TV review: "The Walking Dead"

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

In the high-intensity zombie genre, impending doom is a constant force.

AMC's new series "The Walking Dead" presents some of the "no hope" aspect of a zombie apocalypse but also shows survivors sustaining some normalcy - children play in camps, romance blooms and mushroom picking is a hobby - instead of just running from hoards of flesh-eaters.

But don't be fooled: "The Walking Dead" stands as one of the most intense zombie tales ever thanks to emotional storytelling and masterful direction by show-runner Frank Darabont.

It opens with our hero, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), walking through a wasteland of deserted cars as he stumbles upon a young girl. She turns to reveal her mangled zombie face and snarls before Grimes kills her with a shot from his massive "Dirty Harry" hand-cannon.

This scene sets the tone for how the excellent pilot will operate - bursts of extreme violence interrupting the ethereal silence of a world ravaged by death. The look on Grimes' face when he shoots what used to be an innocent little girl is a subtle yet powerful suggestion of the survivors' inner devastation.

It's the perfect way to be introduced to "The Walking Dead," but it's not the story's beginning. Grimes, a sheriff's deputy, gets shot, falls into a coma and spends weeks recovering while the world collapses.

This isn't an original setup - "28 Days Later" used this technique before "The Walking Dead" comic book debuted in 2003 - but it explains the protagonist's desperate pursuit to find his family, which drives the early part of the series. Grimes has no idea what's happened but knows in his heart that his wife and son survived.

As Grimes looks for them, he crosses paths with other survivors who range from being psychologically damaged to completely sociopathic.

This is where "The Walking Dead" excels over other zombie stories: Each survivor's psyche is contaminated by sadness, paralleling the zombie virus' infectiousness. The survivors have changed, or are changing, into shells of their former selves, making "The Walking Dead" not only frighteningly gruesome but emotionally haunting.

"The Walking Dead"

Premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday on AMC

3.5 stars out of 4