AMC’s highly anticipated Fear the Walking Dead 90 minute premiere wasted no time giving viewers what they need– a much needed zombie fix. The first three minutes, previously leaked by AMC, showcased Executive Producer Greg Nicotero’s signature A+ gore, but the pilot focused more on the ugly business of divorce, blending families, and denial.
High school guidance counsellor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and English teacher Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) along with their families and students are our tour guides through the descent of American society into the wreckage of a zombie apocalypse.
Madison’s drug addicted son, Nick Clark (Frank Dillane), wakes from a drug induced haze in an abandoned church to find his beloved munching on human flesh, so he does what any sane person would do– he runs as if his life depends on it; unfortunately, he is hit by a car and lands himself in the hospital… cuffed to a bed.
Cuffed to a bed in a place of the dying and ill is an ominous state of affairs. His decision to flee the hospital likely saved his life. How long until his roommate goes full on walker? Opening the series with a main character in the hospital is reminiscent of The Walking Dead’s Rick Grimes, a la Season 1.
Nick shares his macabre story with Travis, his mother’s live-in boyfriend, and Travis goes to investigate Nick’s claim. At the church, he encounters a hysterical hooded man and finds a puddle of fresh blood. Indeed, something bad happened there– still, nothing comes of this investigation.
After Nick runs from the hospital, Travis takes Madison to the church. On the way home, the couple encounters gridlock and later they see video footage of its cause– a man on a stretcher mauls a medic and is somehow impervious to gunfire. Those who view the streaming footage are in denial. Has no one in this series seen a zombie movie?
Meanwhile, Nick seeks the help of his dealer, Calvin (who everyone believes is a clean cut kid). Calvin, paranoid that Nick exposed him for the drug dealer he is, fails in his attempt to kill Nick when Nick turns the gun on his assailant. When Nick and his family go to find Calvin, Calvin is…wait for it… a zombie.
The flesh hungry drug dealer survives a pickup truck’s grill after he attacks Madison and Travis. Even after Calvin is thrown several feet and turns his cataract gaze to the bewildered family, no one understands what’s happening. Again… none of the characters ever saw a single Romero movie?
Fear the Walking Dead writers make two seemingly deliberate choices: using a strung out addict living on society’s fringe as one of the first witnesses of the zombie apocalypse and using Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” in Travis’s English class.
Does the choice of an addict help show those who are already disconnected from societal norms stand a better chance of surviving an apocalypse? After all, the protagonist of London’s story freezes to death because he is unable to perform the unconventional, bloody deeds survival requires. Or does the series inadvertently pin the downfall of humanity on some bad heroine?
With a solid cast and adequate tension, Fear the Walking Dead has promise. Time will tell if it has the legs of its predecessor, The Walking Dead, but the prospect of a genesis story has a strong lure. Previews of future episodes indicate there are gasp worthy times ahead.
Fear the Walking Dead airs on AMC Sunday nights at 9:00 PM. Will you tune in for another episode? Did the series premiere live up to they hype and anticipation? You can leave your opinions, queries, and insight in the comment section.