Fear the Walking Dead “Pilot” Review (1×01)

28 Aug


Written by: Maria Leia

AMC’s wildly successful zombie drama The Walking Dead turned into a cultural phenomenon after it was popularized as a cult comic series. Now, creator Robert Kirkman and AMC have launched a companion show, Fear The Walking Dead, set in the same universe. While the two shows necessarily have a lot in common, there are plenty aspects to differentiate them that should make the new show a worthwhile experience for fans of the original.

The setting of Fear The Walking Dead is completely different, putting us in Los Angeles instead of Atlanta. It’s in a different place chronologically as well, taking us back to the very beginning of the zombie outbreak. The producers have stated that this show will be more of a “slow burn” than the original, and that’s certainly true of the pilot episode, which takes its time establishing our characters’ relationships while giving us glimpses of the terrors to come. The episode opens with teenage drug addict Nick (Frank Dillane) waking up in a run down church, looking for someone named Gloria. When he finally finds her, she’s feeding on a corpse, and she turns to look at Nick with that familiar undead glaze over her eyes.

Nick is freaked out, but when he tells his mother Madison (Kim Dickens), her lover Travis (Cliff Curtis) and daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) about his experience, they write it off as hallucinations of a drug addled mind. The presence of addicts on the streets of L.A. further informs the characters’ biases – they often dismiss the lumbering zombies as junkies in a stupor. The audience knows better, and the pleasure comes from watching our unsuspecting protagonists try to find an explanation that makes sense of what’s going on around them. There’s a “bug” going around, but they dismiss it as a minor flu epidemic. Mysterious events are happening elsewhere in the country, but like most of us when we hear about troubling news, they shrug it off and go on with their day.

The tone and pacing of the pilot are drastically different from The Walking Dead, but the dysfunctional family dynamic provides plenty of tension while we wait for the other shoe to drop. Madison and Travis have just moved in together, and the new living situation puts stress on their children (on top of the strain already being caused by Nick’s drug problem; also, Travis has an ex-wife and son of his own to contend with). The theme of keeping family together against all odds contrasts nicely with the original show’s makeshift family and will provide the bulk of the dramatic tension moving forward. The love that the characters feel for each other–symbolized by the heart that Alicia’s boyfriend draws on her forearm–will be their motivation.

The episode is marked by a recurring use of technology – cell phones, mp3 players, metal detectors, and other devices that typically aren’t available in zombie dramas and will be very important in coming episodes. Another familiar visual motif is the use of light. Flashlight beams peering into the darkness or sunlight streaming through a half open window ensure that we only see what the director wants us to.

The first episode of Fear The Walking Dead takes steps to set itself apart from the original. The true test will lie in the coming weeks in future episodes, as the zombie plague spreads and the situations begin to feel very familiar. The show’s success will rest on AMC’s ability to find new ways to keep the material interesting. If they don’t, they could find themselves dead in the water.

Polar Bears’s Note: Kim Dickens is the best. That is all.

Author’s Note: Maria is a writer interested in comic books, cycling, and horror films. Her hobbies include cooking, doodling, and finding local shops around the city. She currently lives in Chicago with her two pet turtles, Franklin and Roy.

Photo credit: AMC, Fear the Walking Dead


2 Responses to “Fear the Walking Dead “Pilot” Review (1×01)”

  1. peggyatthemovies August 29, 2015 at 9:05 pm #

    wow..1st review i’ve not seen done by you!! good job Maria.. I was so so on the show.. my only thought is I kept thinking..”but I know what happens” hahahahah I know I know.. I’m giving it a 2nd eps watch of course as it wasn’t bad by any means.. 🙂


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