"Days Gone Bye" Review
After tonight’s (appropriate Halloween) hour-and-a-half premier, I can say that The Walking Dead inches much closer to perfection than disaster. “Days Gone Bye” is a great set-up to the series that shows a fine balance between characters and action.
But before saying any more, I need to mention that The Walking Dead is based off the on-going graphic novels by Robert Kirkman. I own the first couple graphic novels and have read very little. That being said, I did happen to read past where tonight’s episode ends. But I’ve decided I’m not going to read any more. I’ll watch the show instead.
Why? Well, when it comes to books verses movies, I have a strange history of only being able to like one or the other. Usually whichever I experience first I’ll enjoy more… and then I’ll hate the other as a result. For example, The Silence of the Lambs is my favorite movie. The book is nearly identical, but I can’t stand it. It just feels like a bad version of the movie. I Am Legend is my favorite book, but the movies (all of them) are a chore to watch since I’ve already experienced it as a book.
All of this is simply a drawn out way to say that I’ve decided to experience The Walking Dead as a television show, and not read the graphic novels. So if I make predictions and speculations about what’s going to happen, and you already know, I apologize. I’d rather be surprised by the show than read the graphic novels ahead of time.
To me, the most fascinating part of “Days Gone Bye” is seeing The Walking Dead’s ridiculous amount of violence. It’s an appropriate way to start a zombie series, and it shows that AMC isn’t afraid of gore (now I understand that whole “gory matters” instead of “story matters” campaign). Needless to say, we’ve seen some pretty nasty things by the end of the pilot. The point-blank head shots, the limbless zombies, that poor horse… it’s all ridiculously gory.
That’s not to imply that all we get is violence without character moments. “Days Gone Bye” was at its very best a little more than halfway through. The scene of Rick shooting that half-bodied zombie crawling through the grass (see picture above) was somehow disgusting, disturbing, tragic, and beautiful all at once. And juxtaposed against the scene was Rick’s neighbor trying desperately (though in vain) to shoot his wife and put her out of her misery.
Through those two wonderfully executed scenes, The Walking Dead establishes its tone. This is a show about zombies. Yes, that’s the focus of The Walking Dead, and the series isn’t going to lose that. But it’s also about the characters and the human condition. To me, that’s the most interesting and unique part of this show.
I should also mention that “Days Gone Bye” certainly ends somewhat abrupt. It’s clear this is a highly serialized show, in the fashion of AMC’s other programming. This isn’t a zombie-of-the-week show, and I’m glad AMC didn’t try to market it that way (although I don’t even see how it could).
Overall, props to a well executed pilot. It leaves me wanting more, and I look forward to next Sunday. And as a little side note, I see that next week’s episode will be directed by Michelle MacLaren. She’s directed some of the finest episodes of Breaking Bad, so I’m looking forward to that as well. I’m sure she won’t use as many zooms as we saw tonight (wasn’t a huge fan of those).
As you can tell, I feel this is a great start to a very promising series. What did you think?