TV Recap: Fear The Walking Dead, ‘Pilot’

Fear the Walking Dead Poster
Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Fear the Walking Dead Pilot Plot Summary:

A dysfunctional family navigates the landmines of life as a blended family in the twenty first century. Their problems begin to grow insignificant as a run of the mill virus becomes anything but.

With Fear the Walking Dead, the biggest hope was that the show could stand alone. Though it has been called a spin-off, the only thing The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead share are a universe and a virus that reanimates the dead. The location has changed, time has rewinded, and the characters are completely different. Robert Kirkman and Dave Erikson created Fear the Walking Dead as a family drama. The show, from the episode entitled ‘Pilot,’ stands alone.

The cast of Fear the Walking Dead
Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia, Frank Dillane as Nick, Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza, Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris, Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar, Patricia Reyes Spíndola as Griselda Salazar, Mercedes Mason as Ofelia. Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

But it also does not. Even if you haven’t watched The Walking Dead, the basic premise is well-known. Therefore, Fear the Walking Dead can never truly be standalone — the ending has already been set. Yet, this doesn’t mean Fear the Walking Dead is down and out.

I thought the pilot of Fear the Walking Dead was amazing. I was blown away and captivated the whole time. For those hoping for a zombie slaughter fest, you are out of luck. Fear the Walking Dead is character first and zombie second. The show hopes to balance on the relationships between the characters and the reactions to each other in relation to the impending zombie apocalypse.

The writing teased well on what the audience already knows is happening. The episodes opens with Nick (Frank Dillane) waking up in a shooting gallery. It has a faint similarity to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) waking up in the hospital. The writers balance the audience’s foreknowledge of impending doom with the reality of the time and world Fear is set in. Continuing in that vein, Nick getting hit by a car after fleeing a zombie in the shooting gallery is the perfect example of the balancing act the writers are playing.

The world seems empty and apocalyptic. Though he runs into the streets of L.A., the city appears uninhabited until Nick gets hit by a car. The engine rev punctuates the loud silence of the scene before. It’s jarring and perfect. But the hints at what’s to come don’t stop there. Filmed from a godshot angle, Nick lays unconscious on the pavement alone. Hands creep into the frame bringing with them a fear of zombies, a fear that is quickly alleviated by the sounds of a bustling city and sight of a fully alive crowd.

Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens in Fear the Walking Dead
Cliff Curtis as Travis and Kim Dickens as Madison. Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Los Angeles was the perfect setting for Fear the Walking Dead because it is a crowded, sprawling city that bursts at the seams with gang violence and drug wars. It gives the characters reasons to hide behind for the weird occurrences. As a tunnel is closed off Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Madison (Kim Dickens) are unbothered, citing a shooting as the problem.

The pilot was a strong episode. It was smartly written and well-planned. From this first episode, however, I don’t know how the series as a whole will work. Fear doesn’t present well in the longevity department. How can a show truly last when the end goal has already been set? Will an emotional bond be formed to the characters if the audience knows they probably won’t make it? Or even worse, will all the characters beat the odds making Fear unrealistic?

I’m eager for next weeks episode, not only to gauge the cohesiveness of the season but because ‘Pilot’ was a great 90 minutes of TV. The episode was gripping and engaging. Fear the Walking Dead will definitely excel on an episode by episode basis.

Rating: 8 out of 10

Fear the Walking Dead airs every Sunday night on AMC.

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Marley Ghizzone is the Breaking News Editor for Pop-Break. Aside from writing news, Marley reviews television shows and the odd film. She is currently a senior at Rowan University studying Radio/Television/Film as well as Creative Writing. Marley also writes an opinion column dedicated to feminism for her student run university newspaper, The Whit. Pop culture is her drug of choice and her talents include binge watching entire seasons of TV shows obsessively fast and crying over fictional characters. Follow her on Twitter: @marleyveee
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