Season One, Episode Two – Guts
Directed by Michelle Maxwell MacLaren
Swiftly following this second episode’s premiere airing, The Walking Dead’s future was secured as a 13-episode second season was greenlit. Fans of the comic can breathe a relative sigh of relief as at the rate this series is going we can be hopeful of at least reaching the equivalent end of book five by the close of that 2nd season.
Then again, maybe we won’t, since this second episode chooses to not only embrace the books’ slow-burn pacing, but actually pushes it over the edge by technically only covering around 2 pages from the actual comic, as the writers decide to fabricate an entirely new set piece that sees the majority of our lead characters trapped in a building in the middle of a zombie infested city with seemingly no way out. It’s probable that the producers merely chose to condense a few sections of the book and re-arrange the order slightly, as I doubt we’ll be returning to this city like we did in the books, and on top of the new scenario there’s a bunch of characters introduced; some of which don’t appear until later in the comics and some which are completely new.
Regardless, the tone and pacing and build still remain wholly faithful to the source material, and whilst it may seem odd to deviate at such an early stage in the series (bear in mind the books have Chapter 13 released in a week or two, so there’s an immense amount for the TV series to cover) this episode is still largely a success at continuing the story of Rick and his companions.
There’s a satisfying pacing to proceedings as the group attempt various methods of escape and it’s an idea that could have been played with a little more than it is but works well in keeping interests piqued. The wry humour is a little more present than before, and balances out what is a far more brutally bloody episode when it needs to be – one scene in particular relishing in gory brilliance.
Which makes this probably an appropriate time to recognize the talented people who are working the practical effects on this show. The CGI is fairly convincing for a TV series, but it’s the superb zombie make-up and effects by genre legend Greg Nicotero that really dazzles. From the oddly touching scene with a severed lady in the first episode, to the hordes of clamouring zombies in this episode and the aforementioned gorefest that comes with hacking up a decomposing body – the prosthetics and makeup and indeed blood itself is of the highest possible standard and really helps to create a convincing and oddly beautiful and ugly world.
Fan favourite character Glenn is also introduced in this episode, and he’s the perfect embodiment of his illustrated counterpart. The same youthful energy, ballsy but sensible attitude and loveable joking asides are conveyed with ease from relative newcomer Steven Yeun and really help to add some colour to proceedings.
A word should probably be spared for lead actor Andrew Lincoln also. Choosing an Englishman to play an all-American character is certainly an odd choice and one that personally I would have avoided (Aaron Eckhart would have been ideal for the role, or even Thomas Jane), but he’s surprisingly convincing and is managing to handle the difficult balancing act that is Rick so far. Whether he will be able to convince when the series reaches the darker elements of Rick’s psyche, we shall have to wait and see. But for now he’s doing an acceptable job and even his accent doesn’t grate too much. Though that said – my English ears probably can’t pick up the tiny nuances an American audience will.
There are some flaws; the more a-typical zombie-genre set up dampens the mood a little and creates a slightly clichéd feel to proceedings. New character Dexter, played by Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Mallrats) with his usual gravel-voiced, annoying relish is a step too far into comic-book cookie-cutter templates and is entirely disposable as the staple racist and obligatory shit-stirrer. Also, the direction isn’t quite as elegant or visually arresting as the opening episode was, but director Michelle MacLaren’s resume is hardly as impressive as Darabont’s so perhaps that’s to be expected.
Overall, though, this is a series that has heaps of potential but still a lot to prove. The first episode was excellent and this second one merely stalls slightly as it sets up various elements. I await part three with great anticipation.