The Walking Dead’s Pilot is horror filmmaking at its best

she has the walking Dead ever produced the most iconic image of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) riding into deserted Atlanta via an empty highway? It’s a wonderfully dark take that sets the tone flawlessly, and its reputation has spread so far even people who’ve never seen the show can identify with it. Apparently, AMC also recognized its power given how much it slapped on every marketing piece for the show’s first season – a season that, in retrospect, appears to belong to an entirely different show. There was a time when the walking Dead It was considered prestige television, talked about in the same way as fellow AMC shows like Too bad And the mad men. But those days are long gone, now the walking Dead It seems to be there simply because watching the latest episode has become part of our weekly routine. Recent seasons may have put some much-needed energy into the proceedings, but this is probably for the best.

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But the walking Dead It wasn’t always around as a tool to create (what feels like) an infinite number of spin-offs, and going back to Season 1 after such a long time feels like peeping into a parallel universe where everything turned out roses. It was the only season in it Frank Darabont He served as showrunner, and was also the only producer produced before AMC cut the budget badly even while calling for more episodes. As a result, season one feels like a true cinematic spectacle in a way that future seasons don’t, telling an intimate story about nuanced characters who make it to the big screen at every opportunity. It’s great to have him back, and his genius was cemented in the first episode. In just 67 minutes, Darabont crafts the finest zombie experience in popular entertainment, cutting out all the excess until you’re left with one of the genre’s most harrowing and tragic stories. He’s up there with the greatest pilots in TV history, and that’s what happens the walking Dead He spent the last twelve years frantically trying to live up to the bar. The episode is titled “Days Gone Bye”. In hindsight, they could not have chosen a more appropriate title.


The greatest strength of the “days of yore” is self-control

The Walking Dead pilot Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes on the highway

Rather than overload the episode with action and bloodshed in the hopes of garnering attention, Darabont (who also directed this episode) keeps things simple. Very little happens from a plot perspective (Darabont’s score He takes his original text, cuts it in half, then decorates the two halves to deliberately maintain speed), but from a character standpoint, we got a lot. Future episodes will play into the collegial nature of the show – cutting between several storylines with dozens of characters that can sometimes feel a little disparate – but “Days Gone Bye” doesn’t take that approach. Instead, we’re with Rick for practically the entire runtime, and by keeping ancillary material to a minimum, Darabont turns the episode into an excellent character piece that reveals characterization through actions rather than words.

Rick Grimes is a refreshing hero for a show like this. On the one hand, he is a police officer with extensive knowledge of weapons and survival techniques, but he is also a recently comatose man who has not yet recovered from his injury. His backstory establishes him as someone who lives by a strict code of morality, but he’s suddenly in a world where such things no longer apply, leading to an interesting dynamic where he’s simultaneously the best and the worst person prepped for a zombie outbreak. The decision to shove him upside down in the apocalypse after waking up from a coma is one of the smartest decisions Darabont made. Not only does it allow him to jump right into what we’re all here for, but it also makes Rick the perfect audience surrogate. He spends most of “Days Gone Bye” wondering what the hell happened while he was gone, piecing together the bits of missing months at the same rate we do. There’s a reason Rick continues to draw viewers in even after the show’s decline, and it’s admirable how well Darabont and Lincoln can fare with his debut.

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Darabont has the horror chops

The episode of pilot dead walking Andrew Lincoln while Rick Grimes is on the hospital roof looking at body bags

Darabont may be best known for directing The Shawshank Redemption And the green milebut got his break as a horror writer, contributing scripts A nightmare on Elm Street 3 And the means. With “Days Gone Bye” (the only episode he also directed), that pedigree is on full display, with several scenes vying for the title of the most walking dead Moment. One major contender is the hospital scene, a series that manages to turn ten minutes of someone walking through the corridors into a tension-building master class. Sure, seeing the cafeteria door with “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” written across it is kind of a giveaway, but it’s the tiny details that really sell the moment. The withered flowers, the broken clock, and the utter stillness that permeates the entire episode—things that wouldn’t be a concern in isolation, but together they paint a very different picture. Even before Rick leaves his room, we know something is seriously wrong, and that things are about to get worse before they get better.

What follows is a visual representation of waking up in a nightmare. Each step Rick takes plunges him deeper into the pits of hell, and that feeling proves oddly accurate when he has to descend a pitch-black staircase with only a bunch of matches to light his way. It’s one of the most nerve-wracking sequences in television, and your heart will be pounding its way out of your chest in anticipation of the inevitable jump scare before it’s over. But Darabont doesn’t resort to such cheap tricks. Instead, he lets the audience’s imagination do the work for him, and as the greatest horror films have consistently proven, there is nothing more terrifying than that. When Darabont unleashes a painful image, it waits until we’ve rested all day, tricking us into believing we’ve survived the worst. As the glare of the afternoon sun fades, Rick peers out into this strange new world to see row after row of body bags littering the parking lot. He stares at them, not even trying to hide his tears, and then runs in the mysterious direction of his home. The disturbing visuals are the perfect way to close out a flawless horror sequence, and it marked an area the show has struggled to match ever since.

Even setting that spectacle aside, it’s impressive how many memorable set pieces Darabont could fit into such a short time without things feeling pressured. At times, “Days Gone Bye” has a nice set of songs, cramming every zombie-related idea into a single script by Darabont with no regard for how it might affect future episodes. One minute Rick is lamenting the state of things after discovering a couple committed suicide in their ranch house, and the next he’s fighting off a horde of zombies while trapped under a tank. until the in means of res The opening, a delightfully creepy sequence where Rick meets a zombie little girl in the middle of a deserted highway, has become a famous piece of horror culture in its own right. Silence is what makes it. Rick’s search through the metal tomb is made even more creepy by his footsteps being the only sound for miles around, and it’s surprising that the simple addition of a second pair could lead to such instant fear. It is the calm before the storm, peace like never before.

Rick meets Morgan

The Walking Dead pilot Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, God forgive us

Rick doesn’t encounter many living people in “Days Gone Bye,” but the exception is Morgan (Lenny James), the character that enhances the brilliance of the episode. When we meet him he is living in a rundown house in Rick’s Old Quarter. “This place, Fred and Cindy Drake,” says a shell-shocked Rick as he stumbles around the battered living room. “It was empty when we got here,” Morgan replies, a cold remark that says more than enough. Whatever was once irrelevant – it is now a sanctuary for him and his son, Duan (Adrian Callie Turner), and his knowledge of the outside world is invaluable as he guides Rick through this new hellish reality. When Rick asks why he hasn’t come forward, he’s blushing with his reasons, but the final reveal becomes the episode’s most devastating moment. His wife transformed, she now roams the streets outside the house as a living symbol of his failure. Morgan’s secret is Rick’s worst fear, and this revelation is all he needs to resume his search for his family. They break up on the promise that they will meet again. It’s unclear if either of them think this will happen, but the hope is there, and they could do with a little hope for now.

The next scene is among the best of Darabont’s career. Tormented by his past for so long, Morgan picks up a gun and tries to put his wife out of her misery…but he just can’t do it. Instead he just broke down in tears. Sad to watch, and serves to highlight just how sad the zombie outbreak can be. These are not mindless killers who only exist as a target practice for the neighbourhoods, but small pockets of tragedy who all have their own story to tell. Darabont chronicles Morgan’s plight with footage of Rick encountering a legless zombie on his way out of town. Rick laments that this should have happened to her, failing to hide those tears once more, then puts a single bullet into her head to give her a little peace. The juxtaposition of the two scenes is exceptional, and together they give the impression of a show that would never allow simplistic excitement to overcome the human misery inherent in such a scenario. After nearly two hundred episodes, the walking Dead He never lost this moment.

The episode of The Walking Dead pilot Andrew Lincoln where Rick Grimes doesn't open dead from the inside

Going back to “Days Gone Bye” is a strange experience. It’s like you’re reading a novel where the original author has been quietly removed somewhere around the fourth chapter mark, which isn’t a stone’s throw from the truth. Darabont’s firing during season two is a hit the walking Dead He never fully recovered from it, and while we can spend some time speculating about what it would have looked like if he had stuck, we should be thankful we got over what we did. Every season 1 is worth a watch, but there’s no doubt that “Days Gone Bye” is the best. it’s a shame the walking Dead It peaked with its opening, but that’s also a testament to the quality of the episode. The next twelve years cemented its place as one of TV’s best pilots, and for those seeking a raw zombie experience, it’s hard to recommend anything better.

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