Fear the Walking Dead: “Pilot” Review
Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Episode 1
COVER YOUR MOUTH.
Note: The following review goes into detail about the episode. SPOILER ALERT!
In the beginning—before Hershel’s farm, the prison, Woodbury, Terminus and Alexandria—there was Los Angeles. Fear the Walking Dead takes us back to the infancy of the aged and decrepit apocalypse we have become accustom to in The Walking Dead proper. While this new perspective is a fresh take on a series that within minutes threw us into a world that was overrun, it’s not without its shortcomings.
There are some genuinely interesting things about life before the apocalypse. Characters are no longer frightened at the sight of a walker in the primary series, but in Fear, characters are presented with a never-before-seen horror. The pilot opens with Nick Clark, a junkie who shoots up at an abandoned church. After waking up in a haze, Nick has his initial encounter with a face-eating walker. If I’m not mistaken, Season 1 Rick has, up until now, been our only catalyst for someone’s first encounter with the undead. With this, it was a logical response for Nick to hot tail it straight out of the church and into a very vibrant and lived in Los Angeles.
I believe the strongest thing going for this spin-off series is the family dynamic. There’s the aforementioned Nick, the son, played by Frank Dillane; the mom, Madison Clark, played by Kim Dickens (House of Cards); the stepfather, Travis Manawa, played by Cliff Curtis; and Alicia, the daughter, played by Alycia Debnam Carey. They are the sole focus here. It’ll be interesting to see where each member of this family will be when things inevitably go awry. The connection between the family is felt, as each character has a bonding scene, but some poor acting from the cast pushed those connections away from authenticity. Madison Clark is the standout here, but the rest of the main players’ performances fell flat. This is the pilot, however, so I do hope things are ironed out in the coming episodes.
The pace of the pilot was a bit off putting for me. The first half dragged at a walker’s pace, and although I enjoyed a bit of the slow burn, it wasn’t enough to remove my disappointment. What was enough, though, was the second half, where things started to edge ever closer to where we know things will end up. From video of the early instances of the undead going viral to an increasing number of students missing school, it was a nice build up to the family’s (minus Alicia) first collective encounter with a walker. Following a rather boring hunt for Nick, the Clark-Manawas were almost down one family member as Nick’s recently killed friend reanimated. Nick exhausted his attempts to kill his friend, just for the fresh walker to continue to show signs of life. I’m intrigued by this world on the brink of apocalyptic destruction. These aren’t experts in the craft of killing walkers—we’re a long way from chain whipping three walkers’ heads in half—and above all, the hook of Fear the Walking Dead will lie in watching these characters learn to survive or die trying.
The pilot episode did very little to keep my interest. And frankly, if this wasn’t attached to a far greater series in caliber and quality, I would dip out. But, given that it is, I am interested in seeing this new perspective of the undead takeover. There’s a lot to dislike about the pilot, including some cheesy teases straight from a 90’s horror film, and a lot to like, including the initial shock of walkers akin to the opening of The Walking Dead. There is room for improvement and an entire mythos to mined here, so as long as things continue at the pace of the pilot’s latter half, I’ll be sticking around for the deterioration of this family and Los Angeles.
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