Preview: The Walking Dead

The network that brought you Mad Men now brings you zombies

The Walking Dead

In the US: Sundays, 10/9c, AMC. Starts 31st October
In the UK: Fridays, 10pm, FX UK. Starts 5th November

Ooh, ooh. I think we’re turning a corner. Looks like the world is just about getting fed up with vampires and possibly even werewolves as well (you can return your Team Edward and Team Jacob armbands), and zombies are coming back into fashion. Oh frabduous day.

Because shortly following the UK’s Dead Set, we now have an American zombie TV show, one a tad higher quality than The Vampire Diaries. Bizarrely, though, it’s on AMC.

AMC’s last project was Rubicon and it’s best known for Mad Men and Breaking Bad, so maybe you wouldn’t naturally assume it was the best place for an adaption of a comic book about zombies. Nevertheless, it turns out with Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) in charge, AMC’s actually a very good place for a quite moving and gory story about a guy (Andrew Lincoln of Teachers) who wakes up to find almost the entire world over-run with zombies.

Waking up in an empty hospital after weeks in a coma, County Sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) finds himself utterly alone. The world as he knows it is gone, ravaged by a zombie epidemic. The Walking Dead tells the story of the weeks and months that follow after the apocalypse. Based on Robert Kirkman’s hugely successful and popular comic book series, AMC’s new original series, The Walking Dead, premieres with a 90-minute episode on Halloween night: Oct. 31 at 10/9c. Written and executive produced by three-time Academy® Award-nominee Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile), who also directs the pilot, and executive produced by Gale Anne Hurd (The Terminator, Aliens), the series debuts during AMC Fearfest, the network’s annual blockbuster marathon of thriller and horror films.

The Walking Dead is an epic, edge-of-your-seat drama where personal struggles are magnified against a backdrop of moment-to-moment survival. A survivalist story at its core, the series explores how the living are changed by the overwhelming realization that those who survive can be far more dangerous that the mindless walkers roaming the earth. They themselves have become the walking dead.

Shot on location in Atlanta, The Walking Dead is led by a cast that includes Lincoln (Teachers, Love Actually) as Rick Grimes, Jon Bernthal (The Pacific, The Ghost Writer) as Shane Walsh, Sarah Wayne Callies (Prison Break) as Lori Grimes, Laurie Holden (The Shield, Stephen King’s The Mist) as Andrea, Jeffrey DeMunn (Stephen King’s The Mist, The Green Mile) as Dale, Steven Yeun (The Big Bang Theory) as Glen, Emma Bell (The Bedford Diaries) as Amy and Chandler Riggs (Get Low) as Carl Grimes.

Joining Darabont and Hurd as executive producers are Kirkman; David Alpert from Circle of Confusion; and Charles “Chic” Eglee (Dexter, The Shield). Jack LoGiudice (Sons of Anarchy, Resurrection Blvd) serves as co-executive producer with Denise Huth (Stephen King’s The Mist) as producer. The Walking Dead was written by Darabont, Eglee, LoGiudice, Kirkman, Glen Mazzara and Adam E. Fierro. In addition to Darabont, directors for the series include Michelle MacLaren, Gwyneth Horder Payton, Johan Renck, Ernest Dickerson and Guy Ferland.

The creative team also includes Directors of Photography David Tattersall and David Boyd, Production Designers Greg Melton and Alex Hadju, Costume Designer Peggy Stamper, and Editors Hunter M. Via, Julius Ramsay and Sidney Wolinsky. The effects team includes veteran special effects makeup designer Greg Nicotero, special effects coordinator Darrell Pritchett, and visual effects supervisors Sam Nicholson and Jason Sperling.

Is it any good?
The Walking Dead is a mixture of pathos, frights, gore and characters, in which – much as with Resident Evil – the whole world’s fallen apart, zombies roam everywhere, and a lone bunch of people have to survive agains the odds and the loss of their loved ones, knowing that all it takes for the end to come is for one of the millions of zombies out there to hurt them.

Now, if you were coming to The Walking Dead expecting either brain-free viewing full of zombie slaughter or comedy, forget it. This is a show that, much as Ultraviolet avoided using the word vampire, doesn’t want to say “zombie”, rather than “walkers”, as that might spoil the realism of it all. This is a show that’s goes to great pains to try to treat this as though it was a real situation and to say that death is terrible and even if someone becomes “a walker”, that doesn’t make killing them any easier than it would be otherwise.

Most of the episode follows Andrew Lincoln’s deputy sheriff as he wakes up, Day of the Triffids/28 Days Later-style in hospital, and discovers that while he’s been out of it, virtually everyone in the world has died and turned into a zombie. Okay, so how he managed to survive unconscious without food, etc, we won’t go into, and move straight on to some quite horrific scenes of death and misery that should put the willies into you.

Eventually, Lincoln starts to come across survivors as he goes looking for his wife and son and soon enough he bumps into them, including fellow Brit in disguise Lennie James, no doubt using the transferable survivalist skills he had in Jericho. Although there’s little sign of it yet, much of future episodes is going to revolve around a group of survivors he knew before The Event and their relationships – once he meets them, of course.

Both Darabont and Lincoln do a pretty good job of making us care for Lincoln’s character, and there are some lovely scenes with Lincoln breaking down at the (probable) loss of his family, wondering if he’s still dreaming, working out that his family must still be alive, and just delighting in a simple shower in a world without running hot water. The scenes in which zombies in various states of existence (some without legs) come after Lincoln are well executed, blood-soaked and frightening – these aren’t brain-dead zombies: they have smarts.

How the rest of the series will evolve once it changes from lone survivor (à la I am Legend) to a group of survivors with possibly soap storylines – and once Darabont relinquishes writing duties – is obviously something we’ll have to wait to see. But as an opener, this is pretty impressive – apart from the dodgy Southern accents. Meh, everything has to have a flaw, I guess.


  • Rob Buckley

    I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.