* I liked this a good deal more than I ended up thinking I was going to. So quiet, slow, and flat for so long. Talk about zigging where your audience expects–almost demands–for you to zag. No one was expecting the basic-cable zombie equivalent of the opening of There Will Be Blood. I’m glad that’s what we got.
* I think that that aspect of the show, and indeed most of what I liked about it, was pretty much cribbed not from Romero but from Hooper. I’ve talked about this before, but The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, not Dawn of the Dead, is really the ur-text for contemporary horror, including the zombie movies. Mostly it’s tonal, it’s the intent to really traumatize the audience rather than just shock or thrill us, but here there were a couple of shots–the cop car’s loooooong journey to the foreground in the opening shot (also a Night of the Living Dead reference), the shot of Rick walking up to the house where he finds the murder-suicide couple–that were out and out homages, I thought.
* One thing I really liked about what they did with the hospital bit that Robert Kirkman’s failure to see 28 Days Later before writing the script for The Walking Dead #1 and thereby realizing he was the “perish” in this particular “publish or perish” scenario was that it allowed Rick to discover and confront the terrible new reality without being immediately pushed into a fight or flight reaction. Rick wasn’t afforded the luxury, if that’s the word, of being able to immediately focus on his own survival. Instead, he had to shuffle around an abandoned hospital to discover a mutilated corpse in the middle of the hallway. I’ll tell you what, that bit in particular struck the “Oh no, something’s wrong, this is scary, Mommy please help” chord in my brain more than just about anything I’ve seen in a zombie movie, and it’s precisely because Rick wasn’t in any immediate danger that that could happen. Major kudos to Andrew Lincoln, who powered through his preposterously trimmed coma beard and delivered a heart-rending performance as a guy terrified and saddened beyond belief with every fresh turn of a corner or opening of a door. When he finally got the chance to sob and curl up in a fetal position, I bought it.
* I think the accusations of sexism or misogyny over the opening conversation between Rick and Shane are much ado about nothing, to be honest. It’s unpleasant to listen to, certainly, especially given recent Internet discussions. But a depiction of something is not an endorsement of that thing. Here it’s pretty clear that Shane is being made out to be a macho creep, Rick much less so but still a) a go along to get along type with his partner, which seems true; b) still a dude in a macho culture, with all that entails, and c) a guy who had a big fight with his wife and is much more focused on his very real problems with his very three-dimensional-to-him wife rather than on Shane’s stereotypes–and for whom his partner is probably playing up the “women, can’t live with ‘em, pass me the beernuts” shtick in the first place. Given the prominence of the female zombies killed–or in the case most relevant to the debate, not killed–throughout the episode, as well as Shane’s eventual relationship with Lori, I actually think a not entirely subtle message is being sent about dehumanizing women, in fact.
* Very glad to see the talented composer Bear McCreary, late of Battlestar Galactica, on the music duties. Nice little homages to Eno in 28 Days Later here, W.G. Snuffy Walden in The Stand there. Mostly absent, which, again, is astute.
* However, it was almost completely canceled out by the screechingly inappropriate white-boy hip-hop song by Wang Chung (!!!) at the end, one of the most glaring miscalculations I’ve ever seen a TV show make. Good Lord.
* Also not a fan of that bizarre shakicam coma-memory bit. I mean, I liked the way it led into Rick coming to, believing Shane was still there–that was a great way to get around the 28 Days Later version of this particular set-up–but the shot itself was so cheesy and ugly. With both that and the Wang Chung song, I just wonder, did no one in the crew or at the network say, “Hm, Frank, I’m not sure that works”?
* Neither does CGI splatter, at least not here. This simply renews my respect for what Stallone managed in Rambo.
* It was really, really hard for me to handle the horse thing. Really hard. Tony Soprano hard.
* I’ll be back next week.