Before the undead rise, we’re shown Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his friend Shane (Jon Bernthal) in a pre-apocalyptic world. At this point, they’re normal guys who take modern conveniences for granted and worry most about their love lives. The crucial early scenes provide a great contrast to those yet to come: soon they’ll have far more to worry about than who turns off the lights in their homes.
It doesn’t take long for the world to be overrun by zombies. Some viewers will criticise the unoriginal way in which they’re introduced: because, as in 28 Days Later, Rick awakes from a coma (having been shot whilst on patrol as a policeman) to find few living survivors. However, this point doesn’t really stand up--the comic (on which the show is based) apparently already had the hospital plot device written before the film debuted, and, did so--like the show--particularly well.
There are a lot of similarities between the books and the TV series in the first episode, but there are enough subtle changes to keep everyone guessing, and the second episode is far less true to the franchise. “It'll probably be crossing back and forth,” the comic’s creator and series advisor, Robert Kirkman, tells TV.com.
The Walking Dead’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Blood and guts are a regular prop, with people’s insides often strewn about like the contents of a pinata. Did you expect anything less from Hollywood director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption) and Aliens producer Gale Anne Hurd?
The gore is teamed with an incredibly tense atmosphere. It’s been intensified to such an extent that Prison Break’s Sarah Wayne Callies, who plays Lori in the show, claimed she was too frightened to watch back parts of the premiere. During an interview with TV.com, she explained: “I watched the pilot, I knew what was coming (and) I still had my eyes closed for two scenes.”
The show’s not just about shock and gore, though: like most zombie series it’s a character study of survivors. While some people adapt to their new surroundings, others find the change too much and lose it completely. It’s one of those rare dramas that will play on your mind--if not your nightmares--for days.
MORE: Read an interview with comic book creator Robert Kirkman or watch interviews with Andrew Lincoln and Sarah Wayne Callies.
GORE: Watch clips of the pilot episode.
PHOTOS: Check out pictures from the opening episode.