AMC’s The Walking Dead is the best television series for scifi/horror fans since Battlestar Galactica, and in the end it has a chance of being better than Ron Moore’s science fiction epic. Based on Robert Kirkman’s awesome comic series, and developed for television and run by Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and The Mist); The Walking Dead is not what you’d expect to see on basic cable; it’s more along the lines of an HBO series or mini-series with the amount of gore they get away with here.
The first extended episode (it ran 90 minutes on AMC Halloween Night, just over an hour without commercials) sets up the series well and by the time it ends you’ll can’t wait for the second episode. The first episode is centered around Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy who awakes from a coma after being shot only to find the zombie apocalypse has happened and he appears to be the last man on Earth.
However it doesn’t take long for Rick to find other survivors in the form of a father and son, Morgan and Duane Jones, whose mother fell victim to the “fever” that turns people into zombies. Through them Rick learns a little about what’s going on, and direction in the form of Atlanta where his missing wife and son may have headed. By the time the episode ends, you know the fate of his wife and son and the cliffhanger has you begging for more.
Partially due to the source material and partially with Darabont at the helm, The Walking Dead is more like a movie than any television series on any network; including the premium cable channels. It’s paced like a great zombie suspense movie, and it’s shocking how much gore they are able to get away with. From the half-eaten corpse in the hospital at the beginning, to the multiple zombie kills via head-shot, to the devouring of a horse at the end; they definitely didn’t “PG-13” it.
But gore isn’t the show’s only selling point. There’s real drama and meat here. From Morgan having his zombie wife in his rifle crosshairs to Rick mercy killing a torso zombie, there’s stuff you just don’t expect from a television series. It’s film quality drama, and that’s where you can really see Darabont’s touch. That’s not to say there isn’t action and edge of your seat suspense. The ending in Atlanta and whole sequence around and under the tank is as good as you’d get from any horror/thriller in the theaters.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights at 10:00pm on AMC. Episodes are also streamed on the official site here (the first episode is currently up if you missed it), and you can purchase a HD season pass for the six-episode first season on iTunes for $16. If there’s one series you don’t want to be left out on, it’s The Walking Dead.