Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a cop who emerges as the leader of the group as they utilize each member’s skills to ensure their survival. There are many heated arguments along the way but ultimately the group functions well enough.
The Walking Dead is not satisfied with zombie attacks, of which there are plenty to entertain the audience. Complications amongst the characters add tension to the constant peering around every corner for a “walker”, an undead person.
Rick’s best friend, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), had an affair with Rick’s wife when the cop was presumed dead. Oh and she’s pregnant too. These two men have an ongoing disagreement over what the group should do and where it should go. Many of the characters are at odds with each other as they try to deal with not only survival but also figuring out what kind of a society they want to live in.
Some of The Walking Dead’s best moments are filled with suspense that centers on a character, or two, trying to avoid the walkers. For example, in the first episode of the second season, Andrea hides in an RV’s bathroom while a zombie lurks inside the vehicle. In the third season, there’s a suspenseful verbal face off between Rick and the Governor (David Morrissey). The show reveals character while keeping audience on the edge of their seats.
Shocks in the storylines mean anything can happen. Rick’s son Carl (Chandler Riggs) is shot accidentally by a hunter in the woods. Rick takes his son to a farm where Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson) lives with his family. The second season focuses on the two family units colliding on the farm. Rick’s group and Hershel’s family try to co-exit but nothing comes easy. One of the biggest surprises occurs when the newcomers find Hershel is hiding a bunch of walker relatives in his barn. In the aftermath of the destruction, tension is high; Daryl (Norman Reedus) says the group is broken and Hershel demands that Rick’s group leave the farm.
At its best, The Walking Dead mixes complex characters and tough decisions they must make to go along with action featuring a rising undead population, yet the show has a heart beating underneath the violence. For example, Glenn (Steven Yeun) from Rick’s group falls in love with Maggie (Lauren Cohan), one of Hershel’s daughters. The tragedy of Rick’s own marriage to Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and what the couple has had to endure becomes part of the show’s themes, beyond the world of zombies.
By the end of the second season, ten people remain from both groups and each side suffers great loss. The weight of surviving in this new world becomes even heavier.
The third season takes place in two separate villages: an abandoned prison where Rick and the remaining survivors remodel into a “home” and fortress against the walkers and an actual town, Woodbury, led by the charming yet sinister Governor, where new characters are introduced.
Rick’s leadership is tested especially after Lori gives birth to a daughter and dies in the process. When he starts to have visions of his dead spouse, Rick’s leadership becomes cloudy and unreliable. Michonne (Danai Gurira) is introduced in the third season and brings a heroine who first believes she might be better off alone but eventually sees the benefit of being part of a family unit.
The Walking Dead is not afraid to break your heart (without the help of a zombie). Daryl has to kill his own brother when he turns into a walker. The most heartbreaking character may be that of Carl, a teenage who grows up way too fast in this post-apocalyptic world. The world of The Walking Dead is truly reflected in this young man, who is slowly evolving into a man not unlike his own father.
The downfall of Woodbury is indicative of one man, the Governor, having too much power. In a twisted way, the prison becomes a sort of haven for Rick’s group. The conflict between the characters in The Walking Dead is as intense and interesting as the fights between the human survivors and zombies.
The show is much more than it appears to be on the surface, providing entertaining action and suspense while exploring how people try to cope with a world turned upside down. The Walking Dead is really about the complexity of human relationships with some old fashioned mayhem thrown in for good measure.
The fourth season of The Walking Dead premieres on AMC this Sunday, 10/13. Seasons One, Two and Three are now available on Blu-ray and DVD – Season Three was just released on 8/27.
- Mario Boucher