The series opens with episode 101 “Days Gone Bye.” (Although, from a purely chronological view, the webisodes are “first.” I may review those, too. Whatever.) Officer Rick Grimes, played by daft actor Andrew Lincoln, is shot and goes into the hospital, where he eventually wakes up to find the world turned to shit around him. He leaves the hospital to see what looks like a warzone. On the way home, Rick takes the bicycle that appears to belong to a highly emaciated zombie that has come to be known as Bicycle Girl (the webisodes explain her origin. They’re fun).
He makes it home to find it deserted; his wife and child are gone. He weeps. He mourns. He gets back on his feet. This is why I love Rick so damn much. He’s the strong one. He’s the fucking Batman of the show. He then meets (klang!) Morgan, played by Lennie James, and his son, Duane, other survivors. They serve as the so-important plot dump for the first episode. Morgan explains that the dead are walking around and eating the living, turning them into the dead. It is a Zombie Apocalypse, but nobody uses the word “zombie.” Series creator Robert Kirkman has explained that these people exist in a world where the concept of zombies doesn’t really exist. Ergo, they are unprepared for it.
Rick takes Morgan and Duane to the police station where he works (well, worked), and shares with them some of the station’s weapons: a rifle with a scope, some ammo, and other gun stuff about which I wish I knew more. He also gives Morgan a hand radio. This will be very important in later episodes. Rick then leaves to head to Atlanta, where he was told a base was erected, and Morgan and his son head back to the house they were staying in. Morgan hasn’t yet moved on to a different house because his wife was turned in it. That kinda hurt runs deep. Morgan goes upstairs and looks through old family photos. His wife was beautiful in life. Morgan then begins sniping walkers, saying “Jenny, come on, baby . . .” Then he sees what he’s looking for: his wife’s walker. He finds her in the scope, he puts her in the crosshairs. But he just can’t bring himself to shoot her. His emotional breakdown is beautiful and well-acted. Eventually Morgan’s wife walks out of the crosshairs. This is where we leave Morgan and his son. And I want to see them again, damnit! They were dynamic!
Meanwhile, Rick has just put down Bicycle Girl with his now-trademark Colt Python .357 Magnum. He is then seen driving down the road, trying to raise other survivors on his police radio while driving to Atlanta. Unknowingly, he contacts a group of survivors that I both love and hate. Among the survivors are Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal), Rick’s old partner, and Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), Rick’s wife. They don’t know he is alive, and they have been having a relationship in his absence (Come on, Lori! What the fuck?! Rick’s only been “gone” like a month! Couldn’t keep it in your pants all that long?). As of 204, Rick still doesn’t know.
Rick’s car runs out of gas on the way to Atlanta, and he has to leave it on the road. He finds a horse on a farm house and takes it into Atlanta, wherein the real fun begins.
In the city Rick sees a helicopter reflected against a building (when will THAT be explained?!) and tries to chase it, but runs into a group of zombies. He tries to run away, but they overtake him. He falls from his horse (which gets eaten. Poor horsie!) and crawls beneath a nearby tank. He makes it inside, kills a zombie soldier in the belly of the tank, becomes temporarily deafened, and thinks about his situation. He is truly alone. He is overwhelmed. He may end up killing himself. At this point, someone comes over the tank’s radio and asks Rick if he’s comfy in there. The episode ends with haunting music. I actually want to get the album that it is found on.
This episode is perhaps one of the greatest examples of a show’s debut to date. Rick shooting the little girl zombie sets the scene for the entirety of the series. People are having to do things that they wouldn’t have done before. The world has stayed relatively the same, the difficulties are roughly the same, but it is people who have changed. People are the real monsters. And therein lies the problem.
I’ll keep updating with the remaining 5 episodes of season 1, then I’ll do season 2. I’ll try to do get up to date as quickly as possible. 102 will be sometime tomorrow.