The AMC series of the zombie comic kicks off with a cracking pilot... WARNING: CONTAINS IN-DEPTH SPOILERS
Writer: Frank Darabont
Director: Frank Darabont
THE ONE WHERE Small-town cop Rick Grimes wakes up in a hospital after being shot to discover that while he’s been sleeping, there’s been a zombie apocalypse...
VERDICT Finally! We’ve waited so long – far too long – for a zombie TV series to arrive, and the quality of Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s ongoing comic is such that it’s been well worth the wait. Our only disappointment is that the series’ initial order is just six episodes. IT’S NOT ENOUGH!
The teaser alone is enough to convince you of that; featuring Lincoln’s Sheriff shooting a little zombie girl in the forehead, it’s extremely tense and really sets out the show’s stall; this is not a series that will flinch from depicting violence. A couple of fabulous creations by effects guy Greg Nicotero – a half-eaten corpse in a hospital corridor; a legless zombie pitifully dragging itself along the ground - soon underline that point.
Here’s a little touch that’s representative of the care that’s been taken here: the flies. When Rick stumbles out of the hospital to discover great piles of corpses (a great moment), they’re swarming the little buggers. So is a body sitting in a car - did they rub that poor actor with poo? Whoever wrangled those babies (and if they’re all actually CGI, please don’t ruin the illusion for us…) deserves some kind of special technical award. It’s a little touch that really adds a sense of verisimilitude, and reminds you just how revolting zombies are – they’re rotting corpses .
Admittedly, there are moments in this pilot where you start to have concern. An early sequence where Rick and his partner Shane sit in their patrol car shooting the breeze may be essential in terms of character development, but it does drag on a bit. And once Rick is dragged off the street into the safety of a house by Morgan (Lennie James), the story settles down into a two-hander so low-key that it starts to become worrying . “When”, an impatient voice in your head whispers, “Are things going to kick off?” But as the two bond, you realise that these scenes are working perfectly. Zombie carnage can wait; what’s essential first of all is to communicate the emotional reality of living in a post-zombie apocalypse world, and these scenes do that beautifully, whether it’s showing us the joy to be gleaned from the simple pleasure of a hot shower, or the heartbreaking nature of Morgan’s situation, as his zombified wife lumbers about outside. Lincoln and James both do sterling work, and Darabont’s script takes pains to remind us that zombies aren’t just walking targets, but were once people. Every single one is someone’s father, husband, son; mother, wife, daughter. Every single one is somebody’s personal tragedy.
By the end, your patience is fully rewarded. As Rick travels into Atlanta we’re treated to impressive shots of deserted cityscapes. With tanks and helicopters abandoned in the streets and a huge crowd of zombie extras, there’s a sense of scale here that’s seriously impressive.
What’s most exciting of all is the amount of new material. Sure, some of it is familiar, but much of it is all Darabont (a self-confessed geek, remember – he’s one of us, not just “the Shawshank guy”), which means that even for dedicated fans of the comic, there are new twists and turns to enjoy, with the promise of more to come – an exciting prospect. If the series continues to maintain this level of quality, it’s going to be something truly special.
IT’S WOSSISNAME! You may remember Lennie James from his role as Number 147 in the recent remake of The Prisoner . If you do, our commiserations - bit dull, wasn’t it?
LMAO The moment where Lincoln spies a discarded teddy bear may remind UK viewers of Drop The Dead Donkey …
TRIVIA Andrew Lincoln’s real name is Andrew Clutterbuck. Can’t imagine why he changed it.