Hello, dear readers!
Unlike my other TV reviews–which focus on the entire show after I’ve viewed it to completion–I’ve decided to write up my thoughts on each season of The Walking Dead. Please note that I’m using Netflix, which currently has only the first four seasons uploaded onto its site.
I was urged by my hairdresser, Tess, to start watching this show. While she usually doesn’t watch shows with the supernatural in them, she loves this zombie post-apocalypse show. She loves it so much that she’s not only urged me, but also my mom to watch it. (My mom doesn’t like watching shows with gruesome violence; but she does like shows with action or drama.)
So, at Tess’s urging, and because I was curious, I clicked play.
Funny enough, I don’t scare easily anymore. I used to hate horror with a fierce passion, up until college. Now, I’ve come to appreciate good horror films and shows, where the directors and actors know how to snap those stereotypes in half. (Like Cabin in the Woods, which deeply impressed me with its shattering of horror tropes.)
This is based off of my memory of what happens in the first season. If you want to skip this part and go straight to my review, feel free to do so. There will be spoilers! You’ve been warned.
The Walking Dead is about a sudden zombie post-apocalypse, which has yet to be fully explained. Our main protagonist, Rick Grimes, gets shot while dealing with some criminals. He ends up in the hospital. When he awakens, he’s alone and thrust into a strange new world: bodies litter the streets. Upon realizing that his wife, Lori, and their 12-year-old son, Carl, have fled their home, Rick vows to find his family.
He meets Morgan and his son, Duane, who help Rick learn about the infected zombies, called walkers. Sound attracts them. The smell of living flesh draws them. Only a blow to the head–from a gunshot wound, arrow, or an ax–will fully stop them.
Morgan’s wife was attacked. Because he couldn’t bring himself to kill her before she reanimated, his wife turned and became a walker. At one point during the first season, he tries to kill her while taking out some other walkers in the street, but he can’t bring himself to do it. Personally, I really liked this scene, because it shows how much Morgan still values the person that his wife used to be, before she was a walker. I also felt how painful that moment was for him.
Rick, after taking a shower and getting guns from the station, he reluctantly parts ways with Morgan and Duane, and heads for Atlanta. But, instead of a safe haven, he finds that it’s swarming with walkers. To put it lightly, he has to abandon the horse he’s using–because the walkers hastily start devouring it–and hurries inside a tank. There, he finds a grenade. Luckily, a man by the name of Glenn reaches him on the walkie-talkie system that’s inside the tank. After escaping with Glenn’s help, he meets a group of survivors. Realizing that he put everyone’s lives in danger, the group tries to find a way out.
Merle, who is a sexist, racist man, ends up chained to a pipe for his racist and threats towards T-Dog and his inability to work well with the group.
Finally, Rick and Glenn camouflage themselves using the guts of a dead walker, because Rick figures that if they “smell like the dead” then the walkers won’t go after them like they do when they smell like the living. Then, they head out into the street in the hope of hijacking a couple of vehicles. They are doing okay when it starts to rain. With their protection gone, they run, managing to get a truck and a sports car. Glenn uses noise to distract the walkers, while Rick gets the others from the department store. T-Dog, who is in charge of the key to the handcuffs, tries to free Merle, but drops the key down a hole. Worried about being left behind, he runs, telling the man that he’s sorry for leaving him. But, he uses a chain and a padlock to secure the door, in the hopes that the walkers won’t be able to get to him. Rick manages to get everyone but Merle safely into the truck.
Glenn goes on ahead of the group in the sports car, and finds the camp of survivors that’s headed by Shane–Rick’s best friend and colleague.
Lori and Carl are in this group. Lori, who believed that her husband is dead, was sleeping with Shane. She still kept Rick’s wedding ring on her necklace, though, probably in his memory.
When Rick and the others in the truck show up, shortly after Glenn, Lori and Carl are relieved. Andrea, one of the group members from Atlanta, is overjoyed when she sees that her sister, Amy, is in Shane’s camp.
It is this combined group of people who band together, despite their differences, in a chance for survival.
The season ends (spoiler alert) with Rick and the others desperate for a place to hide after traveling for days, heading towards the CDC. Once they reach the CDC, the group realizes that this might not be the haven they were hoping for: the streets are littered with bodies, and nightfall is rapidly approaching. Rick tries to get the attention of whoever is manning the security camera, and to his relief, Dr. Jenner responds to his plea.
Inside the compound, the group learns that everyone else either left the site or “opted out”–meaning they committed suicide in fear of the walkers outside.
The group learns that the generators are almost finished working. Dr. Jenner explains that once the clock runs out, the building will explode.
Panicking, Rick and his group beg Jenner to release them. But Jenner, who lost his test subject (TS-19) who was also his walker infested wife, believes that death is better than the outside world. He’s been planning to commit suicide, and thinks that it’s best that everyone in Rick’s group joins him.
Eventually, Jenner let’s the group leave the science section of the building, but not before Dr. Jenner whispers something in Rick’s ear. Andrea, and Jacqui, remain behind. They too have lost hope. Dale also stays behind, only to convince Andrea that suicide isn’t the answer. He also reminds her that she and her sister gave him hope when the three met. Because she can’t allow Dale’s death, Andrea agrees to leave the CDC.
Rick and the others are trying to smash the windows of the CDC, since the doors are locked. Bullets and chairs do nothing to break the glass. Carol shows Rick the grenade that she removed from his clothes while washing them back at Shane’s camp. The grenade breaks one of the large windows, allowing the group to escape to their vehicles. Andrea and Dale duck down, having left the building a while after the rest of the group escaped, just as the building explodes.
This is the end of the first season.
I usually don’t watch shows with zombies in them, so I enjoyed this first season a great deal. For readers who know a thing or two about zombie myths, I think the walkers are probably slow zombies, since their reanimated state allows them to shuffle, walk, and occasionally trot. Which is a good thing for our protagonists, otherwise there would be more trouble and more deaths.
Dr. Jenner’s research in episode six was interesting to me, because this was the first time in the show that there’s actually some scientific estimation as to what causes the walkers to exist. As he shows Rick’s group a video of TS-19, who was bit and infected and agreed to being filmed, Jenner explains that “it invades the brain like meningitis” as the synapses in the test subject’s brain starts to die. “The adrenal glands hemorrhage. The brain goes in shut down, then the major organs–” He pauses. “Then death.”
Then, Jenner shows the group TS-19 reanimating as a walker. As red starts to glow inside the brain of the patient, Lori asks, “It restarts the brain?” which prompts Jenner to reply, “No. Just the brain stem. Basically, it get’s them up and moving.” He also adds, because Rick believes that they are dead, “You tell me. The frontal lobe–the you–doesn’t come back. Just a shell, driven by mindless instinct.”
While there’s mostly fear of the unknown with the walkers, this information only makes it seem worse due to Dr. Jenner’s speculations that this could start because it’s an infection. I also find it strange that the CDC has this information. Granted, the footage doesn’t survive because the building blows up, which leads me to think that maybe the CDC is also covering up their tracks somehow, using the threat of deadly diseases as a cover-up.
But that discussion is for another time. It’s just food for thought at this point.
Overall, the show establishes a sense of community, which is common in post apocalyptic situations. I really like how there’s an emphasis on trying to hold on to humanity and rituals, like working on math problems at a picnic table. The adults, mostly women, do laundry in Shane’s camp. The men hunt walkers and look for food. Lori cuts Carl’s hair, despite his complaints.
I also really like the character development, especially in the main characters. Carl, at this point in the show, is still a fairly regular 12-year-old kid. He’s forbidden to carry any kind of weapon, because Lori thinks it’s not safe for her son. Shane, even though I grew to hate him pretty quickly, has an interesting arc as a character. He obviously loves Lori, and probably had feelings for her before the zombie apocalypse. For about three months, he gets to live a fantasy of being Lori’s partner and Carl’s father figure. I really liked how his feelings for Lori didn’t just disappear just because Rick returns to the camp alive. He grows jealous, even needy, of Lori’s relationship with Rick.
While I’ve read that there’s a love triangle between Lori-Shane-Rick, I didn’t really see that continuing once Rick returned to his family. Lori goes back to her husband, who she clearly loves, and deals with Shane’s advances in a mature manner. She continues to explain that she was only with him because she believed that Rick was dead, and that their relationship was nothing more.
In episode six, Shane comes very close to sexually assaulting Lori. He also happens to be drunk at the time. He stops because she scratches him on the neck in self defense. I’m still surprised that she didn’t tell someone, because that was a moment of violence that shouldn’t have gone without consequences.
Rick, as the main character, learns to adapt in a new environment. He uses his skills as a sheriff to form connections with other people, and how to navigate dangerous situations. He’s still a family man, and still upholds his moral principles.
Overall, I really enjoyed the first season.