What started as a small time graphic novel by Robert Kirkman has exploded in to a world wide epidemic. Zombie films have always been popular, especially since Night of the Living Dead by George Romero. Many people have tried to create something similar and have failed, even Romero’s latest work, Survival of the Dead springs to mind, leaves a lot to be desired.
When Kirkman was interviewed he said he was inspired by the helicopter scene in the Dawn of the Dead. He found himself asking questions about who was on the helicopter and where it was going? That led him to write as he describes “a never ending zombie movie”. A story that follows a small group of survivors as they struggle to come to terms with the new world around them, and the trials that they face in everyday life. It is also the only zombie storyline that retains the same characters throughout. Kirkman was insistent that he didn’t want to use the word zombie, he had created a world where the Romero films had never been made, and as such people had no idea what to do or how to kill these things that they where faced with.
The main characters throughout is Rick Grimes. A small town police man who is shot, and ends up in a coma while the world falls apart around him. When he wakes he finds himself in a deserted hospital, the atmospheric brilliance of the opening scenes should not be understated, and it sets the show up superbly. Upon leaving the hospital he finds his wife and son gone, he heads to Atlanta upon hearing rumours of the military having control of the city. The first season, only six episodes long, tried to pack in as much emotion and as many zombies as it could, and while it made fantastic viewing, it didn’t give much room for character expansion. One of the men responsible for bring The Walking Dead to our screens was Frank Darabont.
He worked tirelessly on season one and actually wrote the pilot episode, however he was fired before the filming of season two started. In an interview he joked that he had been fired because of his constant moaning about the network cuts, after the network had already announced to the producers that they would not only be cutting the budget of the series from $3.4 million to $2.7 million but demanding an increase from six episodes to thirteen. The cast and crew where informed of the decision at a lunch meeting and given the simple explanation of “It’s not working”.
Season two has given us the chance to learn more about the characters and has really brought them to life. The television network expanded the show to 13 episodes in season two, and while some fans have complained that it is now too slow, others have loved it. I personally am happy with what they’ve done – of course everyone wants to see zombies lurking behind every corner, which is fine in a Hollywood film, but in a television series we need to know the characters.
Having been a fan of the graphic novels for a few years, I was concerned when I heard that Andrew Lincoln was to be cast as Rick Grimes. I have no doubts that he is a fine actor, but a British actor playing an American? Thankfully it has worked, he has played the part fantastically well, and his accent is a lot more convincing than Hugh Lauries in House. But the real plaudits have to go to Jon Berthnal for his role as Shane, he has to portray a man of real evil, a man that would kill anyone to survive and he is my personal favourite.
The second season recently started again, and nobody could have asked for a more emotional beginning. With the first half of the season centred around searching for Sophia, to find her in the barn was a fantastic touch, and for Carl to say that he would have shot her himself shows what a cold world the survivors now face. What has surprised me is how different Kirkman the first season to the books. Out of the original 20 members of the camp, only 10 feature in the book. He has started to bring it more in line with the novels now, starting to show that while the walking dead to pose a huge threat to our survivors, the real threat is from each other.
With the show starting to come more in line with the books, the story line could become similar as well. In the books, once they have cleared the barn, they leave in search of their very own sanctuary. On their travel they find a housing estate, which has already been alluded to in this season when Shane and Andrea went looking for Sophia. They meet more survivors and wind up taking refuge in an abandoned prison. Now I obviously don’t want to delve in to this story too much but if they have taken the end of season two in this direction, or even plan to take season three there, it would be fantastic. It shows how much danger humans pose to each other, and would compliment the scene in the bar.
The Walking Dead is already filming the 3rd season, and with the introduction of the Governor it promises to be explosive. I can honestly say that I have loved every minute of the show so far, and I really hope Kirkman gets to do the show justice. One does have to wonder how long Rick will survive, while he hasn’t died yet Kirkman was quoted in a recent interview saying “If I keep doing all this bad stuff to him, I’m going to have to kill him”.