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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Walking Dead - Pilot

I gotta admit, my hand quivered a bit before I double-clicked this lil' PDF.

A teleplay written by Frank Darabont about one of my all-time favourite comic book series?

Yeah.  I needed a moment.

So, sizing this thing up, we've got a 60 page script (download here) -- undated, with no revision history or draft status.  Again, being as this is for cable, no act breaks either; though the opening bit (with the little zombie girl) is basically an unstated cold open.

One of the trademarks of this series in the beginning -- from the comic book standpoint -- was the long expanses where nothing's said, where Rick (the protagonist) just goes about trying to stay alive, silent as a church mouse -- because, hell, what is there to say?

In this script, Mr. Darabont recreates that same idea... but the silences seem so much longer.  There's a spot, after Rick awakens in the hospital where he doesn't say a word for six full pages.  It's just an eerie sort of silence too as Mr. Darabont writes page upon page of description and discovery -- with all sorts of things going on at once.  He talks about the physical description of the hospital, what's transpiring, how Rick feels about it, how the actor might play it.  It's a very cinematic approach (kind of a given, considering the source) and, for the most part, it works.


One of the things that really struck me about this script, especially considering how the episode played out on screen, was just how many more character moments there were that never made the cut.  Some of it was small stuff, cop banter and the like, but there's one moment -- where Rick finds a hand-made 'Get Well Soon' card from his son -- that I thought would've been in there.

Now, maybe they got to editing and realized that having the card was laying it on a bit too thick (which I could see, yes) or maybe it just didn't work.  I don't know, but it's a point that comes up again later in the script because it's one of the reasons that Morgan doesn't end up killing Rick when he had the chance.

Maybe I'm mis-remembering... but I don't recall seeing that as part of the finished episode.

On a technical level, this is a script that isn't afraid to tell you where to look or what to see or what to think.  The whole thing is littered with 'We...'s and camera angles and specific shots.  It's exactly the kind of script that a director might write for themselves, almost as some sort of reminder/placeholders for what they have in mind.  I get that, I do -- tho' it's  not a practice that I'll be adopting any time soon (lest I wake with a with a bloody... computer monitor (?) stuffed at the foot of my bed -- okay, yeah, I worked waaaay too hard for that one...).

All-in-all, I quite enjoyed this script... but then again, I was pretty much already sold on this project from the moment I heard it announced.

Truth be told, I am one biased mofo in this particular situation.

Still is a pretty darned good script tho'.

And you know, since we're talking about biases and such, I'd just like to state that, unlike some purists, I had no problem with the whole Tank scene at the end.

TV's a fickle medium and if you end your pilot with Rick escaping the city (as it does, I believe, in the comic) you're dead in the water.  Why NOT end it with your protagonist hiding in the belly of a tank surrounded by an ocean of the undead (after they just finished eating your horse!)?

Yeah.  Could you sign me up for episode 2 please?  Thanks.

I get changes like that, ones that ratchet up the tension, that make it a bona-fide spectacle.

But what I thought about them going off script in episode 5... well, that's a whole other story.

Anyways, yeah -- this thing... I'm a fan.  I enjoyed the series immensely and loved the pilot.  Reading this script was more a treat for me than anything else.

But it's a good read and well worth your time.

Tomorrow I'll be reading a script from The Office -- episode 1x02 'Diversity Day'.  I think I vaguely remember this one from when it aired (I'm one of those who only watched The Office from time to time when there was nothing else on) so it should be an interesting read.

Until then, Cheers!

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