The show opens on a quiet intersection with a police car driving down it. As the camera zooms backwards we see a cop (aka Rick, played by Andrew Lincoln) stepping out of his car and examining an overturned car and tractor-trailer and then several other vehicles that look like they'd been set on fire and heavily damaged. Suspicious sheriff walks down a hill towards a gas station passing quite the number of abandoned vehicles, including some that look like they have people living in them, and others that have seriously decomposing bodies inside.
Once he reaches the gas station, a hastily spraypainted sign informs him there is no gas, which is a bummer for him as he's carrying an empty gas container. As he heads back towards his car, he hears footsteps. He tries to hide, and then sees the legs of a bunny slipper-clad young girl. He approaches her from behind saying that he's a policeman and can help her. When she turns around we see that most of her mouth missing. She hears him, hesitates for only a minute and then lunges towards him. He sighs before pulling his gun and shooting her in the head. Credits!
Two guys are sitting in a vehicle eating some yummy looking burgers and fries and talking about girls. We spend a lot of time looking at the food... not that I'm complaining, but the squeamish at heart might not appreciate the juxtaposition of a young girl getting her brains blown up and ketchup on a takeout dinner. When we finally see the guys, one is Rick from before and then there's another cop person (Shane, played by Jon Berenthal who will always be known as The Class guy to me). Shane is griping about women not being able to turn off the lightswitch. Women apparently don't appreciate his attitude. Shane asks Rick how things are with Lori. He likes her and she turns off the lights, but she does complain that Rick doesn't really share his feelings. He thinks that when he talks, she seems constantly pissed at him... even in front of their kid. Aw, romance.
Deep thoughts about women are interrupted by a dispatch call. They and another cruiser head down a road. Rick and Shane set up a spiked barricade for the oncoming vehicle that is part of a police chase, then the four cops grab their guns and get poised to shoot. The spikes work and the speeding car flips several times before landing. All of the officers take their weapons and approach the vehicle, as the driver and passenger slowly crawl out fully armed and start shooting. Rick is injured, but not mortally, during the shootout. Just as Rick stands up saying he's OK and that he doesn't want Lori to know about his injury, a third passenger from the car comes out and shoots him, much more seriously this time.
In a hospital room, a blurry Shane is hovering over Rick, apologizing and bringing him flowers. Rick starts bitching about the ugly vase, but then we see that the flowers in the cheap vase are dead and it has clearly been a while since Shane was there. Rick looks over and sees that a clock on the wall has stopped working. Rick tries to get out of bed, and collapses and cries out for a nurse. When none answer, he stands up, looks for water and heads out into a deserted hallway and Rick starts looking around at images that look straight out of the early pages of the graphic novel (only here there's the occasional spot of color).
As Rick wanders, he sees a corpse that has been torn to pieces, blood spattered walls and an elevator that says "Don't Open, Dead Inside." Said elevator starts to open, in a way that it looks like its breathing and we hear some noises and see some fingers jutting out of the crack.