Television Revision: The Walking Dead – Season 1

The Walking Dead S1

By Andrew Williams
December 11, 2013

Television Revision is a weekly feature in which our tuned in TV critic trawls through the best the box has to offer, giving you a primer on some of history’s finest shows (and warning you away from the specific episodes – or even seasons! – that might have ruined their reputation). 

Now, this is a story all about how… Sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes from a coma and finds himself stumbling through a post-apocalyptic landscape where zombies walk the Earth. Against overwhelming odds, he sets out to find his wife and son…

The Walking Dead S1

Happy days: Although it may have been a risk at the time, The Walking Dead seems like a slam-dunk in retrospect. It’s got a classic premise, beloved source material, acclaimed writer/director Frank Darabont at the helm, a cast of solid performers, and zombies eating people’s throats before being shot in the eye-socket. The Walking Dead doesn’t just have potential; it oozes potential from every gaping wound.

Unfortunately, after a six-episode first season, potential remains its defining quality. The behind-the-scenes dramas that have plagued The Walking Dead, in spite of its ratings success, suggest a lack of one primary creative voice (usually a feature of the best television shows) and this first season is full of Darabontian glimpses shining briefly through an otherwise unforgivably dull patchwork quilt of ideas. There’s the occasional striking image or compelling character moment, but they’re quickly lost amongst the dour humourlessness of the writing and deeply uninspired plotting.

While the first and last episodes of the season are actually very good, perhaps the major issue confronting this season of The Walking Dead is simply its length. Six episodes are just not enough for a story of this magnitude, and Season One ends up feeling like an extended prequel, rather than a complete story arc. So I guess that means I wish there were more episodes to flesh out the story. Be careful what you wish for.

The final frontier: As a taste of what The Walking Dead might hope to accomplish in the future, these first six episodes are passable enough. But as a standalone story arc they leave a lot to be desired.

The Walking Dead S1

Top two episodes: 1) Days Gone Bye. I would argue that The Walking Dead has still not produced an episode as good as the pilot, which has a haunting, sparse quality to it that serves as a brutal introduction to this potentially fascinating world. 6) TS-19. A stunning guest turn by Noah Emmerich and a unique setting finally lends this show the emotional clout it needs to become great television, and points towards an exciting future.

Worst episode: 4) Vatos. The only episode of the first season written by Robert Kirkman, author of the original comics. It is symptomatic of the source material’s worst tendencies: deathly dull diversions with a last-act zombie attack to spice things up a bit.

Season MVP: Having watched three and a half seasons of The Walking Dead, I would argue that this show has only produced two truly memorable characters, and neither of them lasted much longer than an episode. The first is  Emmerich’s CDC scientist Edwin Jenner, who is one of the few characters that actually spends time thinking about what the zombie apocalypse actually means, rather than where he’ll get his next gun from, and he elevates the last episode tremendously. As for the other, he’s coming in Season Two

2.5/5

The Walking Dead is available on Quickflix.

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