Do you love John Wayne movies and zombies? Then you'll love The Walking Dead! This new TV show is all about a no-frills "real-world" zombie apocalypse. AMC is the all-American, old-Western network so this show does have its fair share of car-chasing, gun-toting cowboys and--I've heard--white supremacists. It's got all the blood, gore and glory with a little bit of poignant humanity.
What you won't find, though, are supermodels (with superpowers) in impractical dresses, zombies who can run a marathon to chase you down, characteristically B-movie DUHN DUHN DUHNNNN Jaws-esque music, or brainless (pardon the pun) and obnoxious protagonists who you are just waiting to be taken down in dramatic flair.
The Walking Dead has everything you could ever ask for: shambling zombies (none of that acrobatic sprinter crap); natural human actions amidst an incomprehensible terror (your own loved ones turning against you and becoming reasonless monsters); and quiet, exasperating horror scenes that don't end in an M. Night Shyamalan loud-noise-and-light-to-make-you-jump moments, but truly imaginative moments that invoke true fear in the unknown.
I really love the concept behind the zombie, and I think one of the reasons that zombies are so frightening is that we can understand how terrible it would be to lose our humanity and be trapped in a perfunctory, repetitive and miserable state of un-death. You get bit by a vampire? Oh no, now you can live forever. You’re bitten by a zombie? You’re now going to live out the remainder of your terrible life as a shambling shell of what you once were. The reason zombies are so scary is because they are ourselves; they are what we could become if we had no control or understanding of our actions (DUHN DUHN DUHNNNNN). I could write a whole book about zombie philosophy, but I’ll save it for my dissertation.
The point is: it is the mark of a truly great zombie movie (or series) to really explore the contrast between the emotions and desperate need for understanding that drives human beings with the desperately meaningless existence of the zombie. The first episode of The Walking Dead, "Days Gone By", does exactly that in very heartfelt and powerful ways.
The story opens with an officer-involved shooting that lands our dreamy hero in a hospital bed. Some time passes... and suddenly there are zombies everywhere. I’m not sure if there will be a flashback storyline to explain the outbreak at some point (I’m really hoping for some Lost-style writing!), or if the explanation just wasn’t critical to the overall story, but the show moves forward in such a way to make the backstory almost unnecessary.
So, if you haven't turned into a zombie by the end of this long foray, check out The Walking Dead. Even if you're not that into zombies, I think you'll enjoy it--you'll just have to suffer through the first 20 minutes! And at the very least, you'll learn some very important zombie survival tips, such as: if you wake up and everyone around you is dead, and the building is in shambles, the least you could do is find some damn shoes to put on before you start wandering around town!