TV Review: The Walking Dead

FX, Friday nights from 10pm

AN increasingly listless litany of vapid vampire tales have left the bloodsuckers sadly lacking in bite, forcing Hollywood to cast its eye over a different breed of monster with which to chill our bones… Cue the shambling zombie, the resurrected undead with a perchance for human flesh, the favourite subject of director George Romero and now undergoing something of a renaissance.

Writer-director Frank Darabont, the man behind The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, is the driving force behind a TV adaptation of Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s acclaimed Image Comics series The Walking Dead (although credit must go to artist Tony Moore for his work on the first six issues).

Premiering to massive ratings on the US AMC network, and going out in the UK on FX, the series has already been renewed for a second season, despite just the first of the first run of six episodes having been screened so far.

Although the story will develop more of an ensemble cast feel in the future, the premiere focuses largely on smalltown police deputy and family man Rick Grimes, shot by bank robbers and left comatose while the rest of the world experiences the zombie apocalypse. Awakening into a world where the dead have risen and are hungry for living sustenance, he resolves to find his missing wife Lori and young son Carl in the ruins of Atlanta, little knowing the extent of the zombie hoards he will encounter there…

Making his US TV debut as Rick is none other than Brit actor Andrew Lincoln, far removed from his previous roles in This Life and Teachers, and not only pulling off an excellent Georgian accent but also doing a fantastic job of portraying a man caught up in horrors beyond his comprehension, driven to survive only by his love for his family.

Although Rick is the point-of-view character for the bulk of the comics series, he is also supported by a host of other survivors taken from different walks of life, and we catch a short glimpse of some of these in this first episode, including his partner Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), who seems to have begun an adulterous relationship with Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies). Other characters set to have more of a major role include Dale (Jeffrey DeMunn), Andrea (Laurie Holden) and Rick’s son Carl (Chandler Riggs).

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Although the premiere largely follows the events of the comic, Darabont has promised future deviations which will ensure even ardent readers of the book are kept on their toes as to how events pan out, starting with this week’s episode, which expands upon events in Atlanta to introduce a group of survivors taking shelter in an department store...

High production values give the series an epic, cinematic feel, yet Darabont keeps it grounded with a focus on real people caught up in extraordinary events. As in the comics, the zombies are not the only threat in this post-apocalyptic world, as many of the survivors prove more than capable to sinking to new depths in a bid to stay alive.

Definitely one to watch, and if you’re unable to catch it on FX, rest assured that a series this popular is sure to be picked up by a terrestrial channel before too long, and if not there’s always the DVD box set to get your hands on.

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