Your eyes open and you’re in a hospital bed. The flowers beside your bed are dried out from neglect. No one is around. All is quiet.
This was one of the opening scenes of the AMC original series “The Walking Dead,” an adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s comic that premiered on Oct. 31.
“The Walking Dead” employs a storyline that gives the audience the same perspective as the show’s protagonist: Rick Grimes, an Atlanta, Ga. sheriff played by Andrew Lincoln. Both discover the world of “Walking Dead” together as the story unfolds with the officer’s waking from a coma and stumbling through zombie-infested Atlanta.
As the pilot continues, Grimes realizes the world isn’t the same one he remembers. The hospital where he was apparently a patient is abandoned with blood spattered everywhere, and a dead body that appears to have beeen picked clean is in the middle of the hallway. Outside, abandoned cars and body bags line the empty streets.
The introduction followed a format similar to that of 28 Days Later, a film in the zombie horror genre. Initially, the show pulled out all of the cards familiar to the genre: the clichéd juvenile zombie girl walking with her teddy bear and the ‘chillingly’ abandoned streets. Opening with such stereotypical features certainly did lower expectations for the series.
Though it is guilty of using some played-out techniques, the show develops the story and explores relatively unchartered territory in the genre: the humanity of the zombies and of the living. Instead of introducing our hero, Grimes, as the compassionate and sentimental yet detached rogue zombie killer in search of his family, we see a man who is reluctant to accept and dismayed by the situation to which he has awoken. In the scene where he must kill a relatively sedated zombie, he hesitates in shooting it and even goes so far as to apologize in an emotional manner.
The audience easily feels a sense of sympathy, even empathy – though none of us have experienced a zombie apocalypse – for the characters because we feel as though we are trailing behind them as one of the other survivors. Moreover, the show’s writing makes it possible to feel connected with the characters because their emotions are entirely relatable and quite accessible. In the scene where Morgan (Lennie James) and his son see their wife and mother as a zombie, they become quite emotional.
With episodes every Sunday at 10 p.m., the series should warrant a sizeable viewership for good reason: finally, a zombie story with guts, gusto and content.