The premiere of Fear the Walking Dead has some problems. But they’re problems that, in hindsight, you’d expect to have in the pilot of a Walking Dead prequel. Namely, the audience’s anticipation for zombie gore, and the frustration of having to wait so long for a human/zombie confrontation. They give us a very brief one in the opening scene, but then we don’t see another for almost the entirety of the episode.
But let’s pick things apart here, and take the good with the bad…
In the opening scene, Nick Clark, a college drop out and a drug addict, discovers a friend of his has become a zombie. This was a fairly strong opener, especially with the music. I’m a little bit worried that the strongly synthesized stuff will get old after awhile, though.
Fear the Walking Dead stars a dysfunctional soon-to-be blended family. There’s a decent amount of cookie-cutter horror flick stuff in here. The bratty and troubled teenagers, the high school setting and authority figures, the dysfunctional family. I hate to make comparisons here, but I’ll argue The Walking Dead didn’t have this many horror tropes when it started. It started quite a few, but it didn’t contain a great many already-established ones. Whether that tarnishes this episode is up for interpretation, I suppose.
The opener notwithstanding, the show begins to hint at the larger outbreak about 20 minutes into the episode. Naturally, this episode set up the characters, the setting, etc. But considering we’re so used to The Walking Dead, and how that world works, it’s frustrating to see things begin at such a slow pace. After all, we already know much of what’s going to happen. It’s understandable, and I don’t fault the show for it. But there’s an undeniable “Get to the zombies!” urge in this episode.
Cliff, Nick’s soon-to-be stepfather, explores the church where he saw the zombie. He later returns with Madison, his fiance and Nick’s mother. This church brought back memories of Father Gabriel’s chapel. I highly doubt there’s any connection. But the whole church/zombies connection is cool.
Elizabeth Rodriguez portrays Liza, Cliff’s ex-wife, and mother to his son Chris. I didn’t realize Rodriguez also plays Daya’s mom on Orange is the New Black. Between these two gigs, she’s got a pretty sweet thing going for her.
Before giving him a bedpan to use, a nurse tells a restrained Nick “I take my dog out when I want to, not the other way around.” That was a really dumb line. A nurse would never say that to a patient in any capacity. Not one that has any bedside manner, anyway.
Panic begins to set in an at about the one hour mark, as a footage of a zombie attack emerges. I liked the way technology was used here. A simple viral video spreads panic. I’d rather not have waited an hour for it happen, but we got some nice suspense here.
Nick’s drug dealer Calvin attempts to shoot him. Nick winds up turning the gun on him and taking his life. Later, the body has disappeared from the murder scene. The episode closes when Cliff and Madison come across a zombified Calvin. Great way to end the episode. We knew Calvin a little bit, and to see him as a zombie set the stage very well. With luck, we won’t have to wait so long to actually see the monsters in future episodes. Those last two lines, followed by the shot of the city, were great.
“What the hell is happening?”
“I have no idea.”
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