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Fear the Walking Dead Recap: Episode 1, “Pilot”


We finally got our first look into the world of AMC’s hotly anticipated spin-off of The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead. A spin-off of such a successful, unique television show is a daring adventure, and the expectations from the TWD fandom was HUGE. So did the show actually live up to expectations? Do we have another classic in the walker-run universe of Robert Kirkman?
Well, maybe.

Before we jump in, read ahead at your own risk if you haven’t watched the pilot of Fear the Walking Dead yet. There WILL be spoilers ahead!

The big difference between The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead is that while we were immediately thrust into the walker-run world in Walking Dead, and the show went from 0-100 straight out the gate, Fear the Walking Dead is a much slower burn. In FTWD, we’re teetering right on the precipice of the zombie outbreak—which means that the storyline is very … normal.

In the pilot, we meet Maddie and her family—a perfect daughter, addict son, Maddie’s loving and supportive partner. The meat of the episode is dealing with her son, Nick’s, severe heroin addiction. Nick sees a walker in the first three minutes of the episode, but isn’t sure if he actually saw a girl chowing down on the insides of another human, or if the drugs he took were laced with something funny. He spends most of the episode on the run, trying to figure out what the heck is going on, while his family spends most of the episode looking for him. Super normal, non-apocalyptic stuff, right? I mean, if it wasn’t for the fact that I knew walkers were coming, I’d think this was a really dramatic PSA against drug use, Reefer Madness-style.

But that’s the thing: while there was a lot of normal, soapy, dramatic storyline, but the entire episode is filled with dramatic irony as we try our best to scream at the characters on the show, warning them to pay attention and start stocking up on ammo and canned goods. For instance:

  • A student at Madison’s school comes to school with a knife because he feels safer in numbers, and the knife will protect him from “what’s coming”. Of course he gets laughed off, and Madison takes his knife.
  • They talk about extreme survival situations in an English class, and the lengths a person would go to survive (we call that “going full Shane” around here).
  • When Nick is in the hospital after running into traffic to escape from his first walker experience, he’s put in a room with an old man. The moment he came onscreen I felt like everyone watching groaned and went, “He’s so becoming a walker, isn’t he?” Later in the episode, the man goes into cardiac arrest, and they wheel him out of the room. We never see what becomes of him, though we know  he died along with several others that day.
  • Madison’s daughter, Alicia, is supposed to meet up with her boyfriend. He doesn’t show. She sends him a text saying, “You’d better be dead,” before she leaves the meeting spot. We don’t see what becomes of him.
  • There are several missing persons signs up around the neighborhood.
  • Nick shoots his drug dealer, Cal, killing him. When he returns to show his parents, Nick finds that Cal’s body is gone…of course, that’s when things kick up a notch and we actually see walker-Cal.

After finally killing walker-Cal, the episode ends. Madison and her family aren’t any wiser about what is happening, and they end with another meaningful shot of un-apocalypsed Los Angeles.
The show’s supposed to be a slow burn. In its title alone, it gives us a picture of what we’re in for: not so much dealing directly with the walking dead—at least not yet—but more dealing with the growing fear and paranoia that comes with a huge, unexplainable threat marching your way. However, that slow, marching threat means that the episode was a slow march. Since the reality of the zombie apocalypse was a GIANT elephant in the room, it really made it hard for me to care about the “regular” problems Madison and her family were going through.

I really want to love this show, simply because I love The Walking Dead so much. While it’s fun to pick up on the clues that the characters don’t, hinting at the incoming zombie crap storm, I got weary of wading through the issues we see around us every day. It felt far too after school special for me to say I became an insta-fan and I’m chomping at the bit for the next episode. I’m definitely going to give the show more of a chance, but I’m hoping we can start to focus more on the changing landscape of humanity rather than the inner workings of a broken family.

I am, at this point, not blown away, but not unimpressed either. I think there is a ton of potential in this show, and the chance to see the zombie outbreak unfold is one I am not about to pass up. I can’t wait to see how life dissolves and changes once the threat of the undead becomes more real. I just hope they can up the level of end of the world drama, the changing moral landscape as humanity and society breaks down, and the questions of what is truly good/bad and right/wrong.

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that Cal, the first walker we got a good, non drug-addled look at, was played by an African-American actor. Alicia’s boyfriend is also African-American. If he’s actually dead, it means they killed off two black characters right out of the gate. With all of the uproar the Walking Dead fandom gives about the show’s habit of killing its black characters quickly, I had hoped they would work to remedy that in future seasons and Fear the Walking Dead. However, killing 2 out of the four black actors with speaking parts in the pilot episode isn’t a great sign … We’ll have to see how that unfolds as well, I suppose.

Plotwise though, the show was fine, but not great. I’m hoping they can continue to step it up and raise the stakes in the coming episodes, and maybe tone down the after school special drama just a tad. Part of what makes me love the Walking Dead universe is those questions of humanity, good, and evil in the face of a destroyed world. That and the walkers. Definitely need some more walkers up in here.

What did you think of the premiere of Fear the Walking Dead? Are you going to keep watching? Did you like the more human, normal story line, or were you hoping for more zombie action? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Kendall is an editor and a writer. She has a geek and pop culture blog, she is a seasoned Netflix binger, a hoarder of candles, still an unabashed Hanson fan, and she takes ballet twice a week to stave off some of her clumsiness. You can find her on TwitterTumblrFacebookPinterestInstagram, and Google+ (yes, she is actually on Google+).

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