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Episode Two: Guts

November 22, 2010

The start of the second episode finds us again at the base camp that a group of refugees, including Lori, Shane and Carl, has established outside of Atlanta. While gathering mushrooms in the woods, Lori is startled by Shane. Sexytimes ensue – though Lori hesitates as she removes her wedding band.

After the credits, the story picks up where it left off last week with Rick trapped in the tank in downtown Atlanta. The still-unseen Glenn speaks to him over the radio and coaches him through an escape plan, and Rick makes a run for it. He meets up with Glenn and they take to the rooftops.

Glenn introduces Rick to a group of refugees (Jacqui, Andrea, T-Dog, Merle Dixon and Morales) holed up in the department store, who meet him with a heavy dose of hostility and resentment for firing his gun and attracting a large crowd of walkers outside the store. Up on the roof, racial tensions build to a confrontation between Dixon and T-Dog. Rick steps up as an administrator of justice – the first time he’s really assumed this role – and handcuffs Merle to a pipe.

With the large crowd outside, the group seeks a way out. Glenn and Morales descend into the sewer tunnels beneath the building, while Andrea and Rick cover the first-floor entrance. The zombies bust through the first set of doors and flood the vestibule.

As the pressure builds, Rick devises a plan to soak garments in zombie guts as a cloaking device. If the zombies can’t smell living flesh, the survivors can potentially pass undetected among them. In one of the goriest scenes yet, Rick hacks into an inanimate zombiefied body with a fire axe – after using the body’s wallet to identify the man as an organ donor, which is cute. The reason for the episode’s title becomes clear as the survivors rub zombie entrails into Glenn’s and Rick’s lab coats, draping them with intestines. The two of them head out in hope of jacking a vehicle from the nearby construction site.

Back at the base camp, thunder rumbles as word makes it across the radio that the group is trapped in the department store. Amy frets about her sister, Andrea, but Shane refuses to compromise the security of those who stayed behind and nixes the idea of launching a rescue mission. Rain falls in Atlanta, blowing Glenn’s and Rick’s cover. They outrun the amassing horde, hop a fence and make off with a truck from the construction site. They set off car alarms far from the store to create a diversion, and Glenn hops into a red Dodge Challenger and goes for a bit of a joyride – all in the name of luring the undead away from the store, of course.

The survivors in the store engineer their escape and T-Dog tries to give Merle the key to his handcuffs, but stumbles and drops it. He padlocks the door to the roof behind him, effectively damning Merle to his fate. The group, minus Merle, makes it into the back of Rick’s truck just as the zombies bust through the second door. Looks like we’ll be back at the base camp in the next episode, with the Lori-Rick-Shane triangle likely taking shape.

This episode marked the biggest departure from the comic series yet. In the original, Glenn saves Rick and the two immediately head to the camp on the outskirts of town. The show has added four characters (among the department store refugees, only Andrea appears in the books) along with quite a bit of plot in Atlanta. So this episode has firmly established the series as an entity separate from the source material. This is a good sign, in a way, because Robert Kirkman has made it clear that he intends to continue writing and publishing the series indefinitely, while a television show must end sooner or later. By avoiding a strict adaptation from the comic, the show will likely be able to reach a satisfying conclusion to its story line – but hopefully not for a few seasons.

“Walking Dead” Map

November 10, 2010

Check out this treat courtesy of The A.V. Club: an unbelievably detailed Google map chronicling the locations where major events throughout issues #1-78 have taken place. Do beware, however – as the creator warns, spoilers abound. But if you’re all caught up on your reading then it’s not to be missed.

“The Walking Dead” Gets Second Season!

November 10, 2010

While other fall series are falling victim to cancellation left and right, Variety is reporting that AMC has already opted to renew The Walking Dead for a 13-episode series next year. The article notes that its first episode, premiering on Halloween, netted the largest audience of any basic cable series debut since 2003. Hooray!

Episode One: Days Gone Bye

November 10, 2010

The Walking Dead‘s first episode doesn’t bother to ease us into the story line, opting instead to start in medias res. Our hero Rick searches for gasoline among abandoned cars, pausing when he spots a young girl. He reaches out to help her, but she turns, revealing:

Rick shoots her in the head; she falls backward into her spattered splash of brains. It’s a very graphic kill and sets the tone for what’s in store.

After the credits we jump back in time to  a long conversation between partners Shane and Rick.  This establishes an immediate distinction between the comic and the series, since the comic was much heavier on image than text while the show has already added quite a bit of dialogue. We get a stronger sense of the relationship between Rick and Shane, as well as that between Rick, his wife, Lori, and their son, Carl. Their chat is interrupted by a report on the scanner and they intercept a speeding car which leads to a sweet crash – clearly not all the budget is going to makeup. Rick is shot and loses consciousness.

All this takes about 14 minutes, another departure from the comic, who got us from the beginning of the standoff to the hospital in a couple pages. I imagine that besides fleshing out the characters, this extended background leading up to Rick’s awakening in the hospital was designed to deflect criticism of it ripping off 28 Days Later (whose opening, it should be mentioned, borrowed heavily from Day of the Triffids). In any case, Rick does awake and discovers that shit has gotten real.

 

Ruh roh.

Rick makes his way out of the hospital, stealing a bicycle from a zombie to make his way home. He wanders through his empty house and takes a seat outside, where he promptly gets knocked out with a shovel by Duane.

When he comes to he’s tied up inside Morgan and Duane’s home, where they press him for information about his wound. After determining that he is free of infection, Morgan cuts him free. Rick eventually joins them for dinner, where Morgan fills Rick in on the current crisis.

He explains “the walkers,” warning that they’re more active at night and drawn to gunshots. He lays out one cardinal rule – “Don’t you get bit… Bites kill you. The fever burns you out. But then after a while, you come back.” Duane alludes to having witnessed this process, and we soon learn that his mother was recently attacked and reanimated. Drawn by a car alarm outside the house, she approaches the front door.

This is another example of a new addition to the story contained within the comics. In the first issue, Morgan’s wife was maybe mentioned, but nothing more. The suggestion of emotional ties that linger into zombie-dom is not a new idea (see 28 Weeks Later) but it was absent in the source material.

The next morning, Rick makes plans to go to Atlanta in search of Lori and Carl – but first he stops at the station with Morgan and Duane to load up on supplies. Once they’ve re-upped on guns and ammo, Rick heads out, stopping en route to finish off the legless zombie whose bike he stole. Duane and Morgan sharpen their shooting skills with some target practice, but Morgan can’t bring himself to kill his zombie wife.

Meanwhile, Rick uses his CB radio to try to connect with other survivors. We see his transmission received at a camp whose residents respond in an attempt to warn him to avoid Atlanta, but their response doesn’t make it through. Shane is revealed to be alive among the survivors, along with Lori, Rick’s wife. And what do you know:

For what would a zombie apocalypse be without a little human drama?

Rick runs out of gas and stops at a nearby farmhouse. Inside he spots two suicides, with “GOD FORGIVE US” scrawled on the wall in what looks like blood. Yikes. Rick mounts the horse tied up outside and resumes his journey to Hotlanta. Once he makes it into the city he spots a helicopter but is soon surrounded by an enormous crowd of walkers.

They attack his horse – which is kind of weird. So then these zombies eat animals, as well? In any case, Rick narrowly escapes by holing up in a tank with pretty much no prospect of survival. Just as the episode ends, an anonymous voice (Glenn, I asume) addresses him through the tank’s CB radio.

So far the show is delivering on the promise we saw in the trailer. The change of medium hasn’t led to too many major modifications of the story line, besides the aforementioned expansions of character background. It’ll become necessary to humanize these characters and slow down the pace (this episode moved MUCH more slowly than the issues that covered the same plot developments) because the amount of suicides and murders in the comic book would be a little too dark for TV, even on cable. Another difference is that the actors can’t quite be as expressive as the comic book characters, who can communicate emotions without worrying about looking cartoonish (unlike actors) because, well, they’re in a comic book. So far the cast has done an admirable job of avoiding over-emoting, and it’s clear that Andrew Lincoln can carry this series.

An introduction to “The Walking Dead”

November 3, 2010

As a fan of both AMC’s previous original programming and of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic series, you can imagine the thrill I felt upon learning about the series’ upcoming adaptation. And now the show has arrived!

So what do we know going into it? Maybe you caught the trailer from 2010 San Diego Comic Con International:

Great stuff! This is exciting for a number of reasons:

1. Sounds like AMC is continuing their pottymouth tradition (I counted one each for “shit” and “ass,” you?)

2. Walker Brothers. More, please.

In all seriousness, if the trailer is an accurate representation of the series then we are in for something special. Readers of the comic book know that a faithful adaptation will have an excellent story line, and it seems as if Frank Darabont and crew have a desaturated production aesthetic that fits the tone of the source material. Those of us fearing a hyper-stylized adaptation à la the Frank Miller/Robert Rodriguez Sin City or the more recent Bryan Lee O’Malley/Edgar Wright Scott Pilgrim vs. the World needn’t have worried, since this seems more like a film (well, TV series, I guess) than a film self-consciously reminding us that it was originally a comic.

As for the casting, we really only get a taste of our hero, Rick and a little bit of his partner Shane. Those of us who heard that Andrew Lincoln would be playing the series’ protagonist and wondered if this sensitive guy:

could really man up and become a bona-fide waster of zombies, well, that remains to be seen. But you can’t deny that he’s looking the part:

Officer Sexypants

We have so many reasons to be optimistic about  this show. AMC’s track record with Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and now Rubicon, along with Darabont’s previous success with 2007’s thematically-similar The Mist, along with the fantastic story established by Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard – it’s all coming together into what we can all agree is a show with a lot of promise.