We are at a crossroads—an intersection on a lost highway choked with scorched and toppled cars. A lawman approaches. He carries a gas can. The service station is a stockyard of abandoned vehicles forming a makeshift village—a refugee camp—but there are no signs of life. Just trash, moldy food and fly-buzzed corpses. The lawman steps toward a pump to get the fuel he needs for his police cruiser—and a sound stops him. He turns. There is no one there. He drops to his knees and looks under a car. On the other side, a pair of feet in rabbit-ear slippers shuffles toward a teddy bear. The lawman stands. He sees all of her now—a little girl, walking away from him. He calls to her. His eyes widen with hope, but no: She is a Walker—a haunted, rabid husk of rotting flesh with a rictus smirk and an inhuman hunger. The lawman knows what must be done, but he hesitates. This isn’t easy. Not yet. He pulls the trigger. Headshot and splatter. What little that was truly left of the little girl is finally lost for good, and the lawman is again alone.
This is the way the world ends, and the way The Walking Dead begins.
TOTALLY WALKING DEAD
Episode 1: “Days Gone By”
A conversation between Jeff Jensen and Dan Snierson about AMC’s The Walking Dead, the zombie drama starring Andrew Lincoln, Jon Bernthal, and Sarah Wayne Callies, from executive producer Frank Darabont, adapted from the comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore and Charlie Adlard.
BRAIN-SPLATTERING, BLOOD-SPURTING ZOMBIE HEADSHOTS: 12
TOTAL ZOMBIE KILLS: 13
ZOMBIE-RELATED HUMAN KILLS (DEPICTED): 0
JEFF: The prospect of a zombie story doesn’t usually get my geek heart thumping with excitement, and it takes an uncommonly excellent one to even make a mark on me. Zombies look boring, they act boorishly, they don’t do anything that Bram Stoker’s Dracula or a pack of H.R. Giger-designed aliens can’t do more stylishly and memorably.I don’t even find zombies particularly scary. They don’t spook me the way Satan-possessed kids and wantonly sinister vampires spook me–
DAN: Oh. So the way you were freaking out during the climactic tank sequence of the pilot was just an imitation of someone being scared?
JEFF: Okay, there are exceptions, and The Walking Dead pilot immediately distinguished itself as one of them. What’s your zombie policy, Dan?
DAN: Well, I would start by saying that I’m no zombie expert, though I really enjoyed Shaun of the Dead and 28 Days Later. I guess I’ve always had mixed feelings about zombies as agents of horror. There’s something weak, almost pathetic, about their lack of powers. You have extremely limited intellectual capacity and I can outrun you, ergo you are not scary! But that was always countered by their unrelenting, stalkery dedication. You will not be derailed from your mission to consume my head, ergo you are scary—especially when you swarm with others like you! And to be honest, a small, dumb side of me likes to believe that every zombie has the ability somewhere inside its corroded cerebral cortex to transform back to the side of good (like Darth Vader back to Anakin Skywalker), or at least he/she could be persuaded to turn on his/her fellow undead and eat THEM into oblivion. There: Now I have exposed my zombie naiveté to the world.
NEXT: Jeff contemplates “one of the most unsettling depictions of sadistic evil I’ve ever seen in a comic”; Dan uses the word “zombiegasms.”