I’ll probably get torn apart for this, but I’m just not too enthusiastic about Fear the Walking Dead. Before you launch into your tirade in the comments, I’ll reiterate: I KNOW that the whole concept behind The Walking Dead-verse is that it’s not so much about the zombies as it is about society reacting to the zombies. I didn’t expect the show to kick off with a bunch of walkers right out the gate. I didn’t expect there to be gun-toting action from the get-go. What I did expect was a decently-paced drama that would answer some questions and differentiate itself from The Walking Dead. Unfortunately, Fear the Walking Dead‘s pilot wasn’t like that. (spoilers ahead!)
On the bright side, we do see our first zombie within the opening scene, so there’s that. The show opens up on a young man awakening from a drug-induced stupor in a desolate, broken-down church. As he goes exploring, he encounters his friend, now zombified, feasting on another person. The man runs outside in a panic and promptly gets hit by a car. Cue opening credits.
We’re introduced to the main cast right away. We have Madison, a high school guidance counselor, Travis, the “cool and hip” English teacher who is engaged to Madison, Alicia, the rebellious teenage daughter of Madison who’s too busy rolling her eyes and listening to her iPod half the time, and Nick, the junkie from the opening scene who happens to be Madison’s son.
We have some clunky exposition thrown into the mix right out the gate. We learn how Travis has a bad relationship with his son and ex-wife, who both resent him for some reason, and how Madison’s kids are having a hard time accepting Travis as their possible new step-father. So yeah, the character of Travis has a hard-enough time without zombies coming into the picture. In fact, the entire family seems to be dealing with major problems, mostly revolving around Nick and his drug use. See, this is what I expected from Fear the Walking Dead. Character development is fine; we need to know who these people are if we ever want to connect with them. However, I still don’t feel an attachment to anyone on the show.
Let’s put it this way: during the pilot of The Walking Dead, I actually worried about what was going on with Rick Grimes in that hospital. It was an intense episode that kept me on the edge of my seat. Rick barely spoke and he still had me rooting for him. In Fear the Walking Dead, I simply didn’t care for anyone. I could give two shits about any of these people. For all I care, they could disappear by next episode and I wouldn’t bat an eye.
“It’s only the first episode!” you might say. But listen – this is a six-episode miniseries. Six episodes! And this pilot was an hour and a half. The show has to be much faster when it comes to developing characters. The only characterization credit I can give this show is the diversity. People complained about The Walking Dead not having a diverse cast and that they wanted more women and POC characters. Thankfully, Fear the Walking Dead does a complete 180 and gives us a nice blend of ethnicities and genders in the central group of protagonists (I mean, it takes place in Los Angeles, so it makes sense).
Something that I liked about the show is how it portrayed the protagonists’ first encounter with zombies. Madison, Travis, and Alicia find Nick in the hospital and they chalk up his sighting of the zombie in the church as a side-effect of his drug problem. Madison and Travis go to investigate the church and find unsettling drug paraphernalia further reinforcing that Nick’s encounter was just a result of his addiction. Things finally come together in the last fifteen minutes of the show.
We see news footage of the police shooting a man in Los Angeles, but he doesn’t go down too easily, until someone puts a bullet in his head (this is all viewed by Alicia on her phone). Because of the shooting (and an apparent flu epidemic), the schools begin to close down and send the kids home. Madison tells Alicia to get on the bus and head home, and that she better be there when they get back. Why not just take Alicia home yourself? Come on, Madison. She’s your daughter, and weird things are happening. We know you want to see Nick but you could at least ensure that your daughter makes it home safe.
Nick escapes the hospital and goes to see his dealer, Calvin, to see if the drugs he sold him were laced with anything that could induce hallucinations. Calvin, afraid that Nick’s episode could lead the police to him, takes him to a secluded location in order to execute him. Nick wrestles the gun from the dealer, shoots him in the chest, and then takes off. Madison and Travis find their son, who tells them about what he’s done. The trio go to find Calvin’s body, but instead happen upon a reanimated corpse shambling toward them. Seeing that he’s violent and incoherent, they run him over with the truck. This doesn’t kill him, but it does incapacitate him, leaving Travis, Madison, and Nick to look on in wonder and ask, “What the hell is happening?”
Zombies. Zombies are happening. For once, I just want a zombie show or movie where the characters actually know what zombies are. Just once.
I already have a prediction for next episode. We saw that Alicia’s boyfriend wasn’t answering his phone when she called him after school. I’m guessing that she goes to his house to find out what’s up and discovers that he’s a a zombie. After seeing how the man on the news was taken down by a headshot, Alicia finds a gun and puts a nice hole in her boyfriend’s head, thus killing her first walker. And you know what? I bet that takes up the entire episode since the show just loves its slow pacing.
Fear the Walking Dead didn’t pique my interest too much. I won’t write the show off just yet since it’s only the pilot and since every show has rough patches, though it sucks that this show’s rough patch had to be in the beginning. I’m hoping that this doesn’t become a carbon-copy of The Walking Dead either. I want this show to explore what exactly caused the walker virus. So far, all we know is that it’s possibly a flu strain, but there has to be more to it.
Final Grade: C +
+ I like the diverse set of protagonists.
+ It was clever using Nick’s drug problem as a way for other characters to write off his zombie sighting.
– I think the show has a painfully slow pace.
– None of the characters sit well with me; they’re all too bland and generic for my liking.
– The show seems like a weaker copy of The Walking Dead when it should be bringing something new to the table.
– Are they just going to leave zombie-Calvin to rot or will Travis, Madison, and Nick wise up and shoot him in the head?
What did you think of Fear the Walking Dead‘s premiere? Did you enjoy it or was it a letdown? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!