We’re Baaaacccck! What better way to kick off our second season then a review for the spinoff, ahem, “companion” series, Fear The Walking Dead. With an average of 20.1 million viewers eagerly anticipating the arrival of this show, it’s safe to say this series has big shoes (and gaps) to fill. Heed this warning. Spoilers lie ahead.
From the very first moment of the pilot episode, Fear The Walking Dead fiddles with our emotions, taking us through an intense reality turned nightmare of a young man and his drug fueled journey. 18 year old Nick Clark wakes up in an abandoned Los Angeles church and we follow him on a quest to search for his friends, whom have shockingly disappeared. What lies ahead is a grisly encounter when Nick stumbles upon a hunched over friend, devouring another. What can easily be described as the worst trip ever, Nick rushes out, not wanting to find out if what he saw was real or a dream then is abruptly hit by a car. This series of sequences we Walking Dead fans know well and it’s a formula that works even in the cusp of the apocalypse.
Meanwhile, we are introduced to high school guidance counselor, Maddie Clark, her boyfriend Travis, and her seemingly perfect daughter Alicia. Fear The Walking Dead is unapologetically all about family. Making big efforts to have us care about the characters, a blended and strained family on the perils of a major earth shattering event. We are teased about the spread of the infected — the “flu” that spreads like wildfire, missing children flyers everywhere, and that terrifying buildup of a scene with the principle. They are given a multitude of warnings. Maddie even encounters a blade holding geek who eerily and accurately forewarns about the impending events…”The signs are all there, No one is going to college”. Slow and steady character development reveals the genius of Robert Kirkman and the brilliant team of writers on staff. We are watching the apocalypse unfold before our eyes, kids, and it’s terrifying.
Interestingly similar to how we first met Rick Grimes on that other zombie show, we find Nick in the hospital, restrained due to his shocking admission of what he experienced. Another bout of recovery on the horizon, he comes clean to Travis, explaining in detail of his drug hangover experience. Unfortunately for Nick, his telling on the first Walker encounter is quickly dismissed due to his drug filled past. Travis, eager to believe, heads over to the church to investigate. At night. Unarmed. Obviously, this Jack London preaching English teacher has never seen any type of horror film because let’s be real, who would venture on such a journey?
The episode speeds up once Nick escapes the hospital, ironically acting as though he tripped into a Johnny Depp role, while Maddie and Travis frantically search L.A. for him. After Maddie finds a childhood friend whose goodie boy antics seem too good to be true and we quickly understand why after a brief encounter at a local restaurant. Nick confronts Calvin on the heroin he was given and wants an explanation as to what drug he and his friends used. A fast ride to another abandoned (and famous) lot, the tides change as Nick discovers that he is on the cusp of death and quickly takes matters into his own hands. It is very apparent that Nick, once sober, will be a great leader and strong character for this series. If he can stay clean, that is. He manages to win the battle over Calvin and fast sprints ahead to safety where he literally runs, albeit begrudgingly, into Maddie and Travis.
The search for Calvin continues and the family is shocked when they discover young Calvin has changed and not for the better. Another battle ensues and doesn’t end well for the newly turned walker. While devastated, Maddie asks what we have all been dying to know and understand. “What the hell is happening here”? Welcome to the club, Maddie. Buckle up because it’s about to be a very bumpy, intense, and gore filled journey.
With a slow building pilot episode, Fear The Walking Dead has potential yet will Robert Kirkman take this fantastic opportunity to answer fan theories? With the apocalypse now in full throttle, will we learn the questions that have been building over the last 5 years? One thing is for certain, in the words of Jack London…””Nature always wins…”
Written by Michelle Daniels
Images courtesy of AMC and Google, Inc.