AMC's Fear the Walking Dead has been teased and passionately discussed since rumors of the show first surfaced. All of the anticipation came to a head with the series' premiere last night. While reviews of the pilot episode have been mixed, I feel that the crescendo of excitement for the show's arrival could only yield disappointment (without even factoring in the inevitable comparisons to its mother show/ parallel universe prequel, The Walking Dead.)
However, as a whole, I don't feel the pilot was a disappointment at all. Let's let it breathe a little, people.
WARNING SPOILERS ABOUT THE PILOT EPISODE OF FEAR THE WALKING DEAD and THE WALKING DEAD TO FOLLOW.
I feel most people who were disappointed in the pilot episode are reviewing it as if it was a stand-alone horror movie. Not enough blood and guts? No walker action? No apocalypse yet? It's episode one, yo.
There was actually more zombie action than I expected. We all know that The Walking Dead is usually a slow-moving show, but that is what is great about it. It marinates. It simmers. And then before we realize it, we are being served a three-course dinner of excellent characters, memorable scenes, and all-around legendary TV.
I honestly didn't expect to see a walker this episode, let alone in the opening scenes.
At first, I thought, what a dark angle to take introducing us to this non-apocalypse world in a world that is very much many real people's apocalypse- a drug den. Maybe I was naive to think that pre-apocalypse life would have started with a more hopeful tone, but this series shuts down that notion from the very beginning, drawing the comparison of who wakes up in a bleaker world- Rick or Nick?
I think the intention of us being in this den is to invoke a familiarity a la The Walking Dead. We have dismal living conditions, desperation, blood, and a walker. The payoff is when Nick runs out into the street, gets hit by the car, and we see that the world is not dead yet, it is very much alive. I think the intended shock of this contrast is dulled because of the viewer's knowledge of the premise.
Yes, this pilot focuses a lot on Nick's drug habits. But it has to.
We're all infected
One of the greatest successes of the pilot is the tension it builds. It toys with the viewer, creating moments where we expect something terrible, but aha! life is normal (for now), like when we approach the principal from behind, and he doesn't respond. But of course, he's fine, he's just listening to the intercom!
But we know more than these characters. We know what they are in for.
This is a plus for the viewer, but could be a detriment to the show, because I can't spend every week screaming, "Don't do it!" at my TV.
One of the biggest revelations of the whole The Walking Dead series is that everyone is already infected; everyone who is alive will turn into a walker after death. We don't know how or why, but this is a big deal in the series.
With the opening scene, we realize that this is true from the beginning of the outbreak!
How do we know?
Nick screams her name, searching for her, to discover that she is our first walker of the new series.
Going back to the fact that Nick, for storytelling purposes, has to be a junkie shows the genius of the storytellers. Gloria was sitting next to Nick when he shot up, and then she probably shot up. However, Gloria overdosed, died, and came back a walker. Amirite?!?
I mean, everyone calm down, we are in good hands here!
Can you think of a better scenario where someone can die and turn into a walker where there will be a lapse in time so we don't have to see the life-death-walker process happen?
I think that we saw just the right amount of allusions to what is to come- the paranoid student, the viral video, the missing people.
We can't just turn on the apocalypse with a light switch, we have to ease in to it. The Walking Dead has always gone towards "realism" and "true grit," and we can't expect this show to be any different.
Also, I'm liking these freshie walkers. Even from the beginning of The Walking Dead series, time has elapsed from the initial outbreak, so many of the herds or rogue walkers are decomposed and weakened. These initial walkers are seemingly stronger and more resilient, adding an additional threat level to our living characters.
Things I am waiting to see
Characters like Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon have become iconic characters. These are huge shoes to fill, and a lot of people seem understandably reluctant to accept these new characters.
Are we sympathetic to Madison as a mother? Is Travis a likable guy, or does he deserve to be despised by his biological son? Does Alicia smile? Will Nick be searching for heroin throughout the apocalypse?
These are all things that will be revealed in due time. One thing the pilot is not afraid to do is present the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of these characters. The best way I can quantify my feelings towards these characters is with The Walking Dead characters:
Pilot feelings towards new characters: Andrea feelings AKA annoyed, don't care what happens to her.
What I wanted to feel: Glenn feelings AKA I loved him from the beginning, please. don't. die. Glenn + Maggie= forever. Ok you get it.
We can only hope that these characters will be able to find strength soon, either before the apocalypse commences in full force, or before these characters become walker bait and we don't care.
Nonetheless, I am excited to watch civilization fall to walkers, and will continue to watch Fear the Walking Dead on Sunday nights on AMC at 9pm.