Warning: This review may contain traces of spoilers, and may have come into contact with spoilers from movies, comics and other TV shows.
The mini-series known as The Walking Dead season 1 has wrapped up! I say mini-series because this season only had a total of six episodes and, unfortunately, I’d say the series as a whole suffered for it. I really have no idea why they gave The Walking Dead only six episodes – maybe it was budgetary reasons or AMC was just testing the waters to see if a show like this could float. And hey, it might turn out to have been a smart move to give the first season only a handful of episodes, but once the credits rolled, I felt a bit annoyed that everything had rushed along so quickly and ended so abruptly.
When we last left our survivors, they had just been allowed access into the CDC bunker. Before continuing the action in episode 6, however, we’re given a flashback to when Shane left Rick in his hospital bed. I felt that this scene was one of the strongest in the series so far, as I really found myself torn as to how to judge Shane’s actions in leaving Rick behind. Would I do the same thing in his (extremely dire) situation? As I’ve said before, it’s these little moral quandaries that I think make the show so good.
Following the opening credits, our heroes enter the CDC bunker and are immediately confronted by Noah Emmerich’s character Dr. Jenner who demands that they submit to blood testing in order to gain access to the facility. I’m just going to say it right now: Noah Emmerich stole the show in this episode. His portrayal of the calmly sad and almost totally insane Dr. Jenner was terrific. He succeeded in making Jenner into a character we care about while at the same time making him the antagonist. It was a powerful piece of storytelling, but the Jenner storyline wasn’t the only thing that put me on the edge of my seat in this episode.
After settling into the CDC bunker and being treated to a hearty meal with all the wine they can drink, our heroes are given a few moments to collect themselves in a safe environment – and make some drunken mistakes while they’re at it. We get some insight into what’s going on in Rick’s head. As it turns out, he isn’t the white knight that he makes himself out to be, and he’s just about ready to give up hope when he hears that there might not be anyone left in the world that can help. I should also note here that Jenner’s line about the zombie plague being “our extinction event” was a truly chilling one.
The tension between Shane and Lori finally came to a head as Shane, completely depressed and wasted on booze, came very close to raping Lori, to the point where she had to claw his face to keep him off of her. It was an intense moment, to be sure, compounded by the fact that, very shortly thereafter, we find out that everyone is locked in the bunker with a decontamination explosion about to go off! There’s literally a big ticking clock in the final act of this episode, and it does a great job of keeping the tensions running high.
I must admit that just about all of my predictions about the conclusion of the first season were completely wrong. To be fair, I was basing most of these predictions on the series of graphic novels which the TV show is apparently based on, but man, they’ve deviated significantly from the source material. The tone has remained the same, but there are loads of new characters that have been introduced, and on top of that they’re already getting into the scientific explanation of the virus that’s turning people into zombies – stuff that doesn’t appear in the comics anywhere near this soon! That isn’t to say that I’m not enjoying the show, but I sure do hope that my favourite storylines and moments from the comics aren’t dropped from the show entirely. The comics are just so good that it would be a real shame to leave them behind this early on.
As I said in my introduction, I’m really disappointed that this first season only had six episodes to work with. The final events of the episode, with the bunker exploding and several members of the group willingly staying behind to die, would have been so much more sad had we been given even just one episode more to see the characters interacting when they’re not in a constant state of alertness. As it is, the whole CDC storyline, which could have easily taken up five episodes of a normal length season, felt extremely rushed. I was just getting to like Jenner when they killed him off, and it was tragic, but not so much in a good way.
But for all my whining, the finale of The Walking Dead was still terrific television, and even the weaker episodes of this short first season were top notch stuff. I look forward to seeing what happens in season 2 (will Merle Dixon ever return?), and in the end, the thing I regret the most about season 1 is that there weren’t more episodes to tide me over until next October when The Walking Dead returns with a normal-length, 13-episode season.
5 out of 5