He's been working steadily in Hollywood since the mid-1980s, but Ernest Dickerson still isn't a household name yet—though he should be. Especially since he has directed some of ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead's best episodes, including this Sunday's explosive mid-season finale. It's time to finally show the man some love.
Think back on the biggest and craziest episodes of AMC's The Walking Dead—it's likely that all of the hit zombie drama's fans will recall the same ones. There's the season two opener ">"What Lies Ahead," in which Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow survivors get engulfed by a horde of walkers on a desolate, claustrophobic highway. There's also ">"Beside the Dying Fire," the season two finale that plays like George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead as re-imagined by Neil Marshall, with hundreds of zombies attacking Hershel's (Scott Wilson) farm and splitting Rick's group apart. And don't forget ">"18 Miles Out," an isolated hour focusing on Rick and Shane (Jon Bernthal) trying to get rid of a prisoner but running into a schoolyard's worth of flesh-eaters and coming to blows themselves.
What do these episodes have in common? Ernest Dickerson directed them. He's become the show's go-to filmmaker when it's time to get all big and super-charged. Which explains why showrunner Scott M. Gimple and his producers chose Dickerson to direct this Sunday's mid-season finale, "Too Far Gone." As that "On next week's episode" preview made clear, it's full-scale war on the prison's terrain. The Governor (David Morrissey) and his new group want into Rick's makeshift fortress, and they're ready to blast Rick, his loved ones, and their precious headquarters to smithereens with the Governor's new tank if they don't get their way. Expect tons of casualties, explosions, tears, and bloodshed.
Also expect Ernest Dickerson to kill it behind the camera. The 62-year-old shotcaller began his career as a cinematographer, working with Spike Lee on his early classics, like She's Gotta Have It, Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever, and Malcolm X. After moving into the director's chair himself, he directed Juice, Tales from the Crypt Presents: Demon Knight, Bulletproof, and Never Die Alone, among others. But all the while he was building a rep as one of television's most reliable and efficient episode overseers. Since 1990, he's directed standout episodes of ER, The Wire (including the award-winning season two episode "Bad Dreams"), Law & Order, Treme, and Dexter.
With The Walking Dead, this lifelong horror movie lover is working right in his wheelhouse. By the time "Too Far Gone" ends Sunday night, and the body-count is high and fans are shell-shocked, Dead heads should salute Dickerson—even if, as the man himself explained to Complex, the industry is slow to show its respect.
Keep reading to learn more about Ernest Dickerson's background, the making of Juice, and why he's hoping to lead the charge for black genre filmmakers.
Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)
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