The Walking Dead Season One Finale: Combat Analysis and Final Thoughts
So there you have it. The first season of one of the most hotly anticipated TV shows for zombie fans has come to a close. It’s been a ton of fun analyzing each episode of this season from a hand-to-hand combat perspective, and like all the previous blog installments, I’ll provide commentary on the hand weapons and techniques used in this episode. I’ll also wrap up with some thoughts on the series overall and hopes for Season Two.
In the finale, Rick and the survivors gain access to the inner workings of the CDC by the only physician remaining, Dr. Edwin Jenner. The members can finally breathe a relaxed breath, as well as tie one on pretty severely using the Center’s apparently robust alcohol cache. Their respite is tragically short-lived, however, as even before their hangovers wear off the next morning, the group is told that they basically have one hour before the whole complex is blown to bits. As Adam Sandler once said “Things that could’ve been brought to my attention yesterday!”
The close combat in this episode is, like many this season, on the anemic side. In fact, the only non-firearm based neutralization occurs in the closing minutes, where Daryl artfully decapitates a walker with a fire axe. There was an interesting moment that caught my attention in the CDC, however, when Dr. Jenner describes his study of the reanimation sequence. He mentions that some specimens reanimate in three minutes, others in days. This is a similar observation made by Dr. Judith Ballantine, child psychiatrist, in The Zombie Combat Manual. My reasoning for this particular scientific observation is this – it is much more intense if you don’t know how long before someone who has been infected will turn. A victim could last for days, or you could turn away and he’ll be reaching for your throat.
Many people have asked me what I’ve thought of the series, so I figured it would be best to group my thoughts according to various topics:
Zombie Combat – I’ll be honest, I thought we would see a lot more hand-to-hand action in Season One. I had figured that since Atlanta was going to be the primary location that they would need to keep silent much more than they had. However, much of the combat was with guns a’blazin’. I’m not entirely surprised by this, though, simply from a special effects perspective – it’s a lot cheaper to blow a squib than it is to mock up a weapon and mold a zombie dummy skull to obliterate.
Comparisons to the Graphic Novels – While the show’s storyline is clearly not adhering to Kirkman’s original series, in my opinion the deviations made in the first season have improved, not reduced, the quality and potential future arcs of the show. The biggest change of course, was keeping Shane alive. Kirkman himself has said that if he could do it over, he would do the same, but at the time of the writing he didn’t know that the series would last 7 issues, much less 79.
Nitpicks – I’m very pleased with how the show has been produced, except for one very bizarre element: the foley work. For those of you unfamiliar with this term “Foley” is the replication of sounds and sound effects used on screen, layered on top of the film by a “foley artist” to bring realism to what’s being shown on screen. I’m not sure if anyone else noticed this as well, but some of the sound effects I heard throughout the season were either overdone or replicated in several episodes. For example, pickaxe scenes in the “Wildfire” episode sounded similar to the dismemberment scene in the “Guts” episode with the squishy sound effects. Some zombie moans also sounded familiar throughout, as if they kept rewinding the same groan over and over. Hopefully with the show being a success, they can put some of the production budget to better foley work.
Hopes for Season 2 – I think it’s undeniable that every fan of the graphic novel series is waiting for the appearance of Michonne and her katana. As a zombie close combat fan, how can you not? I would also hope to see greater variations of melee weapons other than the baseball bat and the axe (both camp and fire) which were basically the only tools that saw action this season. Depending on the uptick of hand-to-hand action in Season 2, I may only blog about those episodes that feature exceptional zombie combat.
Overall, I don’t see how a zombie fan can not like this series. I’m constantly shocked by the online peanut gallery who dump on this season. Here you have not only a zombie apocalypse show, but one that has Kirkman’s writing, Darabont’s directing and producing, and KNB’s special effects, and you still have the haters. Sure, it has its nitpicks and inauthentic moments (i.e. the climbing fence zombie) but in general, it’s clear that they are sticking to the original Romero canon. The acting is superior, the writing is above par (especially when it’s Frank or Robert’s pen), and the zombies look awesome. Quite frankly, this is probably the best we’re ever going to get with zombies on TV, so let’s hope the next 13 episodes are as high quality as the first six.
And where’s that blasted katana?