The Walking Dead – The Monday De-Cap Episode 1: Days Gone Bye
NOTE: There may be some spoilers here for people who want to know nothing about the show, but to be honest I don’t think this is the kind of show where knowing what happens affects your watching it (and it’s a recap so really you should have seen it already shouldn’t you?) Also, this one’s a bit long as it was the premier and an extra half-hour long. Enjoy!
The Jist: Sheriff Deputy Rick Grimes is shot during a – chase and falls into a coma. He wakes up. There are Zombies. There are a lot of Zombies. Holy **** that’s a serious amount of Zombies.
If you haven’t heard of AMC’s highly anticipated new zombie apocalypse series The Walking Dead you may just be one of them. Adapted from Robert Kirkman’s ongoing comic series of the same name by
writer/creator Frank Darabont (The Green Mile, The Shawshank Redemption) the show stars Andrew Lincoln (Love Actually) as Deputy-Sheriff Rick Grimes, a coma patient who wakes up alone in an abandoned hospital to find the undead walking, crawling, and slowly shuffling the earth.
After a brief prologue detailing how he was shot and wound up in a coma, the show begins from the point of view of a comatose Grimes, able to see and hear but not speak or react, he watches as his partner Shane – played by Jon Bernthal (Eastwick) – places a vase of flowers beside his bed and wishes him a speedy recovery. In the next shot Grimes wakes up, answering his partner’s quip only to find he’s not in the room, before turning to the bedside table and finding the flowers dried out and wilted – but not completely decomposed. This is one of my favourite shots in the episode and, in my opinion, a well executed stroke of genius by the writers/director; with a quick shot of a vase of flowers, they were able to convey the passage of a substantial amount of time, without giving any exact dates, leaving the viewers to wonder how long has he been out? And more importantly in the long run, when did the Zombies rise? The more observant viewers will also have noticed that the wall clock in Grimes’ room had frozen – dead batteries? Some kind of blast? – along with the other clocks he passes in the hospital.
Grimes struggles to his feet an exits his room in search of help, a little too quickly for a coma patient if Kill Bill Vol. 1 has taught me anything about coma patients and motor function. At this point my roommate posed the question “At what point does your mind go to Zombies?” Is it when no one answers your call for help? When you exit the room and see flickering lights in a trashed hallway? When you notice the bloody, smeared handprints on the walls riddled with bullet holes (that’s where it is for me!) or when you peek through a door and see a disembowelled corpse on the floor? (Note: If you’re not thinking Zombies at this point, well, it was nice knowing you) Grimes finds his way out of the hospital and to the parking lot, which is filled with hundreds of dead (but not reanimated) bodies and a broken-down helicopter and humvees outside an abandoned make-shift army base – again hinting at the length of time Grimes has been out and Zombies have been on the loose.
Like any husband and father, Grimes’ first move is to search for his wife and son, finding his house empty, but with evidence of a hasty departure rather than a violent one Grimes exits the house to find a man slowly approaching him from the street, as the viewer sees a figure approaching him from behind. As the man on the street comes into focus, clearly not a man anymore, Grimes is knocked out from behind by a boy with a shovel, as his father disposes of the Zombie via pistol shot to the head. When Grimes comes to he’s in the company of Morgan Jones, played by Lennie James (Jerhico) and his son. At this point we finally get some information, namely, Jones sets out the Zombie rules. Like most traditional Zombie flicks, a bite/scratch gets you infected – you catch a fever, you die, you un-die (the unfortunate fate of Jones’ wife). The Walking Dead’s walking dead also do just that, they walk; however, they’re not slow. The best way to describe them is excitable. When something edible grabs their attention they’ll get their hustle on, but they need the motivation, otherwise they just shuffle around or in some cases, lay motionless until something passes through their field of vision. These Zombies also tend to be more active at night, and are drawn to loud sounds, so while it’s fun to blast them away gun fights should be a last resort.
Grimes’ time with Jones and his son is short, but is a well written glimpse into some of the day-to-day living, from relying on canned food to the giddiness that comes with experiencing running water and a warm shower in the post-apocalypse world. Jones points Grimes towards Atlanta, home of the CDC and army-protected refugee camps, figuring that if his family went anywhere it was probably there. They part ways with the promise of seeing each other again soon, Jones taking a few days to teach his son to shoot and re-learn himself with weapons taken from Grimes’ old precinct. Before he takes off, Grimes has one last piece of business to take care of. Easily the most stunning piece of special effects I’ve ever seen in a television show, A Zombie, or rather the upper half of a Zombie crawling on its arms, inch by inch through a park, is put out of its misery when Grimes puts a bullet through its head whispering “I’m sorry this happened to you” reminding the viewer that humanity hasn’t died out yet, a point the writers look to emphasise throughout the series.
We get our first scene not involving Grimes, a camp of survivors somewhere off-road, led by Shane and including Grimes’ wife and son. Grime’s wife Lori, played by Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break), wants to put a sign on the road warning people that they shouldn’t go to Atlanta, but is talked out of it when Shane declares it too dangerous. Shane and Lori kiss…I suspect that’ll come into play later in the
Grimes inevitably runs out of gas on his way to Atlanta and is forced to ditch his car on the road, fortunately near a farm with a horse (whose owners are very dead) which sets up the iconic image of the series, an overhead shot of the deputy-sheriff in uniform, riding a horse on an empty highway into Atlanta – the entering city side barren, the leaving city side jam-packed with burnt out and crashed cars in grid-lock – and not a sound to be heard aside from the horses’ hooves on the pavement.
Honestly we knew it was coming. Atlanta is abandoned. As Grimes rides through the littered streets, corpses start to take notice and slowly follow him – not really an issue as Grimes easily has the speed advantage…until he turns a corner and walks right into a horde of undead. Grimes, knocked off his horse, manages to narrowly escape being eaten alive by crawling into a tank and locking himself in. Meanwhile, Horse isn’t so lucky and suffers a fate that will no doubt draw the first of many, many complaints from PETA. As Grimes sits in the tank, Zombies banging on the outside, a voice comes over the radio, delivering the best line of episode “Hey, you! Dumb-Ass in the Tank? You’re going to have to sit tight for a while” He’s not alone, but as the camera pans out in a bird’s eye view of the tank, covered in Zombies trying to get in, while more are descending on what’s left of Horse. Grimes will indeed have to sit tight for a while.
I stand by the belief that Zombies are not going to replace anything in either popularity or screen time (teenage girls are not into corpses, they’re in to sparkling British men); however, The Walking Dead’s debut was brilliant, combining the right amount of Zombie killing action and intrigue to keep viewers interested and engaged in the story, which unique in that it’s not about the mowing down the Zombie hordes, or even the mystery surrounding their origins, but about the day-to-day survival that one would be faced with if they had to live through the Zombie-apocalypse.