Day of the Dead Season 1, Episode 1 recap: What happens when the dead rise?

DAY OF THE DEAD -- Episode 101 -- Pictured: Keenan Tracey as Cam McDermott -- (Photo by: DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY)
DAY OF THE DEAD -- Episode 101 -- Pictured: Keenan Tracey as Cam McDermott -- (Photo by: DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY) /

The town of Mawinhaken gets a brutal wake-up call when the dead starts to rise in SYFY’s new horror series Day of the Dead. Don’t let the series’ name mislead you. While based on the George A. Romero movie, the series is not set in Romero’s zombie universe. But it still boasts a similar mixture of political commentary, zombie action and some humor.

Day of the Dead centers on a blue-collar town divided on whether they support an energy company fracking. The fracking controversy will play a critical role in the impending mayoral election. Mayor Paula Bowman (Miranda Frigon) is nervous that what was once supposed to be a landslide re-election win for her could now become a loss, as she and her opponent are neck-and-neck. Paula’s campaign hinges on fracking support and open carry.

Unbeknownst to Paula, she has bigger problems than her election campaign. Her husband, the handsome but airheaded Trey Bowman (Christopher Russell), is cheating on her with her campaign manager Nicole (Caitlin Stryker). The two can’t even resist going at it in the voting booths while Paula is in the one next to them.

Then there’s Paula’s son Luke Bowman (Daniel Doheny), who spends most of the episode driving aimlessly around town with his best friend and bullying their peer Cam McDermott (Keenan Tracey). Cam is the go-getter of the teenagers. After a recent acceptance to the University of Hawaii, he’s thrilled for an opportunity to get out of this dead-end town. Too bad his father, Detective McDermott (Mike Dopud), doesn’t support his decision. The last time Cam talked to his dad, they got into a nasty fight.

Cam’s only real friend is funeral home worker Lauren Howell (Natalie Malaika), who is repeatedly harassed by her lecherous boss Lazlo (Peter New). It’s via Lauren’s interactions with Lazlo that we learn she is a recovering addict on parole. A fact Lazlo is happy to use against Lauren to coerce her into going out with him in exchange for giving her parole officer good reports. Given his behavior (and he also installed a hidden camera in the bathroom to watch her change, blech), it’s easy to cheer for the zombie when Lazlo becomes the first real victim of the episode.

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DAY OF THE DEAD — “The Thing in the Hole” Episode 101 — Pictured: Morgan Holmstrom as Sarah Blackwood — (Photo by: Sergei Bachlakov/DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY) /

Day of the Dead Season 1, Episode 1 recap: The thing in the hole

Across town at the drill site set up by Cleargenix Energy, Sarah Blackwood (Morgan Holmstrom) finds a body on her first day on the job. It’s not just any body either. The corpse she finds is wearing a mask and chained to the walls. But when she tells her boss, Rhodes (Kevin O’Grady), he is more interested in hiding the discovery, so they don’t have to stop working. Too late. Sarah already called the police, and Rhodes is pissed.

By the time Detective McDermott arrives, Rhodes has already dismissed Sarah for the day and convinced all of his guys to pretend she just saw a dead deer down there. Rhodes apparently has enough pull to get someone at the mayor’s office to contact the police captain who calls McDermott and tells him to let it be.

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Given Rhodes’ sketchy behavior, it’s not surprising that McDermott wants to go down in the hole and see the thing for himself. He catches Sarah on her way out, and the two scheme to get down there. But their plan quickly backfires when Rhodes catches sight of her and knocks her unconscious. Then he tells his guys to start fracking again, potentially putting the detective’s life at risk.

As an antagonist, Rhodes feels a little cartoonish here. I mean, really, the guy is going to risk killing a notable detective just to keep fracking? Surely they can take a day off? Either he has something to do with that body in the hole, or he’s just really dedicated to his job.

But Rhodes won’t have to worry about McDermott much longer. While in the hole, he takes the mask off the zombie (although he doesn’t know what it is yet) and accidentally backs up into it when the drill comes down. Based on the episode’s opening scene that teases the full-on zombie breakout, we know Cam’s dad becomes one of the undead and this must be how.

It’s not just McDermott who comes face-to-face with the zombies in this episode, either. His son Cam gets into a nasty battle with many members of the undead while mowing the graveyard in front of the funeral home. Luckily for Cam, a riding lawnmower isn’t the worst weapon to have on hand when you’re facing zombies. He manages to mow down a few of them before taking shelter inside the funeral home.

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DAY OF THE DEAD — Episode 101 — Pictured: Zombie — (Photo by: DOTD S1 Productions/SYFY) /

Day of the Dead Season 1, Episode 1 recap: Trapped in the morgue

Lauren finally got the chance to prepare a funeral by herself when the guy, Jerry, rose from the dead and attacked her (after making short work of Lazlo). He chases her into the room where all of his friends and family members have gathered, just for them to watch as Lauren brutally bashes Jerry’s head in with a fire extinguisher and then stabs him with the microphone stand for good measure. Everyone is, understandably, shocked at what they’ve just witnessed.

But no one has much time to process what they’re seeing since Cam leads the graveyard zombies into the building. Lauren herds everyone down into the basement, believing it’s the safest place for them. Except she forgot that the basement is also the morgue, and no sooner are they all locked inside than the bodies inside the mortuary cabinets start pounding on the doors, itching to get out.

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New episodes of Day of the Dead air Friday nights at 10/9c on SYFY.