Surely you're all watching THE WALKING DEAD on AMC, yes?
American Movie Classics' live-action adaptation of Robert Kirkman's long-running Image Comics horror series of the same name has been getting a lot of press for the last couple weeks, thanks to its blockbuster ratings. Getting picked up for a second season after only two weeks on the air is no small feat, either.
But neither its ratings or its early pickup are the reasons you should be talking about it. THE WALKING DEAD isn't good merely by comic-book adaptation standards. It's flat-out one of the best things on television -- if you have the stomach for it, that is.
THE WALKING DEAD (both comics and television versions) tells the story of Rick Grimes, a Georgia sheriff's deputy who awakes from a coma in a deserted hospital following being shot in the line of duty, only to discover that while he was out, the zombie apocalypse has taken place, humanity is near extinction (or at least it sure seems that way), and ravenous undead flesheaters are everywhere, with a single bite transmitting the virus that will kill the victim from fever, the return them to motion (if not life) as a zombie. It's an ingenious way to bring the viewer in to the story, as you experience through Rick's eyes the realization of what has happened while he was unconscious as he slowly pieces together the horrible, hopeless reality that now lies before him. Once he gets his bearings, Rick sets off to find his missing wife and son, heading to the nearest big city, Atlanta, and boy, is that a bad idea...
Anchoring the television series is Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, who plays the everyman protagonist role perfectly. He's not a superman or an action hero, just a desperate guy trying like hell to keep it together so he can find his family. Two moments from Lincoln's performance stand out for me from the first two episodes: in the first, once he's decided he needs to go to Atlanta and can't find any more gas for his truck, he sees a nearby horse in a corral, and has a heart-to-heart conversation with it before he tries to lead it out to the barn, as if, as two of the only living creatures left on the planet, he needed to make sure they were in agreement before proceeding. A small moment of humor and humanity in such a bleak world. The other moment takes place in the second episode, just after Rick has subdued a psycho racist who has been threatening a group of the only living humans he's yet encountered. Once he's handcuffed the thug to a pipe, Rick holds a gun to the the man's head and explains that he needs to get on board, that there were no color divisions anymore, only the living and the dead. The way Lincoln plays it you can tell that Rick is debating whether or not to kill the man, that he knows it would be the smartest thing to do, but he just can't bring himself to cross that line yet. A marvelously subtle performance.
THE WALKING DEAD airs Sunday nights at 10 on AMC. And while you're at it, pick up the first couple of trade paperbacks at your local comic shop as well. Neither will disappoint.
Scott Tipton still feels sorry for that poor horse. If you have questions about THE WALKING DEAD or comics in general, send 'em here.