Monday, November 22, 2010
THE WALKING DEAD Episode 1.04 Review
Earlier this week, I spent the day re-reading the early issues of the comic, and was surprised to find just how close the pacing was between the source material and the television series. There are changes, sure. Some are pretty substantial changes, but key plot points are being hit in the show at just about the same pace as they were in the comic, with each issue corresponding pretty closely to the episode breakdown.
All of which is to say that I knew what was coming with tonight's episode of The Walking Dead. For the most part. But I have to admit, even though I knew what was coming (and hell, the previews were enough to let anyone paying attention know), it didn't lessen the impact.
Spoiler Screens Up!
I'm a little surprised by Kirkman's script. As far as I know, this is his first teleplay, and while I enjoy his writing in the comic, the dialogue can, at times, be a bit much. Which is understandable, given the medium. In the comic, he can't rely on the body language and the nuances of facial expression and speaking tone, etc.
Which isn't a knock on the artists of the comic. I think Tony Moore is one of the best artists in the business, and Charlie Adlard's work has been consistently strong. But live actors allow the writer to rely less on the written word and more on the physical act. And as each week goes by, I'm more and more impressed with the performances of all the actors involved. There are definite levels of quality, but no one's outright bad, which really allows the writer to relax and concentrate on letting the actors bring it all to life.
The scene also sets up the horror to come.
We also get a glimpse of Jim (Andrew Rothenberg) off in the distance, intensely digging holes. Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), on watch, is our eyes moving from keeping a watch on the ladies while they fish, to Jim off in the distance.
And then the opening credits roll.
It's a nice scene and relieved a lot of my anxieties about both Kirkman and the series in general.
After the break we cut to the boys in the city and discover that Merle is one tough son of a bitch. Not only did he cut his own hand off and escape (seems the hacksaw blade was too dull to cut through the handcuff chain - take that Internet trolls!), he also killed two zombies with only a monkey wrench and then cauterized his stump, all before disappearing into the city. Never count out any character played by Michael Rooker.
I was a little worried at this point, afraid that Kirkman was going to fall back on either ideas he's already worked through in the comic, or worse, on more horrible stereotypes. I mean, let's be honest. This show hasn't really held back when it comes to stereotypical bad guys.
Luckily, Kirkman has a plan, and it doesn't entirely involve negative racist stereotypes. Instead, it only seems to be using racist stereotypes in order to teach us a lesson about jumping to conclusions. That the Hispanic "gang" is actually taking care of elderly patients in a nearly abandoned Old Folks Home, is almost too much for me. But I'm a jaded prick, so I'll let it slide. Plus, I was amused that he named their leader Guillermo (Neil Brown Jr.), in an obvious nod to Guillermo Del Toro. At least, that's how I'm going to take it.
I appreciate the fact that it's not a gang that decided to do the right thing, but family members who've come to visit and then stayed on the help out. Which is why they want, and need, Rick's guns. They've dealt with scavengers before and that explains their aggressive behavior.
It's not the greatest moment ever, but it's good to know that in the world of The Walking Dead, on TV anyway, not everybody our heroes come across are utter bastards or mental cases.
Turns out Jim had a dream that he can't really remember, and the heat made him a little crazy. Or that's his story and he's sticking to it. After some time tied to a tree, he becomes much more reasonable, and when it comes time for the big fish fry (Amy and Andrea caught a crapload of fish), he's set free and all is well again.
This is the point that I knew was coming, thanks not to the previews, but to the comic. I think it's kind of appropriate that the co-creator of the series is the one to write the moment when we lose our first "major" character, and it's in a scene straight out of the comic.
Amy's death was kind of telegraphed, both by the opening scene of sisterly bonding and by the later scene where we find out that the mermaid pendant that Andrea snagged for her in the city is a birthday present. You see, tomorrow is her birthday. That obviousness aside, it works here just as it did in the comic. It lets us know that nobody's safe. Anyone can die at any moment.
You know. With one or two exceptions.
This is really just about everything I was hoping for when I first heard they were making The Walking Dead into a series.
We end with Amy dying in Andrea's arms, lots of tension, and Jim getting the last word: "I remember my dream now. Why I dug the holes." It's a helluva strong ending and wraps up another helluva strong episode. Looks like "Guts" was an anomaly and this series is going to be just fine. My only real complaint is that there are only two more episodes, and I don't know when the second season will air.
I guess as far as complaints go, that's a good one to have.