Sunday, February 20, 2011

I Remember My Dream Now

ep1-dontopen (800x450) When the promos for The Walking Dead first started making their way into my internet world, I was less than impressed. I enjoy a good George Romero film as much as the next person, but a TV show about zombies? Really?

Two things changed my mind. The first, that this show was going to air on AMC. This is the channel that airs Mad Men. It’s hard to believe that it would waste air time on a show strictly about mmmm, brains. Secondly, in watching the promotional trailers, I noticed it was from the creators of The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Now, both of those movies are the brain children of Stephen King, and they’re both very intense, and beautifully done. Never in a million years would I watch either of those and think, “Wow, these people really need to put a new spin on the zombie genre.”

When I mentioned on Twitter and the book of face that I was considering giving it a shot, I got bombarded with WD comic love. Oh. This is a comic? That got my attention. So I set my DVR to record the series, and promptly forgot about it. Well, to be more accurate, I was so bombarded with other things to watch that I didn’t carve out time to watch it. Then the New Orleans Comic Con announced three actors from the show were coming, and I realized if I didn’t watch the show, I was going to be that person. “Oh, yeah, the show looks great. I have it recorded. NO idea who you are. Nice to meet you, though.”

So, I set the weekend before the con aside and watched the six episodes that comprise season one. And then screamed in rage that it only lasted six episodes, and I had an entire nine months to wait for the next season.

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From the very start this show grabbed my attention. Rick Grimes walking around the car graveyard with his gas can. The slow, dragging walk of a seemingly innocent child, carrying her teddy bear. Rick calling to her, and me quietly whispering to the TV, “Zombie. Zombie. Zombie girl. No, really, zombie. Run.” She turns, and we see her face absolutely decimated. And he shoots her. BAM. Start of the season. How can you not immediately need to see more?

Then we follow up the teaser with…two cops sitting in a car having lunch. Oy. Exposition. It was odd, but the conversation about Lori and Carl really did set up the heart break you knew was coming as the episode progressed. I recalled from the trailer that Rick wakes up in a hospital after the bad stuff has already happened, so when he got shot the first time, I was pretty laid back about it. Then he got shot AGAIN. And the shot of him laying on his back, staring at the sky, so scared and horrified, absolutely ripped my lungs from my chest. At that moment, I knew that we were in for a ride with this actor.

ep1-shotpain (800x450) Andrew Lincoln is amazing at putting every ounce of emotion into his acting. When he feels something, he shows it. There’s no pensive forehead furrowing, or cupped chin. His eyes give away what he’s feeling. The casting in this show is really spot on with all of the actors, but I feel secure in saying he’s the best choice they could’ve made for Grimes. When he wakes up in the hospital all alone, my skin crawled. I have only waken up once in a hospital, and that was with family nearby, and the sound of nurses outside my door. If I woke up to dead silence, I don’t think I would know how to react. When Grimes fell out of the bed, and hit the button, crying out for a nurse, I almost teared up. That is the ultimate definition of vulnerability.

There was no score for the first half of this episode. As the Whedon fans learned, music takes away from powerful emotional scenes. If you really want to drive home fear and have the audience experience the emotions along with the characters, you remove the distractions. I felt the anxiety of him walking around the hospital. When he went to his home, and his wife and son were nowhere to be found, my heart wept for him. When he fell to floor in a fetal position, sobbing, I did tear up. The entire first half of this season premiere was really and truly amazing. This is why I was wrong. The world does need a zombie TV show.

ep1-peephole (800x450) Then he gets hit by a shovel. And I cackled. The introduction of Morgan and Duane were much needed, not just for exposition, but to add another dimension to Grimes. We’ve seen him relaxed, we’ve seen him vulnerable. Now we need to see him get his power back. The story of the father and son could’ve been pretty one note without the addition of, as I call her, the Zombie Momma. In the entire six episode run, nothing wigged me out more than watching her slowly ascend the stairs, and stare, dead-eyed, at the peep hole. Keisha Tillis is a very beautiful woman. But I told her at the con that she scared the piss out of me.

Duane running to hide his head in the covers and sob was already heart wrenching enough. When Morgan has the rifle aimed at her head, and can’t pull the trigger, you feel that emotion. It leads to self questioning. Would you be able to pull that trigger? I think of the people I love most in the world. I’d sooner be zombie food than shoot any of them in the head, even with the knowledge that it would be saving them. These are thoughts that your average zombie movie won’t bring up. Zombies are zombies, they do not inspire emotions. Not even baby zombies.

ep1-ewreally (800x450) Then Grimes sets out on his own. He gets to a farm house, and goes to the door to ask if he can pilfer some of their gasoline. And this is where I got grossed out the first time. This being on AMC, I expected profanity. This being the zombie genre, I was prepared for gore. But Christ tap dancing on a cracker, this show is graphic. It’s not enough that we get zombies chomping down on people and ripping flesh. Oh, no. They go and have the refugees slamming pick axes into their skull. When brain matter hit the camera, I was pretty much over the excessive carnage.

One thing that we will not be discussing in this entry is the horse. NO. NO NO NO NO NO. No discussion of the horse. I made my thoughts known about the horse on Twitter, and that is just FINE.

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The shot of the zombies (geeks? Is that the word they kept using for them?) crawling all over the tank, and then the aerial shot of just how many of them there were in Atlanta, seriously left my skin crawling. They look like ants, and the entire visual and thought process just…it’s wigging me out as I think about it. It’s a really great way to show just how screwed up the world is, and how screwed the survivors really are.

The first refugee we meet is Glenn. He is very much my favorite. From the moment he called Grimes a dumbass in the tank, he pretty much won me over. I’m reading the comic book right now, which is intense and dark and strangely paced. The TV show veers completely off course, which I’m appreciative for. Because I don’t think Glenn is going to survive the book. Is that a spoiler?

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It should be hard to bond with the refugees. You realize they’re all potential zombie food, and that’s sad and all, but why bother to get to know their story at all? Then Norman Reedus comes rolling out of the woods, and my first thought was, “Nooooooooo, not zombie food noooooooooooooo!” I wasn’t looking forward to meeting his character, though, figuring he was going to be a racist dickwad like his brother. Other than being dismissive of Glenn, he wasn’t nearly as bad, though. And when Glenn was kidnapped by the “gang members”, his reaction was perfect. I do love me some Reedus.

ep3 - handcuffs (800x450) Speaking of dickwad Merle, this show completely fucked with my head. I hated Merle, and really wanted Rick to blow his head off. But then he cuffs him to the pipe, and they leave him there. The guy whose name I can’t be bothered to remember comes running up with the key, and it falls, and they LEAVE HIM. That was more upsetting than it ever should have been. I knew they weren’t going to find him alive when they got back. I figured either the zombies would have him, or he would’ve cut off his own hand. The hanging shot of the cuffs was an extremely powerful visual.

When they left Jim at the tree, I was bawling. I didn’t expect to like him, he was one of the non-characters, like the family who went their own way. His story about watching his family get eaten tore every heart string from my body.

I knew from shot one of the Mother and Son that this was Lori and Carl. I pretty much figured they wouldn’t kill either of them off. When they cut to her banging Shane, I winced. That’s gonna suck. But the reunion of the three of them was so superbly done. Talking with Chandler Rigg’s father at convention, he said the boy did that scene over 10 times, and each time he had that same level of emotion. The kid can act. The tension between Lori and Shane once Grimes got back was expected, but what I did NOT expect was her revelation that he’s the one who told her Rick was dead. Youch. Well played.

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I should have seen this shit coming. 12 years as a Whedon fan, the second I saw the sisters on the damn boat, I should’ve known one of them was going down. And I also should’ve known which one. Yet it didn’t kick in until moments before it happened.

Their relationship was too good for the show, really. They were sisters with no sibling rivalry, orphaned and caring towards one another. Yeah, that doesn’t work on a drama show. One of them’s getting eaten. I figured Andrea was going to shoot her sister, but the way in which it happened was so damned heartbreaking. This show will grab you by your balls, and you have to fight to get them back.

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I was very interested when they reached the lab. In supernatural-to-real-life movies, I want the why. Tell me about the virus, the mutation, the killer birds, the Hellmouth. Tell me why these things are happening. I was kind of let down on this one. We see it in the live scan (how cool was the scan of the bullet going through her skull?), but there’s not much else to go on. I seriously hope we get more information on this, but from what I can tell from the comics, that part hasn’t been written yet. So I guess I have a ways to go before I get any answers.

Creepy lab guy was creepy. I understood from the setup of him that he was crazy from being alone for so long, researching with his dead wife’s bits and pieces. But then he actually gets company, and he turns out to be even weirder than before. Not actually warning them about the lockdown only being the tip of the freakshow iceberg.

I liked the group dynamic once they got into the lab. Safe and secure, they felt more comfortable laughing. There were books to read and showers to take. Everyone seemed a lot more comfortable with themselves. You just knew shit was about to go wrong.

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Lab go boom.

Where the hell is my second season?

Seriously, what a fanfuckingtastic show. I can’t imagine anyone thinking it would get canceled in the first season, and only having a six episode run. Seriously, people, what the hell are you doing to me? That’s worse than Mad Men’s 12 episode seasons. Knock it off, AMC.

Side note: Thanks to Jane Espenson for her writing sprints on Twitter. She got the majority of this entry written by having one while I was home and able-bodied. Then a week later, I finished it.

I’m just awesome like that.

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