The Walking Dead

Sundays at 10 p.m. on AMC. Four episodes into the first season.

As monsters go, zombies aren’t particularly interesting. Zombies don’t reason; they don’t remember; they don’t have any kind of motivation beyond a mindless drive to eat your brains. Exceptions abound, of course—one classic deviation immediately leaps to mind—but in general, zombies are simply ravenous monsters pointlessly and inexorably overwhelming the human race.

The interesting thing about zombie apocalypse stories (if there is an interesting thing, which there sometimes isn’t) is the way the non-zombies react, how they handle the collapse of society, the formation of small, fragile cells of survivors. Zombie stories tend to be depressing, but zombies aren’t the half of it. The depressing thing—the riveting, dramatic thing—is how quickly civilization disintegrates, how rapidly the surviving humans lose their humanity.

The Walking Dead, AMC’s new TV adaptation of the intensely dark comic book series, is consistently good at dramatizing zombies. The depiction of living people is a little more scattered—sometimes heartrendingly powerful, sometimes downright obtuse—which is a problem because the survivors, the actual characters, have to be the legs of the show. There are definitely more right notes than wrong here, and the production values are incredible, but the wrong notes are still discordant enough to give me pause.