AICN's publishing of a letter from Frank Darabont reveals a bit more of how the man approached the world of The Walking Dead. What's curious, to me, is why this proposed season premiere never came out: Darabont was working on the show until a few episodes of Season Two were shot, or so we're told, so it's curious to imagine why his idea never came to fruition, as theoretically he still had carte blanche to do what he liked. Reading over his proposed season premiere, it's easy to assume that cost was a factor; going back to downtown Atlanta probably would've been an expensive proposition.
Season One Spoilers: Anyway, Darabont's missive is apparently in response to an actor on one of the Season One shows, who related a tale of how the Season Two premiere was supposed to return to a downtown Atlanta that was still in the process of fighting back against the zombie hordes. Rather than deal with Rick and Lori and Shane, it would've been a one-off flashback episode, dealing with a group of soldiers who were struggling to stay alive and make it to their destination. In Darabont's own words:
So the story follows these soldiers through hell as the city falls apart and the squad implodes, with Sam’s soldier being the main character and the moral center of the group. He becomes the last survivor of the squad, and he finally gets to the map coordinates they’ve been trying to get to from the start: it’s the barricade at the Atlanta courthouse intersection from the pilot where Rick later finds the tank. The soldier is still alive when he gets there, but he’s been bitten. He’s accomplished his “simple” mission, but he’s gone through seven kinds of hell to do it (including being forced to frag his squad leader), and now he’s dying. And he crawls off into the tank just to get off the street and under cover. As his fever builds and the poor guy starts to hallucinate, he pulls his last grenade and considers ending his life. He sets the grenade down on that shelf for a moment to reflect on all the shit and misery that brought him to this sad end-point of his life, and to dredge up the courage to pull the pin...but before he can act, the fever burns him out and he dies.
After the soldier dies this squalid, lonely death...and after a quiet lapse of time...we do a shot-for-shot reprise from the first episode of the first season: Rick comes scrambling into the tank to escape the horde...blows that zombie soldier’s brains out...now Rick’s trapped...fade out...the end.
A fairly neat approach, and it would've been an interesting season premiere, to say the least, answering as it would none of the questions that were raised by the Season One finale and forcing us to wait until episode two to pick up on the farm plotline. I took a fair amount of criticism for my opinions on the first half of Season Two, but if there's a soul out there who didn't think that the farm plot could've been pared down by an episode to make room for a kick-ass season premiere, well...I'm sure you'll let me know in the comments.