The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye   Rewatch 
November 7, 2014 1:55 PM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

A small-town cop emerges from a coma to find that the world has changed unimaginably while he's been unconscious.
posted by escape from the potato planet (26 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is one of my favorite episodes of television. Healthy doses of suspense, a glimpse into Shane's horrible character from the get go, and a great introduction into a newly post-apocalyptic world. Also one of the most jarring opening scenes from a pilot that didn't feel gratuitous to me.

Looking back, it is startling how much Rick's look has transformed.
posted by cashman at 3:13 PM on November 7, 2014 [2 favorites]


Rewatching this, I was struck by the way it emphasized the humanity (or at least the former humanity) of the walkers.

(When you're talking about zombies, does it make sense to draw a distinction between extras and non-extras? In this case, I think it does!) Aside from the zombie extras, we saw a human side to every single walker – either through their actions, or the way they were framed and presented.

The very first zombie we saw – the little girl at the gas station – picked up her stuffed animal and clung to it, clearly showing some vestige of her living self. And when Rick shoots her, we're meant to understand that it's awful for him, and it's just an awful thing in general, because he's shooting a little girl.

Morgan's wife shows curiosity and a glimmer of intelligence – peering through the fisheye, fumbling with the doorknob. And of course, the scene where Morgan shoots her is all about what she used to be to Morgan, and what he and his son have lost. One last, horrible act of compassion and love for a wife who isn't there any more.

Before Rick kills his first walker (with the baseball bat), he wants to be sure that it's really dead – that he's not about to kill a living person. And he recognizes the zombified policeman as a former coworker.

The legless woman in the park is played for pathos – she isn't a threat, but a thing to be pitied. This apocalypse isn't just a tragedy for the survivors who have to live in this terrifying new world – it's a tragedy for the thousands who have lost their lives and their humanity in the outbreak. When she reaches out to Rick, she surely just wants to eat him – but it's hard not to read that gesture as a plea for Rick to help her. (Which he does, in a way.)

It's only when we see the first herd (when Rick chases after the copter in Atlanta) that Rick (and we the viewers) can no longer afford to feel empathy for the human beings that the walkers used to be. They're an omnipresent, low-level danger that threatens to erupt into immediate and severe danger if Rick isn't vigilant at all times.

Indeed, it's the stress of having to maintain that constant vigilance, as much as the walkers themselves, that makes life in the apocalypse so terrifying. Living under constant, unrelieved threat does things to one's nerves.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:00 PM on November 7, 2014 [6 favorites]


Oh, and:

The first time I saw this, I thought it was a total ripoff of the setup from 28 Days Later. Which it is, of course. (Are there any other zombie stories that do the "main character was unconscious during the initial outbreak" thing?)

It's a convenient device for zombie-apocalypse fiction, which (for whatever reason) wants to spend as little time as possible on the characters' lives before the outbreak, and instead get right into the apocalypse. But, still – it's a pretty blatant thing to rip off.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 5:13 PM on November 7, 2014


The legless woman in the park is played for pathos – she isn't a threat, but a thing to be pitied.

Man, that part terrified me the first time I saw this episode. (Less so now since I saw this behind-the-scenes photo). The suspense as we wait for Rick to fully realize what has happened is done very well and feels much more like a horror movie than a TV show. I have a particular fear of zombies for some reason and this episode is especially tense and difficult for me to get through (in a good way).

The very first zombie we saw – the little girl at the gas station – picked up her stuffed animal and clung to it, clearly showing some vestige of her living self.

Not having seen this episode in quite a long time, I found this part jarring considering in later episodes it is heavily emphasized that zombies have predictable, animalistic behavior with clearly no remnant of their humanity remaining. For example, the experiment that Milton later performs with the dying old man in season 3 is meant to test the theory that people can remember anything about their lives after zombifying, and the answer is a definite no.

Looking back, it is startling how much Rick's look has transformed.

Yes, startling is right. They've done a great job reflecting all the suffering he's experienced as the show progresses.
posted by Librarypt at 6:08 PM on November 7, 2014


The legless woman in the park is played for pathos – she isn't a threat, but a thing to be pitied.

The first Walking Dead webisode gave her a name and a backstory.
posted by Knappster at 6:14 PM on November 7, 2014


I went back and rewatched this after the Season 5 premiere. The first two seasons were so good! Nothing in the later seasons comes close to Rick and Shane's story arc over the first two seasons. It seems like the character development has really taken a back seat in favor of the occasional shock.
posted by natteringnabob at 7:51 PM on November 7, 2014


It kind of makes sense. In the first couple of years, there are more living people. There is still a sense of hope and optimism. There is still a feeling that the world still belongs to people. That this is a blip. So there should be more story development and exploration then, when you can forage for this type of mushroom or that type.

Years later, years deep into this horror world, it should be dark, and scary, and it's more about what descent has each character found their way into.
posted by cashman at 8:39 PM on November 7, 2014


(Are there any other zombie stories that do the "main character was unconscious during the initial outbreak" thing?)

This is an old trope that goes back to at least Day of the Triffids (1951). TV Tropes even has an entry on it: Slept Through the Apocolypse.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:11 AM on November 8, 2014 [3 favorites]


DAY! OF THE TRIFFIDS! That movie was hilarious.
posted by cashman at 7:50 AM on November 8, 2014


The first two seasons were so good! Nothing in the later seasons comes close to Rick and Shane's story arc over the first two seasons.

I could not disagree more with this. I was pretty bored with the way the Rick/Shane storyline dragged out. Things in later seasons get resolved more quickly because they have to be -- Rick learns over the course of the show that he can't afford to give people second and third chances. It just isn't worth the risk. He doesn't learn this lesson very quickly with the governor but that's basically the final straw for him. That's why he kills the Termites so quickly.

And I think later seasons continue to have great stories. Look at Carol's character arc from season 1 to season 4. She is a completely different character by the end, and she developed slowly over the course of those seasons.
posted by Librarypt at 9:00 AM on November 8, 2014 [4 favorites]


I'm with Librarypt. The quality of the storytelling has unquestionably gotten better over the course of the show. I kept watching in spite of the Shane storyline, not because of it.

Jumping forward to the current episodes, who's left from the original camp outside of Atlanta? Rick, Carl, Daryl, Glenn, and Carol? Not a great survival rate.

cashman commented on how much Rick's appearance has changed, and I suspect we're going to see a lot of that as we get into the initial Atlanta/camp storyline – we know these characters as grizzled soldiers now, but at the start they were ordinary people, totally green. Merle and Daryl had lived rough-and-tumble lives, and Rick of course was a cop, but these were not people who had training or experience in war or survival – a retiree, a government paper-pusher, a pizza delivery guy, a couple of housewives, a blue-collar worker or two.

One of the questions raised by apocalypse stories is: what makes a survivor? Who would become a victim, and who would manage to keep their head above water? Is it adaptability? The ability to work with others? (Or the ability to fend for oneself?) Willingness to bend morality in order to do what needs to be done? (Or willingness to stick to a moral code even when it becomes a liability?) Trust and forgiveness, or tribalism and ruthlessness?
posted by escape from the potato planet at 10:53 AM on November 8, 2014 [2 favorites]


It's only when we see the first herd (when Rick chases after the copter in Atlanta) that Rick (and we the viewers) can no longer afford to feel empathy for the human beings that the walkers used to be.

I loved your post! I do think that Rick doesn't give up on feeling empathy just yet, and the show isn't done with humanizing walkers if you look at the next episode and the zombie they cut up to protect themselves.
posted by cashman at 3:26 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]


Oh boy! A chance to hate Shane all over again!
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:01 PM on November 9, 2014 [5 favorites]


Not having seen this episode in quite a long time, I found this part jarring considering in later episodes it is heavily emphasized that zombies have predictable, animalistic behavior with clearly no remnant of their humanity remaining.

Different showrunners. The remnant of their former self thing was something Darabont brought to the table.

Oh boy! A chance to hate Shane all over again!

M'ask you sumthin'. *crouches, rubs head*
posted by entropicamericana at 7:51 AM on November 10, 2014 [4 favorites]


It kind of makes sense. In the first couple of years, there are more living people. There is still a sense of hope and optimism. There is still a feeling that the world still belongs to people.

I borderline hate-watched S1-3. It's only when S4 really embraced the sense of the weight of "it's all gone and it's not coming back" that I started to actively enjoy the show. I guess you could defend the soapy nature of the early seasons in that maybe everyone hadn't gotten the memo that they had bigger things to worry about, or at least should maybe take them seriously. But by about S1E04 I was rooting for the undead.
posted by phearlez at 9:19 AM on November 10, 2014 [1 favorite]


And of course, the scene where Morgan shoots her is all about what she used to be to Morgan, and what he and his son have lost. One last, horrible act of compassion and love for a wife who isn't there any more.

But Morgan doesn't shoot her; he can't force himself to do it until much later when she kills their son. One of my fave moments in the whole series is when Rick says, "I'm sorry this happened to you" to the walker-fragment in the park before killing it. But by and large, I agree with phearlez about truly embracing the show when we hit Season 4 and it becomes super-clear that this whole shebang is an unspeakably grim, bleak slow-motion extinction event in progress.

28 Days Later also uses the "slept through the whole zombie outbreak" opening and I think lifted it straight out of the WD comic, didn't it?
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:06 PM on November 12, 2014


28 Days Later also uses the "slept through the whole zombie outbreak" opening and I think lifted it straight out of the WD comic, didn't it?

Not unless a time machine was involved. 28 Days Later came out in 2002. The Walking Dead Issue 1 came out in October 2003.

Anyway, as I said above, sleeping through the apocalypse is an old trope that predates both of them.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:50 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


I really liked Glenn "The Pizza Delivery Guy" scavenging superstar in the earlier episodes, and was kind of bummed to see him gradually being pushed to the background as the seasons went along. So one of my favorite scenes in Season 4 was when he wakes up on the ledge in the prison alone and pulls himself together as the self-sufficient guy he used to be in Season 1, but leveled-up (to use the gaming metaphor from the Season 5 Episode 4 show-only thread) from experience and his determination to find Maggie.
posted by misozaki at 7:32 PM on November 12, 2014


Not unless a time machine was involved. 28 Days Later came out in 2002. The Walking Dead Issue 1 came out in October 2003.

Thanks for that correction. When I saw the first Walking Dead episode, I said, "Wow, that's nearly identical to the opening of 28 Days Later," but somebody told me the earliest comic pre-dated the film, and I never verified that. It's more than just the same general trope, though. It's a "guy with major injury suddenly awakes from coma in bed in deserted, trashed hospital and, still wearing hospital garb, wanders through hospital and then through deserted streets toward home." It's just a bigger town in the movie.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:50 PM on November 12, 2014


I dunno – lack of backstory notwithstanding, I think Glenn has become a much more developed and interesting character since he was first introduced. He was capable and scrappy at the beginning, but also kind of an awkward kid. Fast-forward to season 5, and he's as much a leader and moral compass as anyone else in the group.

Tangentally, it's cool that there's a prominent Asian character on a blockbuster TV series, who isn't othered or defined by his Asian-ness, isn't sexually neutered, doesn't know a lick of martial arts, and is generally just a well rounded character who happens to be Asian. When was the last time that happened? Seriously – I'm curious. (I don't watch much TV, so I've probably missed some things.)
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:07 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Tangentally, it's cool that there's a prominent Asian character on a blockbuster TV series, who isn't othered or defined by his Asian-ness, isn't sexually neutered, doesn't know a lick of martial arts, and is generally just a well rounded character who happens to be Asian. When was the last time that happened?

Yeah, that's pretty rare in Western media. But I can think of a couple.

John Cho's character in Sleepy Hollow, while thoroughly wretched and enslaved to a demon or some such, isn't defined by his Asian-ness. Actually, John Cho in Harold and Kumar also.

The Kevin Tran character in Supernatural (played by Osric Chau), although starting out as a stereotype (super high achieving highschool, maths nerd and cellist, with a full on tiger mother) goes on to be compassionate, resolute, heroic and brave, even though he's terrified and weak the entire time. Again, not defined by his Asian-ness. Although his attributes as a 2nd gen Asian immigrant are part of his character, they're an integral part, not just tacked on. I didn't mind his stereotype origins. I've known kids like that, and the portrayal didn't seem as if it was absurdly exaggerated or mocking.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:42 PM on November 12, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yes, Glenn is a prominent Asian character, but as I noted in one of the Season 5 threads, he's also the ONLY Asian character. I mean, people commenting in FanFare are constantly going on about the token black character coming and going but in TWD Asian = Glenn. Nobody else, not even as a walker! And I find it kind of odd that not too many people seem to be bothered by that.

I grew up in the Deep South and we were probably the only Japanese family for miles and miles around (this was in the early '80s), but there were lots of Vietnamese kids in my school so I wasn't the only Asian kid even back in those days. So I find it weird that there are no other Asians in TWD, though it's about the only thing that really bothers me about the show. Otherwise I can suspend my disbelief for most of what goes on in it.

It must be SO HARD for Asian actors to make a living in the U.S. Wow. Sorry to bring in another show to this, but I binge-watched Game of Thrones recently as well, and that one has exactly zero Asian actors. I get that it's based on novels, but it's fantasy and they change things from the novels all the time!

Oh, and thank you to escape from potato planet for starting the rewatch.
posted by misozaki at 12:14 AM on November 13, 2014 [2 favorites]


Ugh, missed the edit window! escape from the potato planet, sorry for the misspelling.
posted by misozaki at 12:22 AM on November 13, 2014


I think Glenn is great as a character. My problem is Abraham getting a backstory after being around for a season or two, meanwhile Glenn has been around since the pilot and hasn't gotten as much.
posted by cashman at 6:40 AM on November 13, 2014


Take it up with Kirkman. IIRC, that's the about the same treatment they got in the comic book except Abraham's backstory was, in true form, told and not shown in a wordy monologue.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:59 AM on November 13, 2014


Well it's a larger pattern on television in general. I just hope that when they finally get around to telling Glenn's backstory it was worth the wait, and it's not as he's dying.
posted by cashman at 8:22 AM on November 13, 2014


« Older The Legend of Korra: The Battl...   |  Steven Universe: Fusion Cuisin... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments

poster