Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Walking Dead: Bicyle Girl's Story

Yes, I'm more than a little excited about The Walking Dead premiering tonight -- even though I probably won't actually watch the episode for another day or two. In anticipation, I've been rereading Hardcovers one and two of the original comic series, watching Season One on the Blu Ray, and checking out the webisodes on AMC.

First, allow me to say, I love the webisode idea, particularly for a show like The Walking Dead. The beauty of AMC's series -- and the comic which inspired it -- is that, ultimately, it is a human story, even more than it is a horror story.  I've said it before, I know, but this really can't be reiterated enough: the driving force behind the best horror and suspense is not the scares, thrills, and guts -- but the lives of the characters involved.  Kirkman really seems to get this, as does everyone involved in creating the show.

With the Walking Dead webisodes, AMC and the show's producers are managing to do something that even Romero does only moderately well: They are reminding us that the show's titular monsters (I'm gonna get yelled at for that -- yes, I KNOW that the title refers to the survivors just as much as the zombies) were once human beings. That every ravenous creature is a tale of tragedy and loss.  And with their first collection of webisodes, AMC and The Walking Dead do just that.

Fans of the show know Bicycle Girl as one of the first zombies Rick encounters: a pathetic figure, tragic as it crawls along the ground, stretching and reaching to no avail. Even Rick, as shocked and as horrified as he is, remembers the creature, pities it, and ultimately, ends its "life" as an act of mercy. But as the webisodes remind us, Bicycle Girl, like each of the zombies, had a name. Hers was "Hannah."

Effects guru Greg Nicotero directed this piece, starting with episode 1, "A New Day," in which we experience the zombie nightmare early on, from the eyes of the pre-deceased, iconic Hannah. Like Rick, she wakes up to the apocalypse -- in a crashed car instead of a hospital -- and immediately begins the search for her family.

Interesting and heart-wrenching, Nicotero presents us with a vignette of another group of people affected by the apocalypse.  The webisodes are relentlessly paced, and I'm thankful they were posted at the same time, because the 2-minute pieces by themselves would have been frustrating instead of entertaining -- but as they were, it was far easier to take Hannah's story as a whole, and it was better for it.

If you haven't watched them, give it a shot. Be aware that, like the show, it contains adult language and graphic -- very graphic -- violence. In a few short minutes, we get to know Hannah, to understand her, and to care about her.  Enough so that, even though you know she's going to come to an end -- a gruesome end, if the resulting look of Bicycle Girl is any indication -- there is still more than a little shock and sadness when you see it happen.

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