We have a long haul to October and Season 4 of The Walking Dead so I thought I would go back and at least Cross Section Seasons 1 and 2 as whole. If you’d like me to do each episode like I started to do in Season 3 let me know by comment or direct email and I’ll be happy to do so. And to remind, the Cross Sections are based on the tv series not the comics. But you should go and read the comics as the story varies and offers a lot on its own. **Do not read if you have not watched. Contains details to plot etc**
Though the title of the first Pilot episode is called “Days Gone By..” I am branding Season 1 as “Awakening…” for many reasons that are obvious and maybe not so obvious. The Season starts with our main characters trenched and set in day to day routines and schedules and habits. Small trivial things are a big deal as the world around seems mundane. Rick Grimes, deputy police officer from “up the road a ways” of Atlanta GA gets shot on duty and is hospitalized. When he “awakes” things look normal, the hospital room, the clock on the wall but something isn’t quite right. A change happened …..
As Rick tries to pull everything together and come to his senses and exits his hospital room he finds that a lot has changed. Nothing is the same anymore. The hospital is in ruin. A stretcher blocking the door of his room. A corpse in the aisle, in shreds. Down the hall a set of double doors chained shut with “Do Not Open Dead Inside” spray painted on them. This is where Walking Dead begins. The world outside is also very different. There is nothing. No traffic, no life, no crowds of people. Just Walkers. The undead that have come back to “life”. (The genre of The Walking Dead does not refer to Zombies, but calls them Walkers). Rick’s first challenge is to find his family. The trivial day to day things are gone and small things taken for granted like water, clothes, food are huge. His first encounter with people in this new world is with Morgan Jones and his son Duane. Morgan lost his wife to the virus and was headed to Atlanta when he got overwhelmed by the Walkers and boarded up in a house. Morgan’s “awakening” is filled with fear and hesitation. Unable to move on to Atlanta (or move on emotionally) he insists on putting his undead wife to rest before doing anything else. Ultimately (we learn later in the series), he can’t put his wife down, she infects/kills Duane and Morgan has to kill both trapping Morgan in a state of doubt and paranoia. Morgan instead seals a block of a nearby town and fills it with traps and gadgets to “clear” the Walkers. In his eyes there is no hope. No resolution. But that’s getting beyond Season 1.
Rick is later reunited with his wife and son and long time friend Shane. They are in a secluded camp with other survivors. Lori and Shane have an “awakening” of their own when they discover that Rick is very much alive and very much missing his wife. Sometimes in life, things do come back to haunt us. Rash actions, things we say, the dead coming back to life, wrong choices. The camp itself now “awakens” to the fact that there is life, there are survivors and they cannot hide from the world isolated. It must move on to find others and a better place to setup camp. You cannot hide from the horrors outside your door. Everyone must face their fears.
Then we have Merle Dixon. Merle has one of the largest and broadest character growths on the show and in the series. Merle, an ex military backwoods redneck, also has one of the rudest “awakenings” in the series as well. The drug addict, racist and womanizing grunt suddenly finds himself in a situation where if you don’t have compassion or help those around you then you get cut off and even left to fend for oneself or die. The new world is all about helping the living and disposing of the undead. What’s left of the world does not revolve around an individual but is rebuilt by the cooperation of the community. I must note that thanks to Merle Dixon, one of my cats thinks her nickname is “sugar tits”, no lie. We find Merle a much different soul in Season 3 and over the course of Season 2 his younger brother Daryl Dixon becomes an intricate member of the camp and trusted associate to Rick Grimes on their search for a better way of life.
Season 1 is filled with intense situations, grim realities about people, not just about the undead Walkers. Things we take for granted or believe in no longer matter. Trust is also a recurring theme in Season 1. From Morgan to trusting Rick (or Rick trusting anyone) to the group trusting the CDC about what the virus is and if there is a cure. When people end up with nothing trust becomes an invaluable commodity. Season 1 is about “Awakenings”. Literal, Spiritual, and Metaphorical.
The 3 disc set of Season 1 contains a black and white rendering of the pilot “Days Gone By..” and is filled with extra features. Adapting the Dead is one of my favorites which explores the adaptation of the comic books into the tv series. If you look closely in the bonus features you get a glimpse of the actress that played the “fuzzy bunny slipper” Walker without the Zombie makeup.