On Halloween night, while most of us tried to squeeze one final night of partying into the weekend, an innovative new series about the living dead premiered on AMC.
Based on the graphic novels of the same name, “The Walking Dead” chronicles the journey of Rick Grimes, a sheriff’s deputy with a wife and a young son, as he navigates through an America plagued by zombies.
“The Walking Dead” remains largely faithful to its strong source material — adding in and expanding just a few scenes to allow the stories to more appropriately fit into the television medium. Yet while the graphic novels are highly entertaining in their own right, this television adaptation manages to be even more engrossing because it allows for greater emotional investment and attachment to the characters. The characters are no longer just illustrations on a glossy page; they’ve been brought to life by an incredibly gifted cast.
Successfully grounding the series as Rick Grimes, Andrew Lincoln (“Love Actually”) gives a layered performance that manages to convey Rick as both a likable and relatable figure. The other standout performer of the episode is Lennie James (TV’s “Jericho”) as Morgan Jones, a fellow survivor that takes in and helps Rick become accustomed to the new world in which he’s awakened. And while the rest of the cast is on the sidelines this episode, each performer shows promise in their respective roles.
“Days Gone By,” the series’ pilot episode, is remarkably strong, balancing suspenseful action sequences and quieter character moments with ease. There are so many standout scenes in the pilot, from a tense and heart-pounding scene in Atlanta City (involving Rick, a tank, a horse, and a horde of zombies) to the somber encounter Rick has with a zombie in the park.
Helmed by Academy Award-winner Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption”), “Days Gone By” is one of this season’s most aesthetically pleasing episodes of television. Exquisitely shot, the episode has the same high standard of quality we’ve come to expect from AMC (“Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad”).
Undoubtedly the strongest pilot of the season, “Days Gone By” proves that when compared to this season’s other insipid new shows, “The Walking Dead” is in a class of its own. Disturbing yet engrossing, “The Walking Dead” has all the components necessary to make it the breakout hit of the season.