AMC's 'Walking Dead': Have we found our next 'Lost'?
Forget vampires. In the land of TV, zombies are king. Dessicated, stinky kings -- but kings nonetheless.
AMC's "The Walking Dead" premiered Sunday night and is already generating major buzz, tearing up Google search trends, generating conversation on Twitter and giving all of us something to talk about on this post-Halloween morning besides the number of Snickers bites we consumed yesterday. (For the record, it was only two!) This bodes well for a show our own Hank Stuever described as "'Lost'-like," a comparison that means the show may be ripe for slavish devotion and endless rehashing. Unless it turns out to be, like, "Flash Forward" or something.
Since we know a thing or two about slavish devotion to "Lost" we thought we'd, ahem, apply our analytical skills to see if "Walking Dead" has what it takes to motivate a loyal audience that will, zombie-like, not only tune in every Sunday, but turn to the Internet on Mondays to dissect the show.
Warning -- if you haven't watched yet -- there are spoilers ahead, so come back after you've seen the first episode.
A whizbang beginning: It's hard to touch "Lost's" opening scene: A man wakes up in a stand of bamboo to realize he's just survived a plane crash, then rushes to the beach to discover the wreckage. In "Walking Dead," we have what amounts to two introductions to the zombie-pocalypse of the show's setting. In the first, a deputy sheriff wanders into a post apocalyptic scene at a gas station where he is confronted with not only wreckage, but carnage -- dead bodies and a pint-sized zombie, who he dispatches with a quick bullet to the head. In the second, which follows a scene that establishes the bond between that deputy sheriff -- Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) -- and his fellow cop, Shane (Jon Bernthal), Grimes awakes in a hospital to a changed world -- one crawling with zombies.
For our money, "Lost's" opening remains the more powerful, only because "The Walking Dead" split its impact by going with two openers designed to basically get us to the same point: Dude lives in a world full of zombies.
A cool story: To oversimplify, "Lost" followed a ragtag band of survivors who encounter both man-made and supernatural hurdles in their quest to get back home. "Walking Dead" seems to be shaping up to follow a band of survivors who first need to a) find each other and b) figure out how to kill all the zombies so they can -- much like the survivors in Stephen King's "The Stand" -- reboot society. Given what we know about Robert Kirkman's comic book, the source material for the series, we're guessing there will be plenty of hurdles, both man-made and supernatural. So, yeah, it passes the cool story test.
Mythology: The pilot didn't even hint at what chain of events led to the zombiefication of America. And is continental America the only place that's been zombiefied or is the rest of the world similarly overrun with the undead? The jury is still out. Then again, when our "Losties" first landed on the island, we had no idea what the showrunners had in store in the form of a rich back-story and hyper-literate mythology. The point is that "The Walking Dead" writers seem to want to maintain some mystery. And we like that.
Relationships: We spent the first 90 minutes mostly with sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes -- our Jack Shephard, if you will. He's fighting to find his family who he believes is still alive. Turns out he's right, but his wife is now with his former partner, Shane. And when we say with, we mean there's kissing involved. This could get interesting. We also spent some time in the pilot with a father and son duo -- Morgan (Lennie James) and Duane (Adrian Kali Turner) -- whose loss of the mother figure in their family reminded us a little of "Lost's" Michael and Walt. And you know how we loved Michael and Walt. Well, until Michael got all murdery.
Upending tropes to heighten the tension "Lost" took what we thought we knew about island castaway stories and forced us to rethink the genre: what if the happy ending doesn't involve the rescue of our heroes? By bringing the zombie tale to television, "The Walking Dead" also forces us into a different mindset. When we're watching most zombie movies, we assume that, by the end, the zombies will have been defeated, or that we'll see at least some measure of hope for a brighter, non-brain-consuming future. But adapt that tale for TV -- when series can last for multiple seasons -- and the stakes are raised. Hey, this whole zombie lifestyle could last ... forever.
And that's what could make "Walking Dead" a chilling show that keeps us coming back week after week: the very real sense that the world can go completely mad, and stay that way for good.
Liz Kelly and Jen Chaney
| November 1, 2010; 9:06 AM ET
Categories: Lost, TV | Tags: Walking Dead
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