Overall Rating: 8.5
There's a moment where poor Glen power pukes over the shear grotesqueness of what they need to do to survive. I think most of the audience will second that revulsion.
Glen - an asian kid who, thus far, has merely been a pizza delivery boy, comes to the aid of our hero Rick and pays the price for it. The ruckus Rick causes on his way into the downtown Atlanta department store brings every "geek" in the city to their doorstep. Here, we learn that the walkers are drawn to loud noises, can smell the living (and tell them apart from the dead, since they need living flesh, not necrotic dead flesh, to survive), and will attack anything that moves. And all the while, back at a small encampment outside Atlanta, a rag-tag band of survivors waits for news from their supply scouts (including Glen). At base camp, we learn that Rick's wife and his former partner on the force are having sex (thinking that Rick is dead, surely)...and we get to know some of the other women in camp - especially Amy, whose sister is in the raiding party. We also determine that Merle's brother has a bad temper, among other things.
Meanwhile, cousin Merle (to be said with as much of a drawl as human possible) still makes time for idiotic race baiting and healthy use of the N word. (sigh...I am not a fan of our obsession with the hateful South...but I don't supposed such things would vanish just because the world ended) Rick (with the support of every person watching it) handcuffs the slack-jawed yokel to a pipe on the roof while they work out what to do to escape. They try the sewer, but it's barred shut and there are walkers down there eating the rats anyway. The first episode, we only encountered small clusters of zombies...a whole city full of them, however, is a horse of a different color. Their desperation, forces our survivors to cover themselves with walker guts to sneak through the city unnoticed and acquire a van for transport and escape.
This gutsy (har har...yuckity yuck) plan is called on account of rain...with Glen and Rick standing in a horde of walkers. They manage to shoot their way to a van and rescue the rest of the raiding party - except cousin Merle. T-dog (the token black dude in the survivors' raiding party), with much anguish, tries to free Merle (he has the key to the handcuffs), but he drops the key down a drain pipe and fleas for his life, stopping just long enough to bar the door, but leaving Merle helpless and exposed.
They take great pains on this show to reveal just how horrible and ugly this world is. They showed, for example, in close up, the walker they hacked up to get guts for their escape plan. Not to mention the countless exploding heads of mowed down walkers. If this episode has a theme - it's that we humans will endure a lot of foul and horrible things so long as there is hope for our survival. And there's more of that on the way, I promise you that much. I think, however, that the other critical message to be gotten from this is that while it may seem that good deeds come at a high price in this zombie-filled world, the struggle to retain your humanity is what will separate the survivors from the dead walking and the living dead (note, there's a big difference...the former are already victims..the latter are just without hope and therefore will carry a death wish).
Glen does the right thing - pays a price for it...and probably profits infinitely more in the long run. The only thing that will allow for human survival now will be our ability to band together and give of ourselves for the common good. T'dog...he tries to do the right thing too...no matter how much he might despise Merle, he knows that to leave him would be inhuman. The next episode we'll see what Rick and T-dog decide to do about it.
I wondered how long it would be before they brought in racial memes and started forcing us to root for people we didn't like...I think this first effort was a little "on the nose" but we needed to see this kind of thing soon.
With the possible exception of Merle, who occasionally was a little over the top (I could just hear the banjos), I thought the performances were nearly flawless.
They've got to drive home how sickening this new world is...and drive it home they are. But all the while, they continue to show us bits and pieces of reason for hope - people continuing to try to do the right thing, rather than merely the most convenient thing for their survival.