Zombie Round Up: Pilot Episode of Fear The Walking Dead
It’s here!!! Yup, we don’t even have to wait until October this year, AMC is giving us a prequel series: Fear The Walking Dead. It’s the perfect way to prepare yourself for a zombie-filled fall. The truth is I initially thought it was a bad idea, I mean, how much zombie can one TV channel produce? But then I saw the trailer, and I was downright overwhelmed with excitement. This show is supposed to be about the outbreak when it first started, and unlike TWD takes place in a cityscape, with all the added scares and thrills that will add to the show. This past Sunday night I finally got to experience the 1.5 hour long season premiere and now you get to hear all about my spoiler filled take on it.
Just like I anticipated, the opening scene involved the drug-addict Nick waking up in a stuporous state to stumble upon one of the first zombies ever. And let me tell you: this scene was freaking perfect. It was absolutely terrifying, full of suspense. There was great music as well as flickering lights to set the scene as Nick stumbled around looking for Gloria, his friend who had been shooting up heroine with him. You know there is going to be badness, but rather than finding Gloria at the hands of some zombie she is the flesh eater- chewing up some other addict in the basement. Nick has no hesitation in high tailing it out of there, only to get hit by a car as he frantically runs down the street.
After this amazing opening scene I was just as thrilled to see a commercial for TWD, which I am equally excited about.
But the next half hour of the show was spent getting us some background to our main characters. We get to meet Madison, Nick’s mom, who is a single mother dating Travis as they try to integrate their dysfunctional families. Madison is a guidance counselor and Travis is an English teacher. The two rush to the hospital with Madison’s daughter Alicia in tow, coming to Nick’s rescue from an OD yet again. But this time he has some horrific accompanying stories from his high, ones of viscera and cannibalism.
This was probably the part of the show I was most disappointed with, but it was only episode one so I can’t really give up on them just yet. But the truth is I didn’t really like Madison and Travis, and they are supposed to be the main characters. Madison is quite frankly a controlling, bossy female character that has little emotional depth to her so far. Being a guidance counselor I couldn’t believe the way she treated the cops interviewing her son. And Travis is so desperate to be a father figure to this new family that he is joining that he neglects his own son Chris from a previous marriage in the process. As a relationship goes it is hard to be a fan of Travis and Madison either: aside from trying to stay afloat in their dysfunctional families they don’t really have a lot in common. Their house, emotional lives, and children all seem to be in squalor. Of course, that might give them more to rise up from, which could be why they are being portrayed this way early on. I’m just saying something better change if they expect us to become invested in this show.
I was a fan of Madison’s children though, they seem a lot more like characters I could admire. Yes, Nick is a drug addict and loser, but he is complex, and this coming apocalypse might just be his way out of being a junkie (sink or swim dude). And his little sister Alicia plays a brilliant and more intriguing senior in high school (though she looks like she is 25 and not 18). She has an interesting relationship with an artist that went MIA at the end of the episode, probably cause he is being affected somehow by the zombie-outbreak, but I hope we get to see more of him as well. Of course, she has taken the role of “the good child” and with this coming apocalypse she too might be faced with sink or swim. Her book smarts are either going to weigh her down, or give her the opportunity to see things differently the others, potentially giving her a survival advantage.
Naturally you can’t have a zombie show without someone making a bad decision, and there were several of them in this episode. Of course the first one was Travis’ attempt to go explore the abandoned church where Nick got high and encountered the zombie. He finds a lot of blood and overall macabre scene but can’t figure out what really happened. But why go alone?!?! Why not call the cops??? They were looking for a reason to crack down on the drug use in that neighborhood, and would have probably taken the lead to investigate it on their own. I would take a cop over an English teacher in that situation any day! Then the second mistake: Madison asks him to take her back there again! How did they not get attacked by a zombie then?!?!
But no, the first zombie encounter they had needed to be a little more personable. By the last 15 minutes of the episode we had seen a lot of social media leaks in LA as well as heard rumors about various attacks and illnesses all over the country. Yet people still seem to be in denial, including with Travis and Madison. But what makes them believers is when their yet again runaway son Nick calls them for help, and they find him hiding in an alley where he tells them that he just shot and killed his friend (and drug dealer) Calvin. The three of them go to investigate to find the body missing…until they exit the alley and come across his walking corpse as it attacks them. Being hit by a truck twice and sustaining numerous fractures is not enough to keep him down, forcing them all to believe in zombies. The only thing that frustrated me about this scene is how chill Travis and Madison seem to be, almost accepting it without any shock or emotional response. Meanwhile Nick seems to still be the only one reacting to this brewing apocalypse appropriately: with fear, rash reactions, and panic.
In summary it could have been better, it could have been worse. I enjoyed the zombie filled scenes immensely, but I hope they can build these characters up better so that I am just as attached to them as I am to those in TWD. There were elements of it that reminded me of numerous scenes from prior zombie flicks. The opening scene was like one from 28 Days Later. A scene driving past a homeless man in the park was like the one with the pigeon eater in Shaun of the Dead. And the traffic jam scene where their car gets hit by a cop speeding up to the site was like that in the introduction of World War Z.
The episode also left me thinking about a lot, asking more questions, and wondering how things would really be in a real-world zombie apocalypse.
I am assuming that this outbreak we are just witnessing, pre-TWD times, is already one where everyone is infected: since the only zombies we have witnessed seem to be humans that were killed and then turned. Is that all we are going to get? I thought this prequel series was going to tell us more about the cause of the zombie outbreak, and I hope it does, I know I am very curious.
Also, in a real-life apocalypse I feel like there would be even more social media outpouring and coverage. In the first half hour of the episode there were various people that had seen things online making them worried about a world wide outbreak of some form, and there were already whisperings of zombies. But I actually think if that were the case all of the footage or rumors would go viral (no pun intended) immediately. None of this wishy washy gradual increase in suspicion and doubt that overwhelmed the world in this show.
Lastly, I have to wonder if we might not find out about the cause of the outbreak because there is some active cover up. There was another great episode where a patient next to Nick in the hospital died and rather than perform CPR in the room, they quickly aborted and started yelling to take his body downstairs asap. Do they know that he is going to turn? Is that why there isn’t a lot of social media coverage- is the government or are the medical facilities covering it up?
It’s certainly another theme that has been used before with various apocalyptic scenarios, and I would not be opposed to it. I am going to keep my fingers crossed that the show builds on some of these themes, and works on improving Travis and Madison’s characters to be ones that I can get attached to, cause if not the show might fall a little flat.
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