Halloween, 2010: AMC’s The Walking Dead premieres. It goes on to become a global phenomenon that bridges the gap between comic and non-comic readers. Since the show’s debut, it has not been unusual to see all walks of life waiting in line at local comic stores on that very special Wednesday once a month (sometimes twice) to pick up their own copy of The Walking Dead.
The show itself has become a powerhouse of an end-cap to many television viewers’ weeks, with whispers following at the water cooler on Monday asking, “who’s gonna die next week?”, or “can you believe who died this week?” Yeah, you know that’s what most people are talking about. With the recent premiere of a spin-off series, Fear the Walking Dead, there is seemingly no end to the potential of this franchise.
All that said, we thought it would be a good idea to celebrate the success of The Walking Dead by taking a look back at its very first episode, “Days Gone Bye,’ which also happens to be named after the first story arc in the comic series.
For some of us, it may have been a long time since we last got a look at pre-apocalyptic Frank Grimes, and boy is he different. Watching Rick and Shane as partners as they exchange words while sitting in their patrol car is a far cry from the whole Season 2 fiasco that would put the men at odds with one another; before the dead came between them (and Lori, too). Looking back, these scenes almost made me feel for Shane to a certain extent. Believing his best friend to be dead and not wanting to leave Rick’s family alone might have made Shane do some questionable things, but can we really blame him?
Let us not forget the opening scene that has since begun to approach the status of iconic. While Rick searches for survivors he encounters what he believes to be a lost little girl. In typical Walking Dead fashion, the girl turns around and reveals herself to be a child zombie! This is one of those instances where Andrew Lincoln‘s performance as Rick really shines (although there are countless more) and you can see the pain on his face as he raises his firearm and prepares to do what he knows he must. What a way to open the show!
Of course none of these scenes would be quite as memorable as they are without the genius of director Frank Darabont. The man needs no introduction, but just to be thorough, he has had an incredibly successful career in both film and television, and he was the director of a little film you may have heard of called The Shawshank Redemption. Yeah; ’nuff said. Darabont throws in a lot of nice little touches in “Days Gone Bye,” such as the wilting flowers in Rick’s hospital room. While the flowers show the passage of time as Rick lay comatose, they also represent the death of the world around him. Imagine waking up from a coma and seeing old withered flowers at your beside only to realize shortly thereafter that it wasn’t just the flowers, but that the entire world had died in your absence.
Darabont does an exceedingly fantastic job of painting the picture of a bleak and hopeless husk of a world for the cast of The Walking Dead to inhabit. There are a lot of “silent” scenes throughout where we see Rick bearing witness to the undead and the horrors of the new world for the first time while on his way back to his home to search for his family. These scenes are where “Days Gone Bye” is at its best, and I found that despite a lack of “action” in this premiere, it set the stage for the rest of the series and gave viewers a taste of what to expect from a show like The Walking Dead.
In this episode we also meet Morgan, played by Lennie James. Despite being a series regular at this point, Morgan all but disappeared for quite some time after his initial first few appearances. Like Rick, Morgan is still struggling to come to terms with the post-apocalyptic, zombie-filled world, yet he does his best to explain to Rick what has happened. James has proven to be an excellent actor, and even in this first episode he delivers an incredible performance; specifically as he collapses into tears when he is unable to finish off his undead wife.
Final Grade: A+
+ Lincoln’s performance as Rick is among his best.
+ Lots of eerie silence!
+ Horse being eaten by zombies.
– “Shaky effect during Shane’s conversation with the comatose Rick made me kinda queasy.
– Wouldn’t the damage from a shovel to the back of the head be much worse than that?
– Horse being eaten by zombies. 🙁
– It’s worth mentioning that Bear McCreary‘s music is fantastic in this episode, as is Wang Chung‘s “Space Junk.” The music in The Walking Dead, original compositions or otherwise, has always been great in my opinion.
What did you think of this landmark first episode of The Walking Dead? Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!