The next two on my list I group together as almost a legacy starting point. Both of these shows are the biggest and most aggressive projects going right now. They started the future of TV back in 2010 and 2011 with innovative new ways to showcase what use to be small screen medium, and make it feel like a movie experience. The first one at #16 is the The Walking Dead Season 1.
Here is the list so far:
#16 – The Walking Dead Season 1 – Score: 26
I still contend to this day that the best stretch that TWD (The Walking Dead) has ever had was its first six episodes. Although with the way the second half of Season 6 has started, it may have some legit competition very soon. The first season of TWD grabbed everyone’s attention for a couple of reasons. Yes the visual effects were amazing. Yes, zombies are in right now as part popular culture. But in my opinion, it was the first real attempt to tell the long-form story of the post-apocalyptic world on the small screen. Myself in particular was riveted by what I would do in Rick shoes as he begins to see the landscape of a world that he truly does not recognize anymore. The ultimate nightmare that we all may have had in our dreams was now his walking reality. His slow march on horseback into a desolate Atlanta is one of many lasting impressions TWD makes in Season 1. Everyone remembers the first time Glenn radios into the tank that Rick is hiding in as his silent prayer is answered. All of us Boondock Saints fans were immediately 100% in when we saw Murphy McManus aka Daryl Dixon come through those woods as part of the new group. What separates TWD from other shows that didn’t make the list and even other TWD seasons, was that we got to see the end of the world first hand on a large scale. What it would feel like, how we would survive and what does hopelessness really look like. Make no mistake, we took every step along the way with Rick, from the hospital room to the CDC. And it never gets old.
Acting Performances: 6
Definitely their weakest category here. I put it as slightly above average. Never once was TWD nominated for a single Prime Time Emmy for acting since 2011. And that is fine, not every show needs a behemoth like Jon Hamm or Bryan Cranston to get on this list. I feel that the overall story of the human emotion in a show like this is really the bigger focus here. Obviously their ratings are just fine without the need of any award show prestige. Andrew Lincoln’s (Rick Grimes) performance in those first couple episodes were probably the best work he’s done since the jail scene when his wife Lori dies. I also enjoyed the brief but notable role of Noah Emmerich as the CDC Dr. Edwin Jenner in the Season 1 finale. Good stuff, but not what TWD hung its hat on.
Season 1 Plot Arc: 7
Being static in my opinion has been the main downfall of numerous TWD seasons. We all suffered through what seemed like an eternity on Hershel’s farm in Season 2, till walkers burned that place down to the ground. Season 1 struck the perfect balance of keeping the scenery fresh episode to episode. And each time it changed, we gained more and more information on just how dire the situation really was. We see the dead had overrun Rick’s hometown. But what about the bigger metro areas of Georgia? Surely a major American city like Atlanta had not fallen in a matter of months? Wrong. And we see the absolute chaos the city had become as thousands upon thousands of walkers occupied every corner of it. As Rick said in his radio transmission to Morgan, “The city now belongs to the dead”. Was anywhere safe? The backwoods were to a degree, but eventually they got over ran towards the end of Season 1. The mission to the CDC was great theater for me as it represented a symbol of hope and maybe some clarity on an answer to the season long question, can the zombies be stopped?
Season Finale/Cliffhanger: 6
Hope is a great word to describe the finale. This episode hinged on it. And that hope was all but extinguished as Dr. Jenner refused to open the doors, only for him to relent and provide the group refuge after Rick’s hysterical eleventh hour pleas were answered. This was an impenetrable fortress that was built to house even deadlier diseases and threats than what was outside those walls. For the first time the group experienced some solace in the form of a hot shower, a warm bed and a chilled glass of wine. But even that was short lived. We learned very early on in TWD Season 1, never get too comfortable with anybody or any place. Dr. Jenner quickly dashed any prospect of a zombie end game for the group. The United States was overrun, Paris was the last known place to hold out but even they, he believed, had fallen to the dead. For all the comfort they found within those walls, it would be soon their final resting place as Jenner had triggered the self-destruction of the facility with a 30-minute countdown and was allowing no one to leave. The finale left us with the prospect of giving up or continuing to fight for even the slightest sliver of hope. And that, in the end, is all what Rick and the group wanted. Jenner gives in and opens the door, but not before he whispers some very valuable information that we do not get to know until the very end of Season 2. The groups moves on and so do we as we wait for the smoking gun that will ultimately end this nightmare of a reality.
I went a little different here. Usually I pull a YouTube clip that is directly from the show. But this time I went with a music video that splices together almost all of the Atlanta scene. Enjoy.