Monday, December 6, 2010

The Walking Dead - Season 1

The Walking Dead's first season showed a lot of promise for what you can do with a series about the end of the world via zombies, especially with network content restrictions, but unfortunately the actual execution was fairly uneven. I liveblogged the premiere, and I thought it was amazing, a perfect introduction to the comic's world for anyone who was interested. But what came after was inconsistent at best, with some pretty unfortunate characterization, especially among characters new for the show, as well as some pretty contrived plotting and overly soap opera-esque dramatic moments. The show still had a lot of good points, especially when it stuck to the story of the comic, but it just didn't live up to the promise of the pilot.

I want to make it clear that I don't think the show's failings are due to it simply deviating from the source material. It's pretty clear that they're using the books as a general guide rather than a bible, and that's fine, especially when the book's creator writes one of your episodes. They're obviously trying to keep the same general pace, and when you have 48 minutes of screen time rather than 25 pages to fill, that means more time spent on everything and more need for subplots and ideas that only last for one episode. The problem is simply that a lot of what they did just felt silly and forced in comparison. The show fluctuates wildly in tone, sometimes wanting to be a big horror-action fest, and sometimes wanting to be a muted human drama set against a global catastrophe, and these two things don't always gel. And I'm not sure if this is related to the other factors or not, but most of the new characters are simply bland and hard to like. Norman "You may recognize me from The Boondock Saints" Reedus plays Daryl, a skilled hunter and racist who's sort of delightfully off his rocker, but everyone else is either irritatingly stupid and aggressive or just undeveloped sketches. Thankfully they're mostly dead or gone by the end of the season, but it makes you wonder even more why they were there.

The show does do some good things though, and it would be wrong not to bring those up. The show looks awesome. Frank Darabont is a Hollywood man, and it seems like he brought some of his friends with him, as every episode is well shot and lit, and they really capture the pure essence of the imagery a show like this needs. The zombies are fantastic, with great makeup effects, and the show pulls absolutely no punches killing them, with loads of gore all over the place. The main cast is very good also. Andrew Lincoln plays protagonist Rick, and he's good at conveying both sides of him, the part who's a strong leader and the part that doesn't actually know what he's doing. Jon Bernthal is good as Shane, playing a much more interesting if no less scummy version of the character. Sarah Wayne Callies brings unfortunate memories of Prison Break, but she's fine as Lori. Glenn is as fun as he should be, Andrea does well with some tough material, and Darabont regular Jeffrey DeMunn captures what's great about Dale. It's a show with a very strong foundation, it just needs consistently better writing in season two. That seems like a feasible goal, which leaves my expectations high going into next year.

Also, here are my recaps for the last four episodes of the season:
Tell It to the Frogs

1 comment:

Scott said...

Just noticed a typo in the title. FIX IT FIX IT.