Fans of zombie apocalypse will find plenty of what they’re looking for in AMC’s Walking Dead. Executive producer Frank Darabont doesn’t try to rewrite the rules. His flesh-eating ghouls are slow, disgusting, numberless, and prone to trapping characters in almost-inescapable situations. The pilot follows sheriff Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) after he wakes up from a coma in a Georgia hospital, and discovers something has gone seriously wrong with the world. A chance encounter with father and son survivors briskly explains the situation, and Grimes is on his way to Atlanta to find his own wife and son. (He’s trying to reach one of those ‘evacuation centers,’ which anyone who’s seen a zombie movie or two could tell him it’s probably best to stay away from.)
Zombies are not everyone’s cup of tea. But those who have a history of absorption as terrified people hack, stab, and shoot these rotting upright corpses to a bloody pulp onscreen will certainly be rewarded for their time. The show does not flinch from scenes of extreme violence and gore, as graphic as anything ever seen on television.
A lot has been made of zombies as metaphors, but one suspects the real draw is escapism. Escapism, you ask? To a world filled with zombies? Yes, but also a world where the audience can indulge a particularly American fantasy of exceptionalism—certainly if anything so catastrophic were to happen, we would be one of the select few to survive, blasting shotgun holes through former bankers and politicians, running roughshod over the devil’s playground.