Okay so it’s happening, the beginning of the end. We’ve waited and speculated and now it’s here. AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead has debuted. Now I’ve been a fan of The Walking Dead since finding it on Netflix and have become hopelessly entangled in the world post-zombie apocalypse but the nagging wondering of how it all went from iPods and cellphones to the rasping snarls of the undead and the screams of the living has plagued me (see what I did there?). Now we get a glimpse of exactly that. This is a review of the pilot which aired on AMC last night. There will be NO SPOILERS so, if you missed it, (seriously, what the hell is the matter with you?) read on.
As I typed, I am a fan of The Walking Dead. I collect the trades and watch the show religiously so I was salivating at the thought of a new group, a new setting, and the exciting time frame of the world just before the fall of the living and the rise of the living dead. With all that, I wanted to watch Fear with objective eyes. I wanted to take the show for what it was and see if it could inspire the same fandom as its longer-running counterpart.
In short it did…
In the pilot episode we met quite a few characters. There’s Nick the junkie, driven by logic, questioning his sanity and seeking to reconcile with the change that the world is about to undertake.
His mother Maddie is a strong, common sense type with a bit of street smarts. Her weakness is her quickness to fall into denial and then having difficulty handling the reality piercing her disbelief and snapping at her face.
Her boyfriend Travis is a sentimental, understanding fellow with touches of optimism and hints of the philosopher combined with good instincts. He falls into the role of stepfather and does his best while taking some shots from both Maddie’s kids but, primarily her daughter, something I as a stepfather of a teenaged daughter can relate to and empathize with.
Which brings us to Alicia. She seems the stereotypical teenaged cynic and can come off as a whiny twunt, but there is a redeeming genuineness about her that peeks through from time to time.
There are a few more characters that weren’t as developed. Liza is Travis’ baby-momma, maybe ex-wife. There’s a hint that suggests Travis, Liza and Maddie may have a shared history that will be interesting to explore in later episodes.
Chris is Travis’ teenaged son. There’s a good deal of resentment on his part which helps allude to the aforementioned possibility of a shared history between his mother, his father and Maddie. Maybe Travis left Liza for Maddie or Chris is just a kid fearing being replaced by his father’s “new family” we’re not sure yet.
My favorite character is one that we did not see much of. (I know, I know I wrote "no spoilers" but I kinda have to if I wanna describe this kid). His name is Tobias. He’s introduced in a way that gives the impression he’s a troubled/bullied kid but he’s almost like Glenn in that his intelligence is what sets him apart and makes him valuable, and his being benign and innocuous is what causes him to be overlooked. But he is plugged into what’s going on. He’s not sure what exactly it is yet but he’s not going to bury his head in the sand. His interaction with Maddie fleshes out her and his characters; him the foreboding prophet and her the stubborn naysayer. I hope we get to see more of him.
Lastly there’s the setting itself and I’m not just talking about L.A. It’s the whole world. It is the greatest character of all. As a fan of TWD it is thrilling to see everything as it was before, knowing what’s next. The anticipation of it all going to shit is a heady tonic. From a newcomer’s view the suspense comes from having the knowledge that something is going horribly and terrifyingly wrong and seeing that almost no one is aware of it and there are signs.
The writers did a great job with foreshadowing using very little exposition. The devil’s in the details. Keep a watchful eye. When the ride starts you feel it. You can see the characters and the world around them, begin to react but there’s the ominous sense that it’s already too late. It’s like a rollercoaster that gives you a small drop first before the long click-clacking hill preceding the stomach-churning plummet. At the end of the episode, we’re approaching the top. Soon gravity will take hold and we’re going down screaming.
Fear The Walking Dead has left the station. Strap in, hold on, and get ready. If you’re a fan of TWD, watch this show and find out how we got where we are. If you’re curious, welcome, there’s always room for one more.