As I wrote in my 2010 review of AMC’s The Walking Dead, the show is really, really good. Adapted from the comic series written by Robert Kirkman, the tv series follows a band of humans attempting to survive the zombie outbreak that has apparently overtaken the world. Central to this are police officer Rick Grimes, his former partner, Shane, and Rick’s wife, Lori, and son, Carl.
This review is focused on the materials included in the 3-disc Special Edition, available October 4th, just two weeks before Season Two airs. AMC apparently understands its cult following, because there are a TON of extras to go with the six episodes that make up season one. First of all, each of the six episodes from season one are included; each with at least one audio commentary track. One interesting piece to note is that the commentary isn’t always writer/director/star. AMC even brings in Special Effects and Make-up Artists for their perspective.
Also included is the pilot episode (shot completely in black and white). The featurettes are the real meat and potatoes of The Walking Dead. First up is “We Are The Walking Dead”; a 3-part feature covering the Comic Con 2010 appearance of the producers and cast. Darabont gives viewers a great view into the pre-production process, and the fun the whole crew is having is a blast. The footage begins the day before shooting, and follows the entire shooting process, including zombie school, car wrecks, and shooting a zombie child. The crew even has to accommodate lightning strikes, wind shears and heat storms. Actress Laurie Holden’s take on episode five is a captivating moment. Norman Reedus (Boondock Saints) gives some good insight into his ad lib approach to a farewell scene.
Next up is KNB studios’ documentary on making the Walking Dead. This focuses on Greg Nicotero’s passion for zombies and special effects. Nicotero loves zombies, and his lifelong obsession with zombies rivals Darabont’s passion for ways to express creativity in never-before-seen ways. He gets a chance to brag about his staff, and the feature really captures the great lengths he goes to in the name of making zombies absolutely convincing. He even reveals how to behead your director, when appropriate. Nicotero took personal investment into one of the key scenes from Season One, and his recap is exactly what everyone who ever dreams of waking to the zombie apocalypse needs to see.
Next is the VFX of the Walking Dead: This one covers the post-production aspects of The Walking Dead, which includes a whole ton of folks working to dot the I’s and cross the T’s to make the grand scope of zombies believable. This goes into green screen shooting, duplication, randomization, and the careful blend of CGI with actual shots. The signature zombie kill that launches this series, aka Bicycle Girl, is one great example of the reductive prosthetic technique used by the post-production team.
Next up is “There’s No More Room in Hell” which follows Kirkman’s comic career. He explains a great deal about the industry, including the unique model that Image Comics shares with its writers, vs the industry standard of Marvel or DC. Executive Producer Eric Alpert explains Kirkman’s initial pitch to get published, and how The Walking Dead grew in subscribers where most comics fail. Kirkman reveals his reasoning for starting things off in black and white, and why the series began the same way. He also explains the importance of the characters, not the zombies, in the world he has developed.
Next is Adapting the Dead. This feature explains Kirkman’s challenge in finding the right team to adapt his story for television. This unique feature marries Kirkman’s possessive love of his idea and Darabont’s passion for storytelling. This is the point where dream and skill unite to explain how The Walking Dead came from one writer’s vision to a carefully crafted, well-written, and thoroughly developed TV series. This segment will be particularly powerful for fans of the comic who are just now exposed to the show.
The next segment is Killer Converstations: a chat between Nicotero and Darabont that is very entertaining. The two cover every aspect of project from casting to writing, shooting, growing up on the same scene and their mutual love of zombies.
The bottom line: If you’re already a fan of The Walking Dead, this release will provide you plenty of ammunition to fall in love with every shot of every episode. If you’re not a fan, watch this first, and see how it resonates with your love of the zombie genre. The Walking Dead is a character-driven zombie show shot, written and filmed by zombie lovers. It’s a can’t miss.
Also included are post cards for the Walking Dead Chronicles; a behind the scenes guide to the comic and series, the Walking Dead trading cards, and Season Two of the Walking Dead.