The Waking Dead is a post apocalyptic horror suspense drama series that centers around a Sheriff’s Deputy Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) who gets shot before the world is overrun by zombies. He wakes up from a coma to find his town in ruins and the streets occupied by “walkers.” Unsure of where to go, he tries to search for clues to find his missing wife and child and fills in the blank about the months that he’s been unconscious with the aid of survivors he encounters throughout his search. The six-episode first season dealt with Rick, and how he emerges as the leader of the Atlanta survivors and their search for safe haven while the first half of the 13-episode second season revolves around the group dealing with their personl demons as secrets are exposed and motives are gradually unravelled on top of the zombie threat.
The series is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same title. It was developed for AMC by Frank Daranbont and is currently airing its second season fresh from the mid season hiatus to banging ratings.
What sets TWD apart from other TV series, in my opinion, aside from its hard core horror premise is the film level quality of the entire series. While the premise is not new, presenting this type of genre and story in serial format was very risky on the part of the producers as viewers might easily get tired of seeing people running around from zombies and finding themselves in dead ends.
However, viewers can find themselves hooked to the series for a variety of reasons. First, the series does not scrimp on the gore, serving up scenes with excellent effects and editing. Think Dawn of the Dead/Resident Evil/28 Days Later but for the small screen. The cinematography, framing and treatment is similar to another gritty TV hit Spartacus and shows an equal level of lack of inhibition as the Andy Whitfield starrer.
Second, the series makes itself unique from other zombie offerings by shifting the focus on the characters of the survivors. There is a constant evolution of the characters which makes them more than one dimensional stereotypical figures that play only a certain part. They do not lose their humanity and their continuous moral battles, arguments and second guessing is a testament to their multi-facetedness. Some characters who start off as assw*pes begin to show signs of soft-heartedness in the second season, while those on the brink of insanity find themselves pushing forward to the deep end. Some characters become more endearing while some you want to squish with the heels of your shoe. I think this is a success on the part of the producers — making the viewers emotionally invested in the series despite its fictional premise. Some might even find themselves rooting for the walkers (not undead, because the series deals with a phenomenon wherein the victims die but brain stems are reignited to revive their motor skills but not their personalities or humanity).
Back to the list of things to like about this series — the suspense never ever lets up. Surprises abound in every corner and viewers wll find themselves blindsided despite the clues left in various parts of the series.
My favorite character, aside from Rick, is Glenn (Steven Yeun), the Asian guy who cares about everybody and does things at the expense of his own safety. Glenn, despite his role as the group’s gopher, is actually one of the strongest characters in the series — smart and resourceful whose main weakness is probably his devotion to his friends. I won’t surprised if he has the most fans out of the lot. My most hated character is probably Andrea (Laurie Holden), whom I initially thought was going to be an asset to the group but has lately turned out into a trigger happy bitch. I’m torn about Shane (Jon Bernthal), Rick’s best friend and his wife’s former lover — Shane, who has deluded himself into thinking that Lori (Sarah Wayne Calllies) harbors feelings for him and is only staying with Rick out of obligation. Shane is a ruthless bastard when he wants to be but his struggle between wanting to be the top dog and his genuine love for Rick, who is like his brother is always a gray area that ties audiences up in knots, myself included. I know the series won’t be the same without this pseudo-villain.
The series, which was recently picked up for a third season, is one that I will surely tune in to for a good many episodes. Its the type of series that I appreciate because it has a heart, and deals with morality despite the despondency of the situation. It is excellently made and plays like a movie. Too bad viewers have to wait a full week to find out what happens next. That’s my only complaint, I guess.