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Well, what a series!
Season 1 of The Walking Dead was just what the doctor ordered. A well written, well acted and superbly well realised screen version of the graphic novel series.
If it had a fault it was this. 6 episodes ARE NOT ENOUGH!
There is nothing worse than getting hooked on a series just for it to end while still in its swing.
Fortunately, the writers capitalised on the shows great reception and made this series a good meaty 13 episodes!
Without giving too much away here, the season kicks off exactly where the last one ends. Our band of intrepid heroes and anti-heroes are back on the road looking for signs of civilization. Gas is running low, tempers are becoming frayed and hope is running out until they stumble across a huge farm/ranch estate with a family living on as though the zombie epidemic had never hit.
At the chagrin of Hershel, the farm owner, the gang set up home on his land and spend the vast majority of the series there. There are obvious disagreements between the two camps, with an eventual truce being reached as they realise that they're actually safer in large numbers rather than spread out and isolated.
The main story thread is something of a 'slow burner'. Again, I don't wish to spoil anything but essentially it involves searching for a missing person and that's the reason they insist on staying on the farm while they search the surrounding woods, mountains and farmland. Needless to say, the climax in the penultimate episode is worth the wait.
As you would imagine, there are some wonderfully gruesome scenes as the 'walkers' pick off the occasional character and some truly superb set pieces showing off the zombie hoards - there is a particularly memorable trip to a local hospital in an early episode. The extra's acting and the make-up and costume designers deserve a special mention - they really do make this series what it is!
Most of the series is quite low on action. While there are some good zombie scenes, this series really uses the hidden threat of unseen zombies (lurking in the woods, roaming the roads in fast moving packs etc) to great advantage. There is as much value in the tension of NOT seeing zombies as there is of seeing an army of the undead approaching through the evening haze.
Fans of the comics (sorry, graphic novels!) won't be disappointed here. Most of the main stories remain present and correct, although they have been played out in a different order to keep the narrative of the series flowing. The character deaths almost all follow the novels, although a couple of characters have been added to the TV show - basically as zombie food to add to the body count we all love!
There are a couple of different DVD sets out at the moment. The standard 4 disc edition with a 10 hour runtime (554 minutes) is good value around the £20 mark, there are dozens of extras such as deleted scenes, audio commentary and lots of featurettes. Enough to keep a hardcore fan happy.
For the real Walking Dead fan though, there is a limited edition Blu Ray boxset. A large sculpted zombie head with a screwdriver through the left eye. It tips back to reveal the discs in a box inside!
A little geeky? Yes!
Worth the £75 price-tag? Well, it looks like a future collectors item to me, so probably worth a look if you have the space and the inclination to own a severed zombie head!
Anyway, a definite recommendation here for The Walking Dead, looking forward to series 3!
I love The Walking Dead. It shows what life could be like if this tragedy happened.
Like all Zombie themed shows/movies it's pretty much the same. An infection breaks out and people start turning into Zombies.
The main Character Rick wakes up stunned in a hospital then finds his wife and child and a group of people.
Through this season it carries on with them surviving. A couple of interesting plot lines happen which reveal a few details. I won't post as they are big spoilers.
The main character being English pulls of a pretty good American accent. I didn't realise he was English. The rest of the characters make the season. With the family on the farm to the original group there is a real connection and fear with what is happening within the world.
It does, however, take a while for this season to "get going" once it has started though sit back and enjoy. They have left it open to a 3rd season (which i believe has just started in America) which i cannot wait for.
I would suggest you watch season 1 to get to know everyone then sit back and enjoy this.
The Walking Dead Season Two
In my review for The Walking Dead season one I said I'd had it for over a year and had only just gotten around to watching it due to the huge backlog of other shows I have been watching. Well I then went on to watch the thirteen episodes of season two over two nights and boy am I glad I did. I love this show and it is turning into one of my all-time favourites.
For the purpose of this review I have used some of my own season one review to cover background and history of the show.
The show originally aired in 2010 on the American channel AMC. It has gained a huge cult following and is now currently airing the third season.
Season one was like a pilot that was stretched into a whole mini-series of six episodes. Seasons two and three have since moved to the usual thirteen episode format so prominent since the writer's strikes.
I have always been a fan of zombie movies but in particular the George A Romero offerings as they at least contained a storyline and plot instead of just zombie bashing gore like some of the older titles; 'Zombie Flesh eaters' springs to mind.
The Walking Dead does contain a lot of gore and zombie bashing but it is built on necessity to aiding the plot rather than gratuitous, violent purpose.
The idea is taken from the original graphic novels and comics of the same name and is directed by Frank Darabont. I'm a Darabont fan as he has bought to film a number of Stephen King books and King is one of my favourite authors. Darabont directed the huge cult hit 'Shawshank Redemption' and 'The Green Mile'; both King books. He also directed 'The Mist', which was atrocious or at least it was in my eyes. So when I heard he was directing the Walking Dead I was pleased but also a little wary and really hoped it would be more Shawshank than Mist.
I wasn't to be disappointed. The series is as classy and atmospheric as the brilliant comic series. I'll talk about the direction and look of the series in a little while, but first let's take a look at the premise.
Rick Grimes, played by the impressive Andrew Lincoln, is a small town sheriff's deputy who was shot on the job. He wakes up in the local hospital to find the place is empty and full of dead bodies. He staggers around until he comes to a door with a crudely made sign attached to it. The sign reads 'Do Not Open, Dead Inside'. The door is padlocked and a wooden beam has been placed across it. The door begins to move and zombie like hands try to force it open. Rick manages to find his way home and discovers that his wife and son are gone. He is encouraged by the fact that the family photo albums and all their clothes are gone and he feels sure they have made it out safely. He encounters a man called Morgan and his son Duane. They tell him about 'The Walkers', which are basically the walking dead. They also tell him about a place called the 'CDC', which Morgan says is a safe haven, run by the army and the government. He says the CDC is working on a cure. Rick tells Morgan that he has to find his wife and child. Meanwhile, Ricks wife and child are holed up in camp with a group of survivors, including Rick's best friend Shane, played by Jon Bernthal, who is now romantically involved with Rick's wife Lori, played by Sarah Wayne Callies from Prison Break fame. One of the group, a young Korean named Glenn, helps Rick in the city and he meets up with a scout group from the camp.
Without giving away any plot spoilers, season two begins were season one left off and our group holes up in a farm house with a farmer and what is left of his family. They want to use this as a base but the farmer is reluctant and wants them to move on. This series has everything. A child gets shot, a child goes missing, a love story begins, a love story ends, a character falls pregnant and two main characters die; one of them a major character. We see a special guest star from 'True Blood' pop in for an episode as well as a major new character at the end in readiness for season three.
The Walking Dead is a brilliant TV series and as I said in the review for season one I am glad to say that it takes the subject seriously. This could so easily have ended up a 'Zombieland' or tried to become a cult hit by being funny and too over-the -top. As I said it does take it seriously and the result is a great story that is involving and interesting to follow. If you think you've seen every angle on the zombie story then think again. OK, admittedly it does have the outbreak story and the end of the world as we know it plot, but it is a lot more than that in that it strips down the layers of each character and delves into their psyche. This gives us a much more personal involvement in the storyline and makes it easier to follow it or be sucked in. Season two takes the character development to a whole new level and you really begin to empathise with the characters. The best thing about this show for me personally is the fact that even though it is a far out storyline of the walking dead taking over the world it is so believable because each and every one of the characters acts exactly how I think a person would act if it was real. In a lot of shows you feel cheated because a person does something so far removed from reality that it can't be taken seriously, but the Walking Dead characters are so true to life and leave you thinking 'yes that is probably what I would have done'.
I think Andrew Lincoln is superb as Rick. He's an English actor but you wouldn't know it from his American accent as it doesn't seem put on in the slightest. He has that Viggo Mortensen look about him and you want him to succeed. He becomes even more prominent as the lead in season two. Sarah Wayne Callies is instantly recognisable as Sara Tancredi from Prison Break and plays another brilliant role as Rick's wife Lori. She has that ability to appear vulnerable and steely-strong at the same time. Jon Bernthal plays the over-zealous Shane Walsh who is laden with guilt but still wants to lead and protect the group. Bernthal plays a brilliant part as Shane in season two, so expect fireworks, especially between him and Rick.
There are a lot of unknown actors in this series but they all perform extremely well and when you watch it you will find that it is some of the lower profile characters that you will like best. I particularly like Glenn, who is played by Steven Yeun and brings that normality to the group in the fact that he doesn't hide his fear or his misgivings. In season two Glenn draws you to him even more than he did in season one.
One of the surprises of season one for me was the Daryl Dixon character played by Norman Reedus. He is one of those characters that you love to hate and even if you hate him you know he is needed by the group. He plays the brother of Merl, who is played terrifically in episode one and two by Michael Rooker. They are a couple of redneck, racist white trash hicks that get up everyone's nose but I really began to like Daryl by the end of season one. In season two he grew on me even more and underneath all that angst and trailer-trash façade is a good man and someone who you would want beside you above anyone else if you were being attacked by dead people.
Darabont's direction is really cool throughout and he manages to bring the comic's and graphic novels art to life. The make-up on the zombies is superb and there is not an abundance of CGI. Most of the blood and gore is done by special effects artists and they are superb. From the opening credits you know that is going to be stylish. It has that sepia type look that works really well with the empty streets and deserted towns. When the story moves to the city of Atlanta, the greys and graininess of the photography really helps give it that empty and scary edge. The farmhouse in season two is filmed on the set in Atlanta but it looks so real and the attention to detail is superb.
The music throughout the series is also pretty cool and not just thrown in for the sake of it.
I was a fan of Charles Adlard due to him working on the X-Files comic as an artist and even more so on the Walking Dead series so it was great to see the comic made into a TV series. The comic has recently reached one hundred issues and they celebrated by doing eight variant covers, including one by Adlard. The comics have been around for almost ten years now and can go for quite a bit of money for the original first print on eBay. The TV series has created even more interest in the comics so bidders are going all out to get their hands on them. The creator Chris Kirkland must be so proud that it has reached such a cult status and so he should be.
I can't wait for season three to come out on October fourteenth this year. It looks like it is going to be brilliant. David Morrissey is on board as well as the new character mentioned earlier.
The DVD box set contains a 'Making of Documentary', behind the scenes footage and interviews with cast and crew. It can be purchased for around fifteen pounds now on Amazon or eBay and if you're lucky you can get it even cheaper.
All in all I would recommend The Walking Dead as a show with a difference. If you have previously thought of not watching it because the zombie theme put you off, then I would seriously consider because it is a well-made show that gets you involved and keeps you interested. I absolutely love this show and season two got me even more into it and I will be watching as long as they keep on making them, which I hope is for many more seasons to come.
Five stars out of five for me.