Monday, October 31, 2011

The Walking Dead (Season 1)


I feel kinda bad--I wasn't as impressed by this as I'd expected to be.  I heard people talking this up for like a year, and everyone said it was so good . . . I guess maybe I had unrealistic expectations.

I will say, though, that the visuals are some of the best I've seen.  The zombies are gross, and there's a sufficiently icky amount of gore (but not so much that I was grossed out completely).  The cinematography is excellent--the pull back shots of zombie swarms or abandoned or overrun buildings, or the creative angles during action scenes really resonate with the viewer.  Unfortunately, the weakness here (and it's a big one) is the characters.  I didn't actually like many of the characters, or really care about them that much.  And that drastically lowers the stakes in any given zombie attack.

There's a pretty wide range of acting capabilities at play here, too.  Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale) is as reliable as ever, and possibly my favorite character.  Lennie James shows us why he's always the dude who knows what's the what when the apocalypse comes.  Norman Reedus (Darryl) and Michael Rooker (Merle) are unsettling and far from pleasant, but they're also two of the more believable actors in the mix.  Andrew Rothenberg (Jim) is extremely sympathetic, if somewhat taciturn.  And relative newcomer Steven Yeun (Glenn) is quite likable, and . . . that's pretty much it. 

Poster-boy and perpetual hero Andrew Lincoln (Rick) is rather oblivious, if fortunate, and wide-eyed Sarah Wayne Callies (Lori) is hard to read as she struggles with her relationships with her husband and his best friend.  Sisters Lori Holden (Andrea) and Amy (Emma Bell) were supposed to be touching, but never quite got there. 

Said best friend, Jon Bernthal (Shane) is . . . an annoying and largely impotent jerk.  And inconsistent to boot.  Much ado is made, by Shane, over a suggestion to send four men into the city to recover much-needed guns, a walkie talkie, and a real live human they left behind . . . on a previous six person foraging trip into the city, presumably organized by would-be bossman Shane.  (You will note that Shane himself did not volunteer to help with either mission.)  So, to recap, four men going to get get guns, ammo, a walkie talkie, and a human being (albeit a crappy one) is a stupid decision, and 6 people going to get . . . whatever they can find is a good decision.  Such is the logic of Shane.  It is not entirely clear why he is treated as the de facto leader of the group, unless people just instinctively trust law enforcement.  Or maybe he just assumed he would be in charge and nobody was brave enough to say otherwise. To say nothing of his attitude about his newly alive best friend.  The man has issues.  And not well-acted, complex, interesting issues.  Annoying issues. (Full disclosure--this character also sucks in the comic series, which I have read, and I freely confess that my attitude toward Shane-in-the-Comics may be coloring my attitude toward Shane-on-TV.)

The rest of the group is not nearly as annoying, but then they aren't really interesting either.  Or all that bright.  The characters can't even seem to muster up much interest in each other and, with the exception of a pretty well done storyline about how domestic violence is bad, their lives remained shrouded in mystery.  I, for one, am perfectly content to leave it that way. 

Bottom line:  The zombies are cool, and the attack scenes are pretty good, but unless and until the characters become more compelling, I don't think this show really deserved its Golden Globe nomination.

Warning:  It's a zombie show.  That means gore.  You have been warned.

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