The Walking Dead 1.01: Days Gone Bye

© Copyright AMC Studios

Morgan: “Look, I ask. You answer. It’s common courtesy, right?”

I love the implications of this line. Following the virtual collapse of human civilisation at the decaying hands of flesh-eating corpses, ethereal concepts like “common” and “courtesy” would probably go the way of Debbie Gibson’s musical career, wouldn’t they? At the same time, though, if you were a recent widower raising his son in a post-apocalyptic world ripe with the stuff of nightmares, wouldn’t you hold on to precisely these notions as if your very sense of self depended on it?

That’s what makes this franchise and the genre so compelling. Based on the unapologetically bleak comic book written by Robert Kirkman, who serves as executive producer, AMC’s The Walking Dead understands the focus of great zombie fiction isn’t so much the zombies as it is human nature. In numbers, the creatures present enough of a threat to corner our heroes and strip them of their sense of security, yet their limited speed and intelligence allows for the sort of conversation and character development that engrossed me throughout this premiere.

I’m surprised how much I enjoyed “Days Gone Bye”, given its lacklustre opening act. After causing a spectacular if unlikely (or spectacularly unlikely) car crash, Deputies Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh decide to stand in the open during a shootout and stop for a chat before apprehending all the bad guys. Naturally, one of them, Rick, gets tagged and slips into a comma, skipping over his award ceremony for worst law enforcement officer in a TV series since Mark Benford of FlashForward.

That goofiness out of the way, the show then proceeds to its main plot, in which Rick awakes in an empty hospital and wanders aimlessly, allowing us to gradually discover the new world order. From this point on, The Walking Dead drips with awesomeness, from the protagonist’s emotional meltdown upon getting home to Morgan, the aforementioned widower, trying to take down his un-dead wife. Heck, I even liked the stuff during the breaks, such as Mick Garris’ thoughtful conversion with Wes Craven, one of my favourite filmmakers, and the clever Toyota ad designed to circumvent our urge to fast-forward through the commercials.

Sure, I could quibble about Rick leaving the hospital without grabbing at least a pair of shoes or the special kind of crazy it takes to venture into the city with a clip-clopping horse, but I was too concerned for our hero’s safety to question his judgment, especially when he started crawling under the tank. The writers had me convinced he might bite the dust at any moment, and (take note, Joss Whedon, Tim Kring, and Damon Lindelof) they did it without killing anyone off.

They’re Coming to Get You (or Walking the Distance)

As I watched Rick shoot the torso zombie, a morbid analogy came to mind, which lead to this question: does the show have legs, or will someone have to put it out of its misery in the near future as it lingers about, a shadow of its former self? After all, the living dead represent a singular threat, so there’s a significant risk of monotony down the line. Fortunately, the characters have more than enough meat in them (pun intended) to carry the first season.

What struck me is their compassion. Rick needs a moment after knocking out his first zombie. After that, all his kills are presented as acts of either mercy or desperation. By the same token, every shot Morgan takes during target practice seems to bear heavily on his soul, which is why he can’t bring himself to pull the trigger on his wife. These are good men, and I welcome the chance to have them in my home every Sunday evening.

© Copyright AMC Studios
© Copyright AMC Studios

Bites and Pieces

  • The writers have yet to reveal how long Rick spent in a coma after he got shot. Does the story take place twenty-eight days later? Ba-dum-tish.
  • “God forgive us” was written in blood at the country house where Rick found his horse. It’s creepy all right, but I can’t help wondering how that came to be. Did the man run out of crayons and then shoot his wife so he could write on the wall before killing himself, or did he shoot his wife and then decide it would be in good taste to use her blood for graffiti?
  • On the subject of striking images, the shot of Rick riding into the deserted city was absolutely gorgeous. Poor horse though.
  • Who was piloting the helicopter, and how did the soldiers in the tank manage to get killed? Big hunks of metal designed for war are typically zombie-proof as well.
  • I’m a bit uncomfortable with all the “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Stupidville” conversations in this episode. One comment would indicate a specific character trait, but three or four in little over an hour feels an awful lot like rampant misogyny:

Shane: “What’s the difference between men and women? […] Never knew a woman who knew how to turn off a light.”

Pff! Silly women and their inability to flick a switch!

Rick: “The difference between men and women? I would never say something that cruel to her, certainly not in front of Carl.”

Pff! Silly women and their inability to care for the psychological well-being of their children!

Morgan: “My wife did the same thing. There I am, packing survival gear, and she’s grabbing photo albums.”

Pff! Silly women and their inability to grasp the severity of a zombie apocalypse!

Torso Zombie: “Ghhhsss…”

Pff! Silly women and their inability to stay dead after you tear off their lower half!

More Quotes

These ones are good:

Morgan: “Gunshot? What else? Anything?”
Rick: “Gunshot not enough?”

Duane: “Weren’t no man!”
Morgan: “The hell was that out of your mouth just now?”

I heart Morgan.

Morgan: “Bites kill you. The fever burns you out, but then, after a while, you come back.”

Somebody’s been paying attention while watching the George Romero classics. It’s a common misconception that zombie bites are contagious. According to official living dead lore, bites often prove deadly owing to disease and parasites. The victims then turn into ghouls because the resulting fever kills them, not because of zombie infection.

Morgan: “You think ahead.”
Rick: “Can’t afford not to, not anymore.”

Man on Radio: Hey, you! Dumbass! Hey, you in the tank! Cozy in there?”

Don’t ask me how I know, but that was an Asian voice.

Rick: “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

The best line in the episode, wouldn’t you agree?

Great Stuff.

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Editor in Chief / Movie Critic: When he started this site, Dimitri never thought he'd be writing blurbs about himself in the third person. In his other life, he works as a writer, translator, and editor for various publications in print and online. His motto is, "Have pen, will travel."