In a lot of ways, AMC’s The Walking Dead is a walking, or stumbling, contradiction. The show is an adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s still-running monthly comic book series which typically means a streamlining and “cutting the fat” approach to delivering the main plot beats while also managing to cater to mass audiences. Yet, in many instances, AMC’s vision is more fleshed-out than the comic book source material. But who the hell are we to complain? Fans of the comic book should be eating this series up. Not only because it allows us to see one of our favorite comics come to life; but also because it expands on a lot of areas the comic never covers, making sure even the most hardcore Walking Dead fans remain on their toes.
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Episode 1.01 - "Days Gone Bye"
Right. In. The. Face!!Readers of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic book probably don’t remember the opening scene of AMC’s adaptation of The Walking Dead. That’s because it never happened in the original source material. However, this opening sequence--featuring a coma surviving Rick Grimes traveling to an abandoned gas station in search of fuel and running head first into a zombie pre-teen girl--had one goal to accomplish: set the tone for the entire series. Rick’s decision to shoot the young girl in the face (whether zombie or not) shows viewers within two minutes that AMC’s The Walking Dead is not to be taken lightly. This show is serious, brutal and disgusting. This one sequence proves all three. Frank Darabont, the show’s creator, told the audience of the NYCC 2010: The Walking Dead panel that AMC’s version of the comic classic will make Breaking Bad “look like a bunch of pussies.” At the time we laughed. However, in hindsight, we should have believed him. This scene proved it. Mission accomplished.
Building A Better Friendship
Directly following the horrific opening sequence, the AMC version of The Walking Dead spends a few minutes establishing the relationship between lead characters Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh. This is something we never see in the comics. Instead, The Walking Dead comic spends a measly one page on the opening convict firefight--leaving us to assume the level of friendship Rick and Shane share--before hastily moving on to Rick waking up from his coma. Not surprisingly, the work of Frank Darabont and company on the AMC version is better fleshed out; giving viewers more insight into Rick and Shane’s longstanding friendship. In fact, Shane actually sounds like a voice of reason and comfort during this lunch break exchange, before the duo gets the call about the runaway convicts and quickly drives off to intercept.
The sequence where Rick wakes from his coma and wanders through the decimated remnants of a hospital is played much differently in the television series as opposed to the comic. In AMC’s version it’s all about tension and not revealing too much, too soon. We merely get hints as to what happened while Rick was out cold, and outside seeing a few gross zombie fingers creeping through a door, there is no real shock scare or “payoff” to the tension. In comparison, the comic shows Rick burst into the hospital cafeteria to find hordes of zombies ready to bite his face off. Maybe it was a budget thing, but AMC’s “less is more” approach to introducing this zombified world makes the sequence a bit better, in my humble opinion. The best horror fiction is when the tension never lets up, when you don’t ever get that “payoff” you’ve been expecting since the opening minutes. That’s how The Walking Dead seems during this segment, terrifying and perfect!
Also, as a bonus, the “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” message left on the door in the AMC version of The Walking Dead is actually something we don’t see till much later in the comic series. That was a nice Easter egg for Dead fans.
Shovel to the Face
The introduction of Morgan and his son, Duane, is much the same between comic and television. They both end with Rick taking a shovel to the face. However, where the comic and television series differentiate themselves is with how Morgan responds to Rick, specifically the bandage he sports on his chest. In the comic, Morgan thinks nothing of it, offering Rick a seat at the dinner table within moments of him waking up for his obvious concussion due to “shovel face.” In the AMC television series the scene plays out much differently; with Morgan putting a knife in Rick’s face and demanding he tell him the origin of his bandage...or else. Once again, the AMC version seems to make more sense, seeing as how these people are trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. They’re going to be apprehensive and extremely cautious of anyone new, especially in Morgan’s case.
Dealing with the Wifey
Morgan was by far the standout character of AMC’s The Walking Dead Episode 1. In Kirkman’s comic we learn little about the character upfront, other than his wife is dead and he is trying to do right by his still-alive son. In the television series we not only find out what happened to his wife, but we see the beautiful, tragic fallout of the situation. Morgan’s attempt to “move on” with his life is the best scene yet shown in AMC’s The Walking Dead, as it makes it perfectly clear that this show about zombies isn’t about zombies at all. Instead, The Walking Dead is a series about the relationships these characters build and lose while merely trying to survive.
There Are More....Survivors
Another way the AMC show differentiates itself from the original comics is by quickly showing the viewers that not only is Shane still alive, but so is Rick’s wife, Lori, and son, Carl. In the comics we don’t learn this till the end of issue #2, where this revelation is used as a cliffhanger. In the AMC series we are shown these important people are still alive to quickly build the character drama that will carry the show. We also see heavy-handed hints that Shane and Rick’s wife, Lori, might be closer than just friends.
As an added note, it was sublime seeing Dale perfectly recreated in real life, fisherman’s hat and tropical shirt intact.
Episode 1.02 - "Guts"
The beginning of Episode 2 of The Walking Dead made me nervous that the folks at AMC decided to turn Lori into quite the little slut-face, conflicting with the the strong, independent woman persona Robert Kirkman created in the original comics. Our first real taste of Lori in the AMC series shows her being needy of affection, even after losing her husband--hooking up with Shane more times than one night of desperate passion, as was the case in the comic. Thankfully, all is explained in Episode 3 of the AMC series (more on that to come). But what we can take away from the opening of Episode 2 is that Shane has a very twisted sense of what it means to be kinky.
Escape from Atlanta
Much like the brief one-page opening covering the convict shootout, Rick and Glenn’s time in Atlanta is short lived in the comic--only taking up roughly five pages. It’s pretty much in and out, no hiding in a tank, no dropped bag of guns, and definitely no Andrea and her rag-tag team of zombie chewing fodder. However, the horse being ripped apart does indeed happen in the original comic, although it’s not nearly as gruesome in the funny books as it was on AMC.
Merle Dixon and the Zombie Cannon Fodder
This is where the AMC series takes the biggest liberties with the first story arc of The Walking Dead. Outside Andrea, the group of survivors Glenn leads Rick to in Atlanta does not exist in the comics. If I was a betting man I would say these individuals have been added to the AMC series simply to be zombie eating fodder by the time the first season wraps up. However, the racist prick Merle Dixon, who’s introduced during this segment as well, will probably serve a far larger purpose in the grand scheme of AMC’s first season of The Walking Dead. Merle is the first true indicator of the types of conflicts The Walking Dead is known for; namely human vs. human, not human vs. zombie.
The confrontation on the rooftop between Rick, Merle and the rest of the Atlanta survivors also lets viewers get a good read on the moral compass of lead protagonist Rick. Rick’s background in law enforcement is displayed front and center and dictates his approach and haste with resolving the issue. Furthermore, the scene shows Rick’s willingness to step up and be a leader from the very start.
One of the nastiest scenes yet in AMC’s The Walking Dead is when Rick, Glenn, Andrea and the rest of the survivors holed up in Atlanta decide to chop up a dead man and use his guts as a mask to slip through the zombie hordes undetected and escape the city. While this scene does take place in the comic, it actually doesn’t happen until much later when Rick and Glenn return to Atlanta for supplies and weapons. Understandably, to save on time, the AMC series decided to lump this disgusting sequence in with the survivors escape from Atlanta; giving them a creative means to slip past the near infinite swarm of walkers.
To complete their escape from Atlanta, Rick and Glenn hijack two vehicles--a delivery truck and Dodge Challenger--and use them to transport everyone out of the city. While this plan never happens in the original comic, it’s a sequence that works well in the context of the show and concludes Episode 2 with a rare moment of happiness; especially for Glenn as he’s able to enjoy a high-speed pleasure cruise back to camp. However, don’t expect too many of these happy moments as the series picks up.
Episode 1.03 - "Tell It to the Frogs"
Here’s the scene we’ve been waiting for since Episode 1. This is the money shot. I, of course, speak of the reunion between Rick, his wife and his son. Even though this sequence plays out much like it did in the original comic, I have to give credit to the people at AMC for having better dramatic build-up to this reunion. It’s almost bittersweet because we, as viewers, know that this will not end well. Well played, AMC.
Meet Daryl, Merle’s Brother and Squirrel Master
Daryl Dixon, The brother of Merle who we met in Atlanta, is another completely new character introduced for this AMC television series. And much like his brother, Daryl will be instigating plenty of drama for the camp of survivors. Furthermore, Daryl’s introduction acts as the perfect catalyst for getting Rick and company to travel back into Atlanta to retrieve his brother, Merle. It might be a convenient twist of fate--in order to stretch out the action of AMC’s The Walking Dead--but you know what, it works.
For the attentive Walking Dead fan, you’ll notice that Daryl is actually given a scene from the original comic that Rick and Shane shared; putting down a walker munching on a deer and wondering if the meat is still good.
Lori Shoots Down Shane
Episode 3 is finally the point where we learn why Lori has been hooking up with Shane on multiple occasions. Apparently, in the AMC series Shane told Lori (off camera) that he saw Rick dead, thus sending her right into his arms. In the comic no such thing ever happens. It was just two people depressed that their best friend/lover was dead (he wasn’t), thus giving them a reason to console each other over the loss. With how the TV series plays out this scenario, Shane might actually be a little more honorable and less dickish in the original source material. As for Lori, she now has ample reason to absolutely detest Shane for the remainder of the television series’ first season. That’s good drama, folks!
Abusive Slave Master
I’m just going to put this out there: a lot of the southern survivors of the zombie apocalypse are racist or abusive assholes. Case and point: Ed during the clothes cleaning scene at the tail-end of Episode 3. Here we see abusive prick Ed demanding the women clean the camp’s clothes without treating the chore like “a comedy club.” Unfortunately, the situation escalates and Ed winds up dolling out punches to his woman’s, Carol’s face. Luckily Shane witnessed the event, and after being shot down by Lori, decides to dish out a few punches of his own, nearly beating Ed to death. While this scene never happens in the original comic, it serves two purposes in the AMC series: 1) It once again shows that maybe the biggest problem for this small group of survivors is the people within their own camp, and 2) Shane is very quick to fly off the handle when frustrated. This will be important as we get closer to the end of season one.
Merle is Missing...For the Most Part
Episode 3 ends with Rick, Daryl and a few other camp survivors back in Atlanta on a mission to find and retrieve Daryl’s brother, Merle. The group successfully reaches the top of the skyscraper where Rick handcuffed Merle to a pipe, yet, Merle is gone, having sawed off his own hand in order to break free of the ‘cuffs (hardcore). We might not know where Merle disappeared to--or how he managed to avoid bleeding out--but it’s a smart guess to assume Merle will be showing up soon with a vendetta against Rick for leaving him to die on top of the roof. Once again, not in the comics but a great cliffhanger carrying over into Episode 4.
Episode 1.04 - "Vatos"
Andrea, Amy and Fish
The opening scene of Episode 4 places the spotlight on Andrea and her sister, Amy, as they fish in a rock quarry. This is an important sequence because it gives some much needed background on the sisters, while also managing to get viewers emotionally invested in these two characters. Sadly, we never got anything like this scene in the original comics.
Jim was not much of a talker in the comic book series. All we really ever knew about him was that he lost his wife and children to the zombie apocalypse. AMC takes a different approach with the character, however; detailing a more tragic background for the character, while simultaneously making him potentially untrustworthy and far creepier.
Glenn Gets Kidnapped
The kidnapping of Glenn is something completely original to AMC’s version of The Walking Dead. And while it’s a convenient, interesting plot development that managed to keep Rick, Daryl, T-Dog and Glenn occupied in Atlanta for the majority of Episode 4, the shocking thing about this scenario is that AMC, after only four episodes, has already revealed a larger world of survivors outside those at the camp. This varies greatly from the original comic book source material, which kept all the action of the first story arc within the camp itself. It’s a risky move by AMC to reveal something this big so soon.
The Fate of Amy
Episode 4 concludes with the late-night zombie attack on the camp, much like it happened in the comics. However, there is one major difference: In AMC’s version we never see little Carl, without hesitation, shoot the head off a zombie in order to save his mom. This choice by AMC--potentially to avoid censorship--seems odd considering it directly plays into a major story beat coming up.