Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson’s Walking Dead spin-off garnishes record-breaking ratings, but it will need to raise the ante to keep die-hard TWD fans watching
Season 1, Ep. 01 – ‘Pilot’ | Aired August 23, 2015
by TS Alan
Fear The Walking Dead’s series premiere opens to a teaser of an awakening, not entirely unlike Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes emerging from his coma to the aftermath of a zombie uprising. However, this time it is drug addict Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) awakening after a heroin-high, discovering his crash den in chaos and his female companion snacking on the face of another drug user. And that first three minutes is the most exciting moments to be had in the premiere.
Fear is set in Los Angeles, at the verge of a zombie pandemic. The city is all ready feeling the effects of the “flu” that has been slowly making its way from the Midwest, and parents are keeping their children out of school. This pretty much sets up the introduction to the first set of main characters Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis), both work at the same high school (she’s a guidance counselor, he’s an English teacher) and live together with Madison’s daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Alicia is a snotty, rude and disrespectful teenage girl who detests her mother’s boyfriend and just can’t wait to get away from home. I have a hard time sympathizing with her angst and issues; especially since both mom and Travis appear fair and understanding. She’s just not likable and I was hoping she and her junkie loser brother Nick — another unsympathetic and unlikable character — would be the first to fall victim to zombies, but alas that wasn’t the case.
Alicia and Nick are not the only two who have issues. Travis has an ex-wife and a son living nearby, Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie.) Travis is in the uncomfortable position of being hated on by both his son and his girlfriend’s daughter, in addition to being the recipient of Nick’s indifference, a 19-year old who is selfish, unappreciative and only interested in his next score.
Then there’s Madison, who is cynical, disillusioned and a bit condescending. A boy named Tobias (Lincoln A. Castellanos) brings a knife to the school and is busted by Madison. Taken to her office she asks him why he brought the knife, threatening that expulsion could have dire consequences for his future. “You’re on track to go to college,” she says.
“Nobody’s going to college,” Tobias replies. “Nobody’s doing anything they think they’re doing anymore.” Tobias seems to be the only one with an Internet connection who has bothered to do any research into the mysterious flu plaguing the school, telling his guidance counselor that there have been reports in five states and nobody knows what it is. “People are killing–” he says, but Madison cuts him off, dismissing his unfounded fear an anxiety. She tells him, “You need to spend less time online. If there’s a problem we’re gonna know about it. The authorities would tell us,” she informs him. But Tobias knows better and so do we, something very bad will soon happen, and with all that family dysfunctionality will they be able to pull together to survive the inevitable rising of the dead and will we even care?
If you watch the Walking Dead, then you may find Fear The Walking Dead too slow, for it sets up things we already know but that the characters don’t yet understand. No, people are not simply getting the flu; no, there’s no cure (except a bullet to the head); no, there is no such thing as being immune; yes, you get bit you “turn” into a flesh-eating zombie; and yes, if you don’t nut up and learn to kill the living as well as the dead, you will not survive — all of which makes the pilot episode less effective for those in the know.
Spinning off The Walking Dead at the hype of its popularity and setting it in a different place (Los Angeles) and time (at the verge of the pandemic) seemed like an astute plan that could potentially bring in huge ratings which in turn could bring AMC huge profits. However, the 90-minute premiere for Fear the Walking Dead, feels too much like a snooze, following a single, dysfunctional and uninteresting family, and heavily lacking suspense and zombies. If the second episode doesn’t begin to propel the story forward, and ramp up the zombie action, then TWD fans may pronounce Fear The Walking Dead DOA, even though the new series — which has a six-episode first-season run — has already been greenlit for a 15-episode second season for 2016.
I’m going to give Fear a second episode chance with the hope there’s going to be some rising dead, some flesh-eating and a character I can sink my teeth into (hedging toward Travis, the only likable character) or just wait until TWD returns in October to get my flesh-eating fix.