'The Walking Dead' on DVD and Blu-ray
Thursday, March 10, 2011; 1:44 PM
You're a Georgia deputy, shot in the line of duty. Hospitalized, you fade in and out of consciousness - for weeks? months? - with only the faintest awareness of visitors and well-wishers.
When you awake, the long-wilted flowers left at your bedside are the first sign of trouble. But not in your wildest morphine haze could you anticipate what's beyond the confines of your hospital room. That's because while you were comatose, the zombie apocalypse hit.
This is how we're introduced to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the protagonist left for dead at the opening of "The Walking Dead," a zombie-slaying survivor's tale adapted from Robert Kirkman's graphic novels. The show's six-episode first season aired on AMC last fall and is now out on DVD ($39.98) and Blu-ray ($49.99).
Grimes soon learns that he's not alone in this suburban hellscape strewn with rotting corpses, military equipment and, of course, "walkers," the undead whose bite turns humans into bloodthirsty zombies. He's taken in by fellow survivor Morgan (Lennie James) and told there's refuge to be found in Atlanta. Morgan stays behind while Rick arms himself with guns from his former police precinct, mounts a horse and rides off, Gary Cooper-like, toward the ATL.
It's not spoiling anything to reveal that those hopes prove slightly exaggerated, and from there on, the show becomes less "Kill Bill" (though there are enough kill shots to satisfy action junkies) and more "Lost": Love triangles, rescue missions, testosterone-fueled infighting, survivor's guilt and even an underground hatch of sorts all wrestle for control of the plot. The walkers at times are so secondary to the proceedings that they seem no more menacing than a nasty flu. Until they get hungry, that is.
What's immediately clear throughout is the magnificent work of the show's costume crew, which gets its due for giving the walkers their undead-ness - torn skin, missing lips and other delights - in the two-disc set's special features. Of note is a time-lapse featurette on the transformation of actress Melissa Cowan into "Bicycle Girl," a legless, snarling walker first encountered by Grimes after he leaves the hospital.
Episode-by-episode commentary segments don't make up for a lack of full-length commentary tracks. What's perhaps most revealing, however, are interviews with Lincoln and James that expose them as - gasp! - Englishmen! Their Southern drawls are indistinguishable from the real thing.
Get used to the sound of them: AMC has ordered a 13-episode second season, due to premiere this fall. Here's hoping for a more thorough offering of special features when there's more original material to work with.