I knew going in that it would be nearly impossible for me not to enjoy The Walking Dead. Let’s look over the specifics:
1. Zombies! I’m not particularly a zombie enthusiast, but I enjoy a good zombie and/or apocalypse story. I even sat through all of 28 Weeks Later.
2. It’s a miniseries—zombie stories are usually only feature length. Have you ever seen a zombie story laid out over six hour-long episodes? I haven’t. It’s going to be a layered and contemplative zombie story.
3. It’s on AMC—ever since it started making original programming, AMC has proven itself incapable of doing anything wrong.
4. Directed by Frank Darabont—among his other credits, he directed The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and best of all, wrote many episodes of The Young Indiana Jones TV series.
5. It’s a zombie show ON AMC—This isn’t a restatement of #s 1 and 3. The fact that AMC would do a zombie series is a separate and distinct reason to be excited.
6. I just finished recapping Flipping Out—don’t get me wrong. I love Jeff Lewis, and I sure do enjoy interior design, but Flipping Out just didn’t have much of this going on:
Note: I’ve never read the graphic novel series on which this show is based, also called The Walking Dead, but from what I’ve read the show adheres to it. So if there are any graphic novel fans out there, feel free to chime in!
We’ve got a super-sized episode to kick off the season. Let’s do this!
A BACKWOODS HIGHWAY INTERSECTION
A semi has overturned here in front of a gas station. A sheriff’s cruiser pulls up, without a siren, and a deputy gets out. He is our hero, Rick Grimes. Rick surveys the accident but doesn’t do anything about it, because, as we know, the zombie apocalypse has happened. Really, he’s stopped to get some gas. He grabs his gas can and walks down a hill to the gas pumps. Turns out there are many, many more vehicles, some deserted, some containing dead bodies.
Rick then hears a noise. He checks under a truck and sees little girl feet shuffling along in bunny slippers. She has her back turned to him. He calls out to her. She turns. And wouldn’t you know it.
Bummer. This is like the fourth undead little girl he’s had to kill today.
Also, there’s no gas.
RICK’S POLICE CRUISER
But Walking Dead really starts a while earlier, where Rick sits in his cruiser with his partner Shane, having burgers and shooting the shit. Shane’s complaining about his lady problems.
His Southern accent is almost convincing, too. (I forgot to mention, this is taking place in Georgia, whatever)
Shane’s unnamed wife/girlfriend/kept woman/pretend girlfriend, never turns off the lights in his house, driving up the electric bills, and at the same time worries about global warming. It makes no sense! Men and women! They are different.
Then Shane shifts the conversation over to Rick. How are things with Rick’s wife, Laurie? Rick’s reluctant to talk about it, which is also a problem within his marriage in general–he doesn’t share his feelings with her. He says lately he’s been on edge because it seems like anything he says sets Laurie off.
Worst of all, today Laurie asked Rick, right in front of their son Carl, “Do you even care about us?” Yikes. Shane’s a little out of his depth when it comes to the care and keeping of relationships, so he offers no advice.
Luckily, an APB comes on the radio. There’s a high-speed chase nearby. Rick and Shane will have to help out.
Rick and Shane come to a stop along the highway and lay down a spike strip. Then, they and two other deputies who have just shown up ready their weapons. One of the other deputies, Leon, says he hopes whatever happens next will get him on Cops. Rick tells him to stop being a dipshit, pay attention, and double-check whether he even has a round chambered in his sidearm…which Leon actually does check, and does not.
Soon the suspects arrive, pursued by another sheriff’s cruiser. They hit the spike strip and the car goes tumbling off the road. Rick and the other deputies approach, one of the suspects pops out, and, like a complete asshole, starts shooting at the cops.
Seriously, don’t be like this guy.
Rick gets hit in the chest and goes down while the other deputies blast that guy, then another guy who popped out with a friggin’ shotgun.
But Rick’s OK because he had a bulletproof vest on. Rick’s shaken, but he makes sure to tell Shane never to tell Laurie about this.
Unfortunately, a third meth-addled jerkface crawls out of the car and decides to take on the cops. Shane blasts him, but not before Rick takes another bullet in the armpit. This time the vest doesn’t help him, and he blacks out.
Next we get a glimpse of Shane standing over a hospital bed. It’s presumably from Rick’s comatose point of view because everything is blurry and trippy. Shane’s brought a vase of flowers, but this is just another visit of several he’s already made, and he still has no idea what to say.
Rick comes to and we see him jokingly accuse Shane of stealing the vase from his grandma…but then he realizes Shane is gone and an indeterminate amount of time has passed, probably days. Maybe he hallucinated the visit? There is a vase of flowers, though, and they’re wilted. Rick notices that the hospital is very quiet. The wall clock has stopped. He tries to get to his feet but collapses in a heap. Nobody responds when he yells out for a nurse.
Rick manages to get up and hit the bathroom, where he notices he’s grown a full beard. And when he tries to leave his room, he has to push aside a gurney thrown up against the door. Overall the hospital is in shambles.
Leaving your defenseless patient to the mercy of the zombie hordes has to be a violation of the Hippocratic oath, right? What I mean is, Dr. House would never do this.
Rick staggers down the hall (kind of zombie-like, now that I think of it. Theme!), tries the phone, which is dead, and then finds a book of matches. Further down the hall he finds a closed off corridor to another part of the hospital, and in that, a horribly disfigured corpse.
Maybe Rick thinks the cause of all this is Obamacare
He walks in the opposite direction. More disturbing finds…bullet holes, blood splattered everywhere, the ceiling caved in, and some locked double doors, on which someone spray painted a message:
Don’t Dead Open Inside? I don’t get it
Rick seems weirded out, until something on the other side of the doors starts pushing. We hear the standard zombie wheezing and groaning, and a ghoulish hand pokes through the door.
Rick needs to get the eff out. The elevators don’t work. There’s a pitch-black stairwell instead. Using the matches he feels his way down and eventually finds an exit door.
He’s still in his hospital gown and barefoot. He makes his way outside and finds…well…an unsettling sight.
I dunno, maybe there’s something snarky to say about hundreds of rotting corpses, but I’m out of time
After leaving the loading dock, Rick makes his way up a hill and finds an abandoned military encampment, with disabled helicopters and everything.
A NEIGHBORHOOD PARK
After walking for a while Rick comes upon a park, where he finds both a bicycle and a dead girl. But, of course, she’s actually a resting zombie:
This is the first time he’s seen one for real, so he has to know zombies are in the area, right? I would hope so.
Luckily, as you can see, the girl’s bottom half of her body is missing, so she can’t attack Rick, and he can grab the bike and pedal away.
Next Rick arrives back at his home, where the door is ominously left wide open. He runs in and yells out for Laurie and Carl, but they’re gone. At least the house doesn’t look like a wreck, right?
Rick breaks down in sobs. The fucked-up-itude of the situation finally hits him and he wonders aloud if any of this is even real. He heads outside.
See the overflowing mailbox? “Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor hail, nor the MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, can stop the US Mail.”
While Rick is sitting on his front steps, trying to process everything, someone hits him in the face with a shovel. “Carl, I found you,” Rick moans in a daze.
That “someone” is actually this boy and this man:
On the way over to Rick, Morgan also capped an approaching zombie.
Morgan sees Rick’s still human and angrily reminds Duane that Rick couldn’t be a zombie, because the zombies don’t talk. But they still don’t trust Rick, because of Rick’s bandage. Morgan wants to know what it’s for and shoves his revolver in Rick’s face to underscore the question, but Rick blacks out.
When Rick comes to, he finds himself strapped to a bed.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t get weird. I assume lots of people are getting their jollies now that society has collapsed, but not Morgan and Duane.
Morgan and Duane have taken Rick back to their hideout and changed his bandage. Morgan’s still suspicious, though. He muscles Rick into telling him the wound came from a gunshot. Morgan really wants to know if Rick’s been bitten, and though he has no idea why that’s relevant, Rick says he hasn’t. Rick doesn’t have a fever, so Morgan concludes that if Rick were a zombie, he’d be a zombie by now.
So he’s satisfied. But just to make his point, he pulls out a knife and warns Rick that if he tries anything, he will be stab him to death.
And with that, he cuts Rick’s bonds loose.
Later Rick meekly comes out of the bedroom and joins Morgan and Duane in the dining room. Rick realizes this is a house that used to belong to Fred and Cindy Drake, (whoever they are), but Morgan explains that it was empty when they found it. Rick sees the windows are all covered with blankets, and when he walks over to look outside, Morgan tells him not to. “There are more of them out there than usual,” he says. This is because of the gunshot he fired when he and Duane first met Rick.
Now Rick recalls their first meeting, and thinks he witnessed Morgan murder a dude in broad daylight. “Calm down,” Morgan explains. “It wasn’t a man, it was a ‘walker.’ Have a seat.”
Rick sits down, and as Morgan serves the three of them some kind of post-apocalyse gruel, it’s time to tell Rick everything he knows about the disaster. But first, Duane reminds them, they have to say Grace. Still clingin’ to the whole religion thing, eh guys?
OK. Now on the specifics of the zombie outbreak. Morgan explains…
-The dead bodies Rick saw lined up outside the hospital belonged to people who were euthanized.
-But if they hadn’t been put to death, they would have become “walkers,” i.e. zombies
-These zombies eat people. Natch.
-These zombies are more active at night.
-Don’t get bitten. That’s how you become a zombie. Also natch.
-You will know you were bitten when you develop a raging fever. That’s when you’ll likely be euthanized yourself.
Clearly nobody in Walking Dead Georgia has seen a zombie movie before. If they had, they’d know this stuff already. It’s textbook.
I’m pretty sure none of the characters in, say, a werewolf movie would need a description of what a werewolf is. Everyone gets it. Why is that?
THE HIDEOUT, LATER
As the guys turn in to bed, Duane wants to know how Rick got shot. He and Morgan still don’t know. Rick explains he was a sheriff’s deputy.
Then outside, a car alarm goes off. They kill the lights and peek through their window blankets to investigate. Morgan says this has happened once before, and they should be OK.
Duane notices a zombie-woman walk into view. He gasps. “She’s here,” he says.
Meet zombified Mrs. Jones, Morgan’s wife and Duane’s Mom.
Duane runs off sobbing and Morgan comforts him, as Rick watches Mrs. Jones stagger up onto the porch and peer through the peephole, like she somehow realizes her family’s inside.
Morgan explains to Rick who she is. She died from Zombie Fever in this house, in the bed where Rick first woke up. Morgan should have put her out of her misery, but couldn’t make himself do it.
As he, Rick, and Duane think over that, Mrs. Jones starts fiddling with the doorknob. She can’t get in, but it’s still plenty creepy.
OUTSIDE THE HIDEOUT, THE NEXT MORNING
The next day, the guys go outside so Morgan can give Rick a primer in how to kill a zombie. Rick’s got a baseball bat and a riot helmet, and they find a zombie slumped over on the front sidewalk. Morgan reminds him to aim for the head and Rick swings away.
He’s a natural
Rick’s taken Morgan and Duane here to prove to them that Laurie and Carl must still be alive. Dresser drawers are missing some clothes, enough to travel with, and the family photo albums are missing. Morgan chuckles. His own wife wanted to save the family photos, too.
Other than for story reasons, I don’t know why they had to risk their lives to come all the way over here, just so Rick can show them empty drawers.
Duane offers that maybe Laurie and Carl went to Atlanta. The military has set up a refugee camp there, and the CDC is working on a cure for Zombie Fever. Finally, some hope. Rick goes to the cupboard and grabs a set of keys.
Rick unlocks the door to his sheriff’s station. He takes Duane and Morgan to the locker room where, to their delight, they can use the station’s hot water showers. The guys all clean up, and Rick shaves off his beard.
It’s a happy moment, but I’m wondering how much longer Duane and Morgan can survive after all this exposition they’ve doled out to the protagonist.
SHERIFF’S STATION, CONT’D
After their showers, Duane runs off to get dressed, and Morgan and Rick talk things over. Rick’s intrigued about Atlanta but wants to know why Morgan and Duane haven’t gone there themselves. Morgan says they all were headed that way until Mrs. Jones was bitten, which froze them up. They’re still not emotionally ready to move on. (Um, what?)
After their showers the guys head downstairs to stock up on guns.
And, Rick’s found a freshly laundered deputy uniform.
OUTSIDE THE SHERIFF’S STATION
The guys load up their cars, and Rick asks Morgan one last time if he’s sure he and Duane don’t want to accompany him to Atlanta. Morgan declines again. Because, as a man responsible for your own son, there’s no way you’d choose to stick with the heavily armed police officer. You’d take your chances on your own.
Rick accepts Morgan’s decision, but does give him a walkie-talkie. It’s only got one battery, though, so Rick plans only to turn his own walkie-talkie on at dawn every day.
But before they can depart, they have one last problem to deal with:
Meet Zombie Leon—aka, the deputy from the beginning who hoped to end up on Cops.
Rick never liked Leon, but he can’t leave him zombiefied. So he sighs, draws his revolver, and blows Zombie Leon’s head clean off.
Lots of cutting back and forth between scenes next. Here, Morgan nails extra boards into the front door, while Duane hangs their blanket curtains.
Rick stops his cruiser here. It’s the same place where he found the bike and the half-zombie. He gets out, puts on his hat, and starts walking into the park.
Morgan tells Duane to stay downstairs, grabs the sniper rifle and goes up to the second floor.
Rick keeps walking.
Morgan looks over a box of old family photos, the ones his wife saved. He tapes a photo of his wife to the window frame, sets a chair in front of the window, and props the rifle on it. Here we go.
Rick finally catches up to the half-zombie, who’s been dragging herself across the park this whole time.
Morgan draws a bead on one of the zombies and pulls the trigger. Blammo.
Duane, meanwhile, freaks the fuck out because his Dad’s just started shooting without telling him.
Rick apologizes to the zombie half-girl for all that’s happened to her, then blows her head clean off. It was meant to be a touching, heart-wrenching moment, but I thought it was gross, and a little funny.
“Blarrhhrghghhhhbh” (translation: Why do you hafta shoot me Mr. Deputy?)
By now the ruckus has attracted a full-on zombie horde, including Mrs. Jones. Turns out this is the reason Morgan is doing this. He draws a bead on her face, has his finger on the trigger, and…can’t do it.
This dude can fucking act, though
And that’s it for Morgan and Duane, at least for this episode.
Rick is riding along in his cruiser sending out an emergency message on the radio. And some people hear it!
Looks like there’s an encampment of survivors nearby, five or six of them?
Including the requisite Blonde Woman and Old Man
The blonde chick tries to message Rick back, but there’s too much static. The old man calls someone over to work the radio instead, and turns out, it’s Shane. He’s survived, as have Laurie and Carl.
Meet Laurie and Carl. Survivors. Husband and father abandoners.
They don’t realize it’s Rick, and can’t reply to his message, but they did hear him say he’s headed for Atlanta, which they know is bad news. Atlanta, it seems, has fallen to the zombies. Laurie worries that they can’t warn the guy on the radio or anyone else on the highway, and argues they should at least hang warning signs so people will be warned. Shane’s against it. Laurie storms off.
Shane sees Carl watching all this and tells him to stay with the other survivors as he goes after Laurie.
Shane catches up to Laurie in one of the tents, and they fight. Shane doesn’t want her going, but he also doesn’t want her going because Carl’s already lost one parent. She whispers, “I’m a good Mom.” He says nothing but looks plenty guilty.
He asks her if they’re cool. She agrees. And…
Leaving your best friend in a coma while the zombie apocalypse is happening, and THEN stealing his wife? It’s the ultimate cock block
Carl arrives, breaking up the moment, and Laurie looks guilty as hell.
And right after the kiss, they cut directly to Rick looking at a family photo of him, Laurie, and Carl, which he takes off his sun visor and sticks in his pocket. He grabs his gear and his gas can and starts walking.
Soon he comes on a farmhouse, which looks deserted. He looks in through the windows and finds a horrific scene. The farmer and his wife have committed suicide and left this message on the wall above them.
I really don’t want to know what that’s written in
Rick’s shaken again and sits down. He spots the farmer’s truck but can’t find keys for it. Then, he finally has some luck today: a horse! That will do. Rick introduces himself.
Humans and horses, we’ve been through so much together. Are you with me, friend?
And that lets Rick get to Atlanta. The Walking Dead had a pretty good marketing campaign, so I imagine all of us have already seen this image:
Rick rides the horse through the city, finding more signs of chaos—charred cars, deserted helicopters, a dead soldier here and there, etc.
They pass a burned-out bus and wake up a couple zombies that were chilling inside it. The zombies stagger after them, but Rick isn’t worried about only a couple of them.
Still, one of them stands out for some reason:
I’m not being facetious or anything, I really don’t know why, but this zombie seems important. Maybe he’s the Zombie Mayor.
On the next block they pass a derelict tank, and then Rick hears a helicopter off in the distance. He sees it reflecting off a skyscraper, so he spurs his horse off in the chopper’s directions, turns the corner, and
Aw, damn it
Rick gallops the horse away from this horde into another one. They pull him off the horse and, ew, start disemboweling it.
I didn’t know zombies ate horse. I was also looking forward to Rick and the horse becoming friends, but I guess that’s not gonna happen now.
Rick drops his two huge duffel bags full of rifles and scrambles under the tank to escape the horde, but they crawl after him. He pulls out the sidearm and blasts a couple. But there are too many of them. He puts the gun to his temple and lies flat on his back—and in so doing, notices a hatch on the underbelly of the tank!
Rick climbs up into the tank. He’s safe!
INSIDE THE TANK
He does have to blow the head clean off a zombie soldier, but he’ll be fine
The gunshot within an enclosed space actually destroys his eardrums. He notices the top hatch is open, so he gets up and takes a look outside to make sure he truly is surrounded. He is. The bag of rifles is too far away.
And this guy gets another close-up. We’ll be seeing more of him.
Rick slams the hatch shut and collapses back inside. He’s out of ammo for his sidearm, and all he has left is a pistol from the dead zombie soldier. There’s no way he can shoot his way out of here, so this looks like it for Rick. Starvation inside a tank surrounded by zombies. THat blows.
Until the radio inside the tank comes to life, and a strange voice says, “Hey you, dumbass in the tank. Cozy in there?” And that’s the episode.
How about that? So much to enjoy from this show so far! Well-written, well-acted, loved the pacing—even if some of the scenes didn’t make total sense, like when Rick tracked down that half-zombie—and even the CGI was great. I’m psyched to watch next week, when they won’t have the extra pilot work of setting the world up. Thanks for reading!