Out of all the new shows I started watching this year (and there were quite a few), the only one that I stuck with and thoroughly enjoyed was AMC’s The Walking Dead. It’s not too surprising either. Considering the show comes to us courtesy of AMC and Frank Darabont, two names synonymous with excellence, there was a ton of potential behind the show. Based on the Robert Kirkman comic book series of the same name, Darabont and AMC bring us one of the finest televisions shows that we’ve seen in a long time. Now that the series has hit Blu-Ray and with season two coming shortly, it’s time to take a look back at the show.
The Walking Dead drops us into the all too familiar setting of the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse. Now before you groan and leave this page, bear with me. Yes, the setting for the show is familiar, but that doesn’t mean you should disregard it. We follow a group of survivors who band together and travel across the US, fighting off the hordes of zombies and looking for safety and refuge. Leading the pack is Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy. Along the way, there are struggles, conflicts, dire situations and everything else you’d expect from a show of this nature.
Putting the theme of human struggle first, and having devilishly entertaining zombie gore come second, the show really succeeds on an emotional level. The struggles and conflicts that arise are not only from the zombies, but they also come from within the group, making the threat appear on two levels.
Relationships are tested, egos are built, feuds develop and not everyone gets along. The best part about it, is instead of turning into a sappy soap opera, the witty and intelligent writing crafts these characters and their conflicts so well that we can’t help but to feel compelled to watch as they struggle to maintain their humanity. It’s the well defined character development moments that propel the show beyond the usual zombie fare. It asks difficult questions and forces us to ask ourselves where our moral line would lie in a world such as this and how do we stay human in a collapsed society, with no one compelling us to do so?
The drama is set against a backdrop of some of the best blood/gore effects I’ve ever seen for a zombie production, whether it be film, TV etc. The violence is astonishingly real and the gore and blood is about as gruesome as it can get. The show means business and being on AMC, nothing is held back. Graphic violence is plentiful and don’t expect anything less. Some of the zombie kills here are straight up jaw dropping.
The bleak apocalyptic world that is crafted here is also very effective. The all too real threat of a horde of zombies is always present and there are some truly scary moments. Unease and tension are constantly in the air. The emptiness of the world is captured wonderfully and the shocks aren’t cheap, rather they’re genuine and visceral. It also helps that the show’s production values are great, making it feel very often like a film.
Through the criminally short first season, made up of only six episodes, we are treated to tensioned drama, bloody and graphic zombie kills, intriguing characters, genuine moments of terror and gripping story arcs. It’s a brief but immensely satisfying first season that will undoubtedly leave you wanting more.
The Blu-Ray contains all six episodes of the first season. The episodes are as follows: Days Gone Bye, Guts, Tell It To The Frogs, Vatos, Wildfire and TS-19. Along with the complete first season, we also get a healthy amount of special features. They include:
- The Making of The Walking Dead
- Inside The Walking Dead (Episodes 1-6)
- A Sneak Peek with Robert Kirkman
- Behind the Scenes Zombie Make-Up Tips
- Convention Panel with Producers
- The Walking Dead Trailer
- Zombie School
- Bicycle Girl
- On Set with Robert Kirkman
- Hanging with Steven Yeun
- Inside Dale’s RV
- On Set with Andrew Lincoln
Some of it is throwaway and some of it is worth watching. The best feature is the 30 minute making of, which explores the themes behind the show and how they went about adapting it for television. We also get to see how some of the more interesting scenes were shot, how the makeup was done, and more. Overall, a pretty thorough making of feature.
We also get individual making of features for each episode. These don’t run very long but are still a nice addition. Being episode specific, they deal with the content/making of the particular episode, rather than the series as a whole, which is a nice change of pace from the making of feature.
The sneak peek with Robert Kirkman is mainly a promo piece and the behind the scenes make up tips is just an extended look at the makeup. The convention panel is the Comic Con panel and the remaining 6 features are all short little behind the scenes looks that probably could have just been added to the main making of feature.
On the audio and video fronts, The Walking Dead mostly succeeds. The show’s production values are high to begin with, so it’s going to look good regardless. Visually, the image looks great. A bit of softness here and there doesn’t mean that it doesn’t excel in other areas. Detail and contrast are great and blood and gore have never looked better. Colours are accurate and while there is a bit of grain, it just adds to the show’s gritty feel. On the whole, the image has a bit of a washed out look but that’s what they were going for as it brings on that sense of impending doom and danger.
When it comes to the audio, it’s a pretty strong track. Directionality is great and whether it’s an explosion, a gunshot, raindrops etc, it all sounds great. The unnerving music envelops you and the zombies, whether they are moaning, groaning or just shuffling around all sound perfect. Surround activity is solid and you’ll surely find yourself jumping out of your seat numerous times throughout the season.
When it comes to TV, The Walking Dead is near the top. There aren’t many shows that are better. Despite the all too short first season, the show is still an excellent and extremely well made piece of television that should leave fans wanting more. The Blu-Ray presentation while not the best, is still strong and with a healthy amount of special features, I can’t think of any reason not to buy this one. Zombie fan or not, I think everyone can find something to like in this show.
When it comes to TV, The Walking Dead is near the top. There aren't many shows that are better. Despite the all too short first season, the show is still an excellent and extremely well made piece of television that should leave fans wanting more.