As the curtain opens, die-hard deadheads might feel like they’ve seen this before. Patient wakes up in a hospital after being in a coma for who-knows-how-long felt very circa ’28 Days’, yet we watched as out somewhat unlikely hero Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) emerged from his hospital bed, unhooks himself from all of his hospital devices and proceeds into the unknown (also known as the hallway). It doesn’t take long for our hero to discover that his small town did an awful lot of changing over naptime. He stumbles on body after body, lined up in the hospital hallways and outside, and decides that he needs to get home. As he stumbles home, he comes face to face with an inexplicably live, lifeless torso, which he speedily dispatches (clearly out of instinct) by a blow or six to the brain.
Rick arrives home, to find that his wife and son have vanished, and while our hero sits despondently on the curb, planning his next move, he is almost taken out by a approaching dead guy if it had not been for the saving shot gun blast from a kind stranger (Lennie James). Our stranger and son take Rick in, offering him food, shelter and an explanation of recent events (well, sort of). We leave Season 1 still unaware of what causes the “virus” ultimately reanimating corpses and turning them into whatever they are, but we do know that if you are scratched or bitten you are destined to become “a walker”, and walkers are pretty shameless when it comes to their diet. While eating people is good, eating live people is better.
After a short stint with his adopted family, Rick ventures off to Atlanta-a supposed safe haven-to find a city over run by walkers and not a living soul in sight. Over the course of the Sheriff’s big city adventure (which entails getting caught in a tank), he is aided in an escape from Atlanta zombies by rag tag group of survivors, trapped atop a mall roof. (Now that is what I call a shopping day from hell). In true cowboy fashion, Rick helps orchestrate a rescue effort that goes off without a hitch except for one tiny little detail….he kind of left Merle-one very disturbed survivor-handcuffed to a roof.
As Rick leads his band of nomads away from the city and back to their camp, he is overcome by guilt and shame for leaving Merle without food, water, shelter, and pretty much leaving him to be eaten alive. However, those feeling fade quickly and are replaced with joy and elation as Rick is reunited with his wife and son who have been living in safety outside of Atlanta for some time (alive and well). Yet, our hero’s story has another glitch. It appears as if Rick’s best friend Shane has been getting a little too busy with Rick’s wife-naturally they keep this on the down low since Shane told Rick’s wife (Lori) that Rick was long dead-whoops!
Over the course of the season we see zombie attacks at the camp (picking off some of our “not so favorite” characters this season), an attempted rescue for Merle (remember, the poor schmuck who got left on the roof). We experience a meeting of “Vatos” with an Atlanta stronghold caring for the elderly, and some mad crossbow skills from Daryl (Norman Reedus). In the hustle and bustle of it all, Merle escaped his roof top prison by sawing off his hand (ouch) and that Captain Positive (Rick) wants to try and make it to the CDC in the hopes of live people and a cure for whatever disease afflicts the walkers, after camp is no longer “safe”.
Our merry band travels to the CDC to find a lone doctor in the facility, Dr. Edwin Jenner. Only trouble is that the doctor’s research went up in smoke (literally) in a lab accident only days before. While the campers talk to Dr. Jenner about what’s been happening in the world (which isn’t much considering it’s a nationwide blackout), they drink it down and booze it up with more red wine than I’ve seen at an CDC I’ve ever been to. (Note to self: plan CDC field trip)
The Shane-Lori-Rick love triangle comes to a head as Shane tries to put the moves on Lori and “take back what’s his” (of course Rick is still in the dark), but despite this tiny romantic setback it appears as if the CDC is able to offer our group some salvation. Until the next morning…
The generators are out of fuel and when the generators are out of fuel the CDC goes into self-defense mode and is set to go “boom”. Since there is no “fixing” generators when you’re out of fossil fuels, our group tries to hit the road again, minus one extra character, Jacqui (Jeryl Prescott) and Dr. Jenner who decide to stay behind and “choose how they want to die”. During his life and death speech, Jenner shows the group a video of his wife turned zombie (TS-19) as she made the transition from brilliant CDC scientist to flesh mongering dead person. While it was interesting to watch, it still leaves the audience shrugging when trying to figure out what the cause of the change actually is. As Rick leads his group to safety with only minutes to go before the entire CDC building goes up in smoke (napalm anyone?) Jenner grabs him and whispers something in his ear. Was it good news or bad news? Only season two will tell, but my vote is bad.
Skip ahead, skip ahead, our campers, minus one, are now forced back into their cars (low on fuel) and will soon have to scramble for parts unknown. While the premise of Season 1 is interesting (and certainly never lacked a variety of zombies, explosions and cross bow skills) the storyline feels a bit like a movie or mini-series than a series slated for numerous seasons. I am interested to see how the plots (and sub plots) develop as we delve into season two next year. And with that, my fellow dead heads, I’m out.