But, then again, two years ago we had the excellent Big Brother-meets-Dawn of the Dead three-parter Dead Set. Three episodes wasn't enough, though, however good they were. The Walking Dead has so far gone down well in the US, where it's showing a week ahead of the UK. (Isn't that always the way?) I'm pretty certain that if its success continues, and the fans and fair-weather watchers alike rally around it, it will go ahead with a second series (there are murmurs already, apparently).
So to acknowledge this zombie telly invasion, to give a hearty tip of the hat in its grim and gory direction, and to generally have a place to keep some ongoing, quickly-formed thoughts on it (as observational notes, or some such thing), I wanted to (try to) write an entry each week for its six-week duration, starting today. Three bullet-pointed paragraphs on each episode.
Episode #1: Days Gone By
- So far, the production values / overall filmmaking (or telly-making, if you will) are refreshing, seamless and of a high quality. The direction, editing, photography and special effects are particularly standout. I'm guessing the high level of the effects work will remain consistent, so I'll comment on them further when there's been much more prolonged undead gurning occurring each episode. But so far the zombies - particularly that half-person crawling along the grassy verge - are convincing and appropriately horrible. They need to be for it to work well.
- It conjured the crux, the vital matters, of Richard Matheson's I Am Legend with far more emotion and brevity than did I Am Legend, the 2007 movie. I didn't dislike the latest film version of Matheson's novel, but as far as depicting the sick, gut-wrenching and near-ungodly feeling of seeing your loved ones somehow both dead and alive at the same time - and banging on the door of their home, desperate to be let back in - whilst you look at them through cross hairs thinking about allowing them a second death, it's done a stellar job so far. And without much in the way of fussy heel-dragging to it. I like that the emotion in certain scenes is clearly apparent and deeply saddening yet concise: it occurs, we take it in, then we move on. Key events - and the emotions aroused by them - may very well be later reiterated for further effect in particular characters' narrative arcs. This bodes well.
- Time. It's using it well. And it's certainly biding its time with aplomb. It's making us wait for the good stuff, the stuff most people want, which is repeated zombie-human face-offs, and plenty of them. To offset this, to add an ounce of leverage, it's trading the lack of zombie carnage with some evocative atmospherics (which is actually often where the very best apocalypse fiction content is to be seen). It seems to be taking its sweet time to tell us certain things. And its pace is wonderful, deliberate, considered. Details such as it taking Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) an inordinate amount of time to exit the hospital, in a relatively early scene, are well conveyed and allow for the build of imminent tension. One gripe so far (not sure if it's minor/major yet): where are the women?