The Walking Dead - Episode 1: "Days Gone Bye" TV Episode Review
Written and directed by Frank Darabont
2010,60 minutes, Rated TV-14
Episode premiered on October 31st, 2010
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes
Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh
Sarah Wayne Collins as Lori Grimes
Lennie James as Morgan Jones
Adrian Kali Turner as Duane
Halloween night saw the much anticipated premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead. Spawned from the comic book series of the same name written by Robert Kirkman, the show follows Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) as he survives the zombie apocalypse. The book is highly acclaimed and has taken home numerous awards over the years so the TV show had a lot to live up to. It was placed in the hands of Frank Darabont (The Mist, Shawshank Redemption) and the quality shows.
Spez: Sunday’s premiere didn’t get that far into the comic book but I’m not worried about that. I think overall it’s maybe halfway through the first issue if I remember correctly. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, fans got a ton of information and a great setup for the series as a whole. Characters that are given a page or two in the comic are fleshed out a lot more and I actually cared about them.
Alien Redrum: I haven’t read the comic in years (and I think I only got up to graphic novel #7), so this was basically new to me all over again. One thing that stuck out immediately, though, is that Team Darabont is obviously going for character development first, zombie ass kickery second. I remember really digging that aspect of the story in the comic, where it was people first, than conflict, and I’m happy that it’s rolling through to the TV show.
Spez: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes really carried this first episode. Yes, there were other people in it, but for the most part the whole thing rode on his shoulders as his character woke from a coma and made his way through a town ravaged by the undead. In the hands of a less-talented director this could be a disaster, but Darabont kept the tension high throughout the entire episode. There are long segments where there’s virtually no dialogue and we only see Rick walking through the streets, but those are some of the scariest scenes. They felt a lot more ominous.
AR: I partially agree about Lincoln carrying this first episode. Certainly, he was the standout (and Jon Bernthal as his partner, Shane, didn’t really do anything for me in this episode), but you can’t not mention Lennie James as Morgan Jones. One of the most poignant moments in the show was when Jones had to make a crucial decision regarding his wife. Lennie James was pretty intense as that character, and I hope to see more of him. His final decision toward the end of the episode was one of my favorite parts of the show, and it goes back to how important it is that they made the wise decision to get the characters developed first and then get to the zombies.
There was a definite 28 Days Later vibe going on when Rick first got out of the hospital to the empty (save for a few zombies) streets. And, I don’t know if this was a nod or not to Stephen King considering the relationship Darabont has with him, but it really seemed that Rick’s escape from the hospital was almost a nod to Stu Redman's similar escape in The Stand. Neither of these hurt the episode, by any stretch, they seemed to be neat acknowledgements.
I certainly agree about the dialogue-free parts. I really enjoyed the minimalistic approach of sound, be it either script or score. As you said, it certainly added to the dread surrounding Rick’s situation.
Spez: There wasn’t much background music at all. I’m glad the show didn’t stoop to the scare tactics used in some of the modern-day horror movies where they spook you with the score instead of what’s going on on the screen.
Totally agree about Jones, but unfortunately he’s seen maybe one more time throughout the entire series. That scene was great, though. It showed that despite the fact that the dead walk the earth, these people are still human. If this is what we can expect from a very minor character, imagine what we’ll get from the leading roles.
Everything in the episode had a very high quality to it. It felt like a movie. When viewed altogether, I’m sure that this 6 episode season will flow like an epic film.
AR: Everything about this feels so big. I posted on Facebook immediately after that watching this on network television would be the equivalent of watching the R-rated version of Pirates. It just won’t work. You know you are in for a treat when the show opens with Rick blowing the head off of a zombie child. Kudos to AMC for having the stones to do this and do it proper. There are so many things I love about how this came together, but pulling in Greg Nicotero for the effects is a horror fan’s wet dream. While KNB Efx Group (the company Nicotero co-founded with Robert Kurtman and Howard Berger) may have won an Oscar for the effects in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, he’s best known in the horror genre for his work on such classics as Evil Dead II and Creepshow. And the work on The Walking Dead, thus far, is pretty fantastic. Sure, there are some CGI headshots I could do without, but the half-zombie crawling through the park more than makes up for some CGI splatter.
Spez: That half-zombie was great! I kept looking at it wondering if it was a person or if it was all animatronic. Either way it was impressive. I just hope this level of quality is kept up.
AR: Yeah. I wouldn’t think they blew their load on the first episode, but at the same time I can’t help praying that they didn’t. I remember really loving the first episode of Masters of Horror (Incident On and Off a Mountain Road), only to be disappointed with each subsequent episode. Sure, this is a different situation, but I’ve had my hopes so high for this series since I first heard about it last year. This first episode lived up to my expectations, and I’m terrified that the rug will be pulled from me. Fortunately, though, it looks like AMC is playing it loose with the violence, so that is a wonderful sign.
Spez: AMC is definitely behind this show. They greenlit a second season before the first episode even aired. Now that it’s debuted to the highest ratings in the network’s history, I’m sure it will be around for a while. The whole gimmick with The Walking Dead is that it’s the horror movie that doesn’t end.
AR: Here’s to hoping the standards continue to be as high as the first episode, and the gimmick stays on course.
Video, Audio and Special features:
Video, audio and special features will not be graded as this was a TV episode.
Click on a cover to read more episode reviews of The Walking Dead.