Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Thoughts On The Walking Dead

I love The Walking Dead graphic novel.  I got to meet Robert Kirkman, get his autograph, and sit-in on the Walking Dead panel at New York Comic Con.  So, as you can see, The Walking Dead means a great deal to me.  It is a fantastic work of fiction and is an ideal candidate for a television series.  I was thrilled to hear that AMC would be picking up the show, seeing as they have an amazing track record (Breaking Bad and Mad Men anyone?) , and that Frank Darabont would be involved in the project.

Now that the first season has come and gone, I feel that as a fan, I should share the things that make me feel cautiously optimistic about the show.  The premier was some of the best television I’ve seen in some time.  It used a lot of the early memorable scenes from the comic, the acting was spot on, the writing was sharp,  it was beautifully shot, and Bear McCreary’s score was 30 shades of awesome.  The premier managed to cater to The Walking Dead fanatic as well as the newcomer.  This is the challenge that the show faces: Making the show accessible to a new audience while keeping the rabid fan base happy in the process.

Six episodes hardly constitutes a full season, at least here in the states.  That’s more along the lines of a miniseries.  I was okay with the short but sweet season, it gave us enough to salivate over for the next year, and it wasn’t too longwinded.  The primary complaint I keep hearing is that the show is deviating too much from the comic.  As a reader of the comic, that may be true, but they didn’t go crazy.  They introduced a few new characters, they explain the origins of the walkers, and they are creating a few sub-plots that aren’t in the comic.  So what?  This is an entirely different medium, we can’t expect everything to match the comic panel for panel.

There are some themes, scenes, and other notable things in the comic that I’m sure we won’t ever be seeing.  This is due largely to the fact that there is just some absurdly violent scenes that I feel just wouldn’t translate to television.  Kirkman has no qualms killing off key characters if it means moving the story forward in the comic.  It should be interesting to see how they tackle this with new and old characters in the show.  I should also note that the show manages to fill in some gaps from the comics early days, which is something I found very interesting. 

I was very impressed with how Darabont was able to retain not only the look and feel of the comic, but was also conscious of the fact that the comic is all about the characters.  Thanks to sharp writing and strong performances, we are able to see the characters deal with loss, desperation, sorrow, and madness.  How far are they willing to go to survive? How do they cope?  It’s these sort of questions that present themselves in the comic and the show did a great job addressing some of the same questions.  I suppose that’s what makes the show exciting, the fact that not everything is the same as the comic, and fans shouldn’t expect it to be. 

There were a couple of episodes that were a bit drab and left some questions unanswered.  We still have no idea what happened to Michael Rooker’s character (Merle Dixon) in the show.  Rick and a few others go searching for him, but we just assume he’s run off somewhere.  The audience is given a few bits of evidence that he may be alive, but they could also interpret this as him being dead.  There is also speculation that Rooker will play the Governor character from the comic book.  For those who follow the comic, Rooker would be amazing at that role. 

The show’s strongest episodes were the premier and the finale, the two most important episodes.  The episodes between do a good job of introducing some new characters, building relationships, and creating some interesting sub-plots.  AMC continues their trend of phenomenal programming with The Walking Dead.  Now that the series has been renewed for a second season and Darabont starting fresh with a freelance writing staff, I can only imagine what’s on the horizon.  Hopefully we’ll see more Rooker.

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