true. But by the end of the first episode The Walking Dead recovers nicely and leaves you ready for more.

Days Gone By airs this Sunday night on AMC, and should make for some terrifying Halloween viewing. Of course, if you simply can’t wait… just continue reading after the break for our extensive, spoiler-heavy review!

*** WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS ***

If you’ve been worried that The Walking Dead would be forced to tone down the violence for television, the very first scene will immediately put your mind at ease. Actually, after seeing Rick blow the brains out of a little girl… you’ll feel anything but at ease.

That’s right, even before the opening credits, The Walking Dead‘s first zombie casualty is a small child reaching for her teddy bear. Talk about hardcore! This series doesn’t pull it’s punches, it leads with them.

Unfortunately the title sequence suffers the same problem as most new pilots; there’s limited footage to really create much of anything except the most generic opening credits. It looks a bit like a cross between a clip-show and a teaser trailer. And while it’s certainly not horrible, i look forward to something better by the second season.

When the show continues we find ourselves pre-zombie apocalypse, as Rick and his partner Shane share some down time in their patrol car. The conversation during this scene feels a bit forced. It’s as if the actors didn’t have the proper chemistry, or the script was more concerned with creating exposition for an upcoming storyline. Whatever the case, the two are unexpectedly called to duty. And it’s at this point that the series picks up where the original comic begins.

Fans of The Walking Dead know the story from this point forward, but the show does a great job of bringing all the action and drama to the screen. It also brings new surprises as some events and characters from the comics are further developed and expanded for the series.

One of these changes focuses on Morgan Jones, the survivor who finds Rick and nurses him back to health. The premiere episode greatly elaborates on his backstory by revealing that Morgan’s wife has turned into a zombie. And it’s this change to original story that actually leads to the most emotional moment of the episode… as he simply can not bring himself to shoot her.

In fact, the dramatic impact of this scene greatly overshadows what many fans consider a defining moment of Rick’s own story; the mercy killing of a zombie known as “Bicycle Girl.”

The scenes are inter-cut and provide an emotional parallel between the two characters, with dramatically different results. And i think the contrast is a brilliant way to develop Rick’s character. But as i said, Morgan’s story is much more compelling… and that might not sit right with some fans.

The thrust behind The Walking Dead has always been the characters, not the zombies. And it’s this aspect of the original comic books that will serve the television series well. But surprisingly there is very little of either for a large part of the series premiere. And once Rick parts ways with Morgan and his son Duane, the show crawls towards its final act at a slow pace.

The omnipresent horse from all the early promotional material finally makes his grand appearance and provides Rick with transportation to Atlanta, in search of his family. Once in the big city the true size and scope of the zombie apocalypse, and the series itself, is fully realized as Rick confronts a wasteland populated by thousands of terrifying, flesh-eating zombies!

The final moments of the premiere quickly kick into overdrive. The horse is brought down, torn apart and eaten. Rick is thrown clear, drops all his weapons but one, and climbs beneath a tank for protection… but the zombies soon follow.

Again, the show deviates from the comics as Rick finds himself trapped in a tense, claustrophobic and truly desperate situation. Zombies continue to claw towards him from all directions, and it appears for a brief second that Rick actually considers suicide. But as he lifts his head to place the gun beneath his chin, he sees a hatch!

Climbing up into the tank, Rick takes refuge and finds a rare moment to contemplate his dire situation. It’s at this point that a voice crackles over the radio playfully taunting him before offering assistance.

And so the first episode of The Walking Dead comes to a dramatic end. Can Rick make it out alive? Does the voice on the radio belong to Glenn? How will the series continue to define itself apart from the comic books that inspired it? Of course the only way to find out is to continue watching!

The Walking Dead premieres this Sunday night on AMC. Don’t miss it!

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