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The Walking Dead: Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

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The first episode of AMC’s The Walking Dead begins with sherriff’s deputy Rick Grimes blowing out the brains of a zombie girl.

The rest — the background of the scene, the abandoned cars the rotting corpses — is left begging for answers, which come slowly.

It’s a cynical hook-the-viewer-as-fast-as-possible intro that has little to do with the rest of the episode, and it’s hardly necessary given the buzz the series has received. But, who cares? Exploding zombie heads are fun. And the rest of the show was hardly disappointing. I can forgive it a cynical introduction.

Read our spoiler-laden episode recap below.

So let’s get to meat of it. Forget the first five minutes.

Rick Grimes awakens alone in his hospital room. The flowers beside his bed are long wilted. The clock has stopped. The whole hospital is silent. He gets up, falls, calls for the nurse. Nothing

The hospital is a ruined mess. The walls are spattered in blood. Through swinging doors he sees the half-eaten corpse of a woman. He wanders the hallways. On one door, jammed shut with a two-by-four, a message painted in blood reads “Do Not Open: Dead Inside.” He hears shuffling inside, sees the door pulse with movement. A hand comes through. Surprisingly, he doesn’t shit his pants.

Outside he sees dozens upon dozens of bodybags, military helicopters and humvees. Nothing moves. He wanders.

Eventually he comes across a bicycle, beside which lies a legless corpse. He grabs the biccycle only to awaken the corpse, which shuffles towards him pitifully, wheezing. Again, surprisingly, Rick Grimes does NOT shit his pants.

We next see him at his house, calling out for his son and wife. He collapses on the floor, a sobbing mess.

Eventually he leaves and sits on his porch. He sees someone in the street in a black suit, ambling towards him. He cries out. Then another approaches from behind him. He turns only to be met with bottom end of a shovel.

Grimes wakes up safe in the home of Lenni James and his son, Duane. Grimes now learns about the “walkers” and how things went bad. The virus or whatever it is creates a burning hot fever that kills the victim, but then a few hours later the victim rises and becomes a walker. We learn that James’ wife is a walker. They also talk of a refugee camp outside Atlanta, established by the centers for disease control.

The next day they go to the police station to pick up amuniation. They part ways. Jump to Grimes in the park where he grabbed the bike a day before. A streak of gore disappears into the park. He follows the trail. When he finds the zombie he shoots her through the head. “I’m sorry for what happened to you,” he says. James, on the other hand tries to blow out his zombie wife’s head, but fails.

This seems like almost the perfect point to end the episode — a subtle, sad ending — but this is an hour and a half premier. It keeps going.

Grimes gets in the police cruiser and zips out of the city, looking for his wife and son, and assuming they’ve fled with the other refugees to Atlanta.

We switch to Grimes’ partner Shane Walsh and his family, who’ve also survived. They hear Grimes on the CB but can’t communicate with him — they want to tell him avoid Atlanta at all costs.

Meanwhile, Grimes’ car runs out of gas. He finds a horse and goes the rest of the way Atlanta, where he encounters a legion of zombies. The zombies tear down his horse and disembowel it. Grimes crawls into an abandoned army tank to save himself.

He hears a voice come in over the CB: “Hey, idiot in the tank!”

The episode ends with slowly rising shot of the street, with a horde of zombies swarming over the freshly killed horse and ambling about the outside of the tank.


The tone by episode one can only mean good things for the series. This is a completely unique way to tell a zombie story; the panicked, desperate intensity of the typical zombie movie is replaced with a slow-moving, even plodding character study. Spanning months instead of days, The Walking Dead promises to delve into life after the apocalypse — not pure survival.

According to LiveFeed, this was the most watched television show in the history of AMC. We can only assume that those numbers will keep climbing.

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4 Responses to “The Walking Dead: Season 1 Episode 1 Recap”

  1. avatar Rhe Hill says:

    Loved the opening sequence. I was a little worried towards the middle, but that ending sealed the deal for me. One of my favorite scenes was when he apologized to the crawling half zombie before shooting her in the head. Amazing.

  2. avatar Paul says:

    So, I overall enjoyed the opening of this miniseries. Structurally it was a little disjointed with it’s in medias res beginning, followed by background/exposition, and then jumping to establish where his wife/son are, how he ditched car/got horse and made it to ATL. It was all over the place in terms of order.

    Also, there’s no way he would have “shit his pants” in the hospital since he was technically still in one of the backless hospital gowns. He didn’t have pants to shit in.

    Great job! On the re-cap. I haven’t read the graphic novels, but I’ve read comparisons based off the premiere.

  3. avatar Kevin Morris says:

    I agree, Rhe — the middle was a little worrisome. But the ending was fantastic, and the closing shot gorgeous.

    Paul some people can shit their pants no matter what they’re wearing. It’s a special ability that featured prominently in several early Marvel comics.

  4. avatar TM says:

    I hadn’t read the comic, so I was concerned from the beginning that the story was gonna be too much of a 28 Days Later clone. But I agree with your assessment, Kevin: TWD is more of a slow-churning assessment of post-apocalyptic life rather than just another survival story.