I’m endlessly fascinated by zombie apocalypse stories, or any apocalypse stories for that matter. I just love to see the survivors scour the wastelands for supplies. The more supplies they have to gather, the better. There’ve been other post-apocalyptic shows but they didn’t have the “Mad Men” street cred. AMC’s zombie apocalypse show does.

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The Walking Dead” delivers immediately. Officer Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) driving empty streets finds a wrecked car and truck. We see wreckage, the potential for siphoning gas, (Ohhh, beautiful, beautiful supplies), empty shops, rotting corpses and our first zombie. The first zombie is probably designed to be controversial and shocking. Veteran viewers will see just another zombie but it’s great makeup and a great way to start.

After the opening credits, we flash back to meet the main characters and learn what their issues are, so they can cause internal friction after the zombie outbreak. It’s well done, definitely the kind of “Made Men”-y writing that makes dialogue and relationships feel more compelling (Frank Darabont is responsible for the pilot script).

We meet other officers at a fairly intense police blockade with a good car chase, crash and shootout. By the first commercial, we’re already into the apocalypse and Rick has to explore and piece together what’s happened. Hopefully there will be those silent moments of exploration each week. Even if “The Walking Dead” hits season five, the survivors will have to travel and explore and figure out what happened in each town, right? Please?

The wreckage is magnificent and the buildups to zombie reveals are fantastic. Darabont directed the first episode too. Great shots of stumbling zombies outside, some especially grotesque creatures and plenty of violence. There’s a truly epic zombie horde in the climax. They don’t have to do that every week, but they’ve got what it takes to make circumstances dire.

For novice viewers, the rules of zombies are explained when Rick runs into survivor Morgan Jones (Lennie James) and his son Duane (Adrian Kali Turner). That’s well done too; doesn’t totally spell it out because Morgan already assumes everyone knows how the new world works. James is only listed as a guest star so I doubt we’ll see him regularly, or permanently. It’s late in the first episode before we meet any other survivors. Shane’s with them, and Rick’s wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs). Their group is already in-fighting, so there’s the final element of great zombie and/or apocalypse movies.

The acting is cable TV quality, which means it’s what movies used to be and certainly more believable than most zombie movies. These people are reacting to the end of the world, but more importantly the end of THEIR worlds, with personal implications for their families. 

“The Walking Dead” seems like everything you’d want in a zombie movie, and we’ll get it week after week on TV. Hopefully subsequent episodes will maintain the quality. Darabont may be a tough act to follow, but he’ll still be supervising. With 13 hours of story per year, instead of just 90 minutes, we can see more zombies, more blockades, more survivor infighting and most importantly, more supplies!