|'The first season's six episodes are simply not sufficient time to make enough of the figures we meet into people we care about'.|
If you consider that it's now a series often placed amongst the finest that the US TV drama renaissance of recent years has spawned, the first season of The Walking Dead is in fact somewhat underwhelming. That's not to say it's bad television; on the contrary, what's on offer is regularly entertaining and occasionally excellent. But considering the critical darling the series has become - and the fact that this season's finale drew a record six million viewers when it was first broadcast in America - this is far from a flawless TV season.
In terms of setting up the series' desolate world populated by "walkers", as the zombies are invariably referred to, The Walking Dead does pretty well. There's little attempt to reinvent what is expected from the zombie genre, and some narrative elements are clearly borrowed from the likes of 28 Days Later... and even Shaun Of The Dead, although what is delivered here is largely delivered well. It's also pleasing to find that series creator Frank Darabont never tones down the more gruesome elements of the story for television, with several well-crafted horror scenes littered throughout the season as a whole.
The key strength of Season One is undoubtedly central character Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). If The Walking Dead is one person's story, then it is without question Rick's. We're given reasons to invest in Rick from the opening moments of the first episode, "Days Gone Bye", some of which disappointingly seem to become forgotten as the season wears on. However, thanks to Lincoln giving arguably the strongest - and certainly the most consistent - performance of the cast during the season there's enough of a reason within him to continue watching.
The regular cast surrounding Lincoln are generally solid, but too many suffer from a lack of development for us to truly invest in them. A ragtag bunch thrown together through the undead pandemic ravaging the earth, the group is not dissimilar in feel and circumstance to that seen in the opening season of Lost. However, where that series initially had twenty-five episodes to introduce and flesh out its large number of main characters, The Walking Dead's first season has only six. It's simply not sufficient time to make enough of the figures we meet into people we care about. This in turn has a detrimental effect upon several of the season's more emotionally charged moments, notable in particular during scenes in episode 4, "Vatos", and episode 5, "Wildfire".
There are also a number of characters here we are given frustratingly little time to get to know. Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and his son Duane (Adrian Kali Turner) are introduced creditably in "Days Gone Bye", but then never seen again. Jim (Andrew Rothenburg) is set up as potentially one of the most interesting members of the group, before being whipped away from us just as we begin to invest in him. Dr. Edwin Jenner (Noah Emmerich, giving perhaps the best performance of the whole season) is teased as a late addition to the survivors, but again we are denied the pleasure of his extended company, seeing him for barely more than one episode.
In the end, The Walking Dead's opening six episodes do enough to entice you back for more - even if that will be equal parts desire to continue your enjoyment, and curiosity to see how successfully the issues within the first season are resolved as the series continues.
The Walking Dead: Season One is available on Amazon Prime Instant Video now.