Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer DVR Dump: The Walking Dead 1.01: "Days Gone Bye"

“One thing I do know, don’t you get bit.”
- Morgan

So this is the first week of the “real” summer schedule here on MTVP. For the first half of the summer, I’ll be blogging AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” This is a show my mom really loves (she’s a big-time horror fan), and she said it was one of the few things (other than Lord of the Rings) that will keep her glued to the television. With this endorsement, I decided to give it a try. I did watch the pilot back in the fall, but with such a busy schedule, I kind of let it go after that. That’s kind of the entire purpose of the new “Summer DVR Dump” series, really. I’m going to be looking back at two shows, “The Walking Dead” and “Doctor Who,” that aired this past season but got kind of lost in the blogging shuffle. Normally, these posts will be happening on Tuesdays, but I was at one of the special “Lord of the Rings” screenings last night and had a work deadline to meet earlier, so that didn’t quite happen this week. While “Days Gone Bye” didn’t hold my attention quite to the extent that it did my mother’s, I thought it was a decent first effort for a new show. There were some stand-out performances, and there was certainly a lot of horror and gore. I can see why this was a perfect show to premiere on Halloween.

The episode starts with some in media res. That must really be the “in” way to structure TV episodes right now. We see Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes pull up to a gas station in middle-of-nowhere Georgia. The world is clearly post-apocalyptic (or maybe still apocalyptic, considering the threat that caused the apocalypse is still around). Carrying a gas can, Rick carefully walks between abandoned cars, some of which contain dead bodies. There’s a makeshift sign hung on the gas station that says “no gas.” Rick spots what looks like a little girl walking away from him, and he calls out to her. She turns around, and it’s clear she’s a zombie, and Rick has to shoot her. I think this part of the scene was important, because it shows just how far the show’s producers and AMC are willing to go with the violence. Usually you don’t kill kids like that on TV, even if they are already undead.

We then rewind in time to before the zombie apocalypse, with what is by far the weakest scene of the episode. It’s so bad that I couldn’t believe what I was watching back when I saw this in the fall and when I watched it again last night. Rick and his partner, Shane, are in their squad car on patrol, and Shane is passing the time by essentially going on and on about how annoyed he is that women never turn lights off. Rick is going through a rough patch with his wife, Lori, and I guess Shane is trying to make him feel better by ragging on women in general, but I just found the whole thing really immature and offensive.

Thankfully, that foolishness is broken up pretty quickly when Rick and Shane get a call to help with a major car chase. They set up a road block- one of those metal strips that are supposed to rip up the tires. The target car comes careening down the road, followed by two cop cars. The target car hits the metal strip and flies off the road, turning over several times. That’s not the end of it, though. The three suspects in the car all somehow manage to survive. One by one, they manage to crawl out of the wreckage and shoot at Rick and the other law enforcement officers. A shot by the second suspects hits Rick, but it’s a fake out, because it only caught his bullet-proof vest. A shot from the third suspect also hits Rick, and this one is most definitely all too real.

Rick wakes up in a hospital, but there are some things about his room that just don’t seem right. There is a vase of dead flowers by his bed, and the clock on the wall has stopped. Fighting serious pain, Rick forces himself out in the hallway to find out what is going on. And that’s when things start to get rather gruesome. The hospital is abandoned. Blood is spattered everywhere, and gunshots have made holes in the walls. The most disturbing bit is when Rick comes upon a locked and barricaded door with a warning that the dead are behind the door. Zombies must feel Rick’s presence, because they start groaning and putting their hands through a crack in the door. Outside the devastation is even worse, Rick has to pick his way through rows of body bags to even make it off the hospital grounds. He starts to head for his house, but while biking through a park on his way there, he encounters half a zombie. Literally. The top half of the zombie is crawling around, like a decomposing version of the “only a flesh wound” guy from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

When Rick arrives at home, his family isn’t there, and he’s devastated. I think this is Andrew London’s most powerful moment in the episode. He sits on the floor and just screams for his family. Up until this point, there hasn’t been a word of dialogue since Rick woke up in the hospital. I think the whole sequence was very effective. After he somewhat gets himself back together, Rick sits outside, only to be hit in the head with a shovel by a kid named Duane. Duane’s father, Morgan, wants to know what Rick’s patched-up wound is, but he doesn’t have a chance to answer. Rick wakes up in bed yet again, and after explaining that he’s been shot, Morgan and Duane start to trust him a little. Over dinner, they begin to tell Rick the story of what has happened while he was in a coma. People started getting fevers, and the fevers would kill them. Then they’d come back to life. If you get bitten or even scratched by a zombie (or “walker” as they call them), you get the fever. A car alarm goes off in the neighborhood, drawing zombies towards the house where Duane and Morgan are squatting. One of those zombies is Duane’s mother, and understandably, Duane’s very upset about it.

The next morning, Rick takes Duane and Morgan to the Sheriff’s Department for hot showers and to see if there are any guns left. It has been so long since Duane and Morgan had hot water that they’re positively joyous about it. They split up the remaining guns and have a parting of the ways of sorts. Rick is going to go to Atlanta, where Morgan has been told a refugee center is set up. Morgan and Duane aren’t ready to go to Atlanta just yet, though, mostly because of Duane’s mother. Before Rick leaves town, though, he has some business to take care of. He goes back to the park and puts the half- zombie (as in only the top half is still around) out of its misery. Morgan and Duane go back to their house, and Morgan is on a mission. He takes his new shot gun, goes up to the second floor, and starts shooting zombies. He’s trying to attract more zombies to the area in front of the house, because he wants to put his wife out of her misery. Sure enough, his wife shuffles towards the house, but Morgan can’t bear to pull the trigger. Instead, he just breaks down.

Rick starts driving towards Altanta, and he uses his squad car’s CB radio to broadcast that he’s approaching the city and looking for survivors. His broadcast is picked up by a survivor’s camp just outside Atlanta. They try to answer Rick’s call, but for some reason, their replies aren’t getting through to Rick. They desperately want to warn Rick away from Atlanta, but the plan isn’t working. One of the people at this camp is Rick’s partner Shane, and he gets into an argument with a woman who has a son. They go off to a tent to continue their argument away from her son, and they end the argument by kissing. A quick cut to Rick looking at a family photograph in his squad car reveals that the woman and her son are actually his wife and son, Lori and Carl. Rick keeps driving towards Atlanta, not having heard the warning of the folks at the camp.

Before he gets to Atlanta, Rick runs out of gas for the squad car, and he stops at a random house to see if he can syphon any out of the cars parked in front. Everyone at the house has committed suicide to avoid becoming zombies. Like I said, this show doesn’t skimp on the gruesome. Rick doesn’t find gas, but he does find a horse, so he enters Atlanta on horseback. Rick riding down the highway into the city as a bunch of abandoned parked cars crowd the outbound lands is quite a stunning visual. As you might expect, given the survivors’ warning, Rick runs into a massive crowd of zombies. Who eat his horse. Rick uses the distraction of his horse to get to safety inside a tank, where he has to kill a zombie inside. When his hearing comes back after firing that gunshot in an enclosed space, he hears a voice over the radio. Someone was watching him get into the tank and now wants to know how he’s doing.

No comments:

Post a Comment