AMC is officially the Pixar of TV. Like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, and Rubicon before it The Walking Dead, premiering tonight at 10, continues AMC’s streak of thrilling television. It’s hardly even “television” – this feels more like a movie than any other show I can think of. Maybe it’s the fact that zombies usually walk the theatre, not our living rooms.
The premise might sound a little familiar too: man awakens from coma to find hospital trashed, buildings blackened, cars overturned, city deserted – except of course for the walking dead, those lovely infected folk donning their intestines like apparel. This of course is the basic premise of 28 Days Later, that 2002 horror flick AMC seems to hope you forgot. The scenes with hero Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) walking through the streets of his ruined city look identical to those in the Cillian Murphy movie.
It almost doesn’t matter that The Walking Dead plays on this and so many other zombie flicks – that’s what genre is about. And there’s enough reinvention here to keep the zombie stuff from feeling overdone. The episode, which follows Sheriff Grimes as he searches for his wife and kid, features some great scenes with a horse that play on the Western genre, and the latter half of the episode even hints at some soapy Mad Men-style drama to come.
Written and directed by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemtion, The Green Mile), the episode is sprawling in scope for a television show and visually captivating. Once again, AMC doesn’t skimp on anything. No detail is too little for the network, down to the very last rotting toenail. It is entirely possible that The Walking Dead might go down as the goriest television show ever. While it’s nothing too far from what we’ve seen before – gunshots to the forehead, sniper take-outs, baseball bat beat-downs, torsos crawling around leaving trails of stomach fluid on the grass (OK, maybe that last one is a little less common) – it’s certainly new to television.
Is it puzzling that AMC can’t swear in their shows, but can rip the guts out of basically anything it wants? Remember when 24 was under heat for its torture scenes? This is a whole other level of disgust. Ah, the bloody brilliance of cable television.
More problematic, the episode is at times abrasively masculine. We know that AMC isn’t exactly The W Network – they aren’t known for their female heroines, though Mad Men’s Peggy Olsen comes pretty close. But the women in the premiere episode of The Walking Dead are either one of the empty corpses of its title, or the misbehaving wives of the central male characters. Since AMC has occasionally let women shine in other shows, hopefully they’ll do the same for the women of this pilot.
Aside from the sometimes over-indulgent moments of gore and the largely absent female, this pilot episode (cleverly titled “Days Gone Bye”) is thoroughly satisfying television. The acting is superb all-around, the characters are already deeply believable, and the technical aspects are executed with the adept preciseness of the film industry. The final scenes are as exhilarating as any movie could muster, and may just leave you breathless. AMC has done it again, bringing movie-style grandeur to our TV sets.
Is the zombie genre one of your favs? Will you be catching the premiere? Sound off below.