What’s old is new again. This week, fans of all things The Walking Dead finally got a glimpse of the world that was before biters, geeks, zees, and walkers became the new normal. Fear premiered with record-breaking numbers. According to Nielsen, the anticipated companion series premiered to 10.1 million viewers, including 6.3 million adults 18-49. The number one question for cable’s top new series is whether this new series can duplicate what the original did. When the zombie mothership premiered back in 2010, the series built on its viewership week after week against all odds.
Only time will tell, but those jumping aboard for this ride, should tune in and check their expectations. This show is not the same thrill a minute and full on zombie apocalyptic world that we’ve experienced these past years with Rick Grimes and company. Fear offers insight into what the world or at least Los Angeles was like when everything is just starting to go down the tubes. The walkers or infected are fresher and the main characters have no inkling of the new reality poised to clamp down on them.
*Beware Spoilers for pilot episode below, please shamble along to another page if you don’t want to be spoiled…still here. Good, let’s break it down.
What’s Working Here
Based purely on everything seen in the 90-minute series première, Frank Dillane’s drug addled Nick Clark is easily the best part of the new show. Within the first few minutes of the show, Nick wakes up from a drug induced stupor to see the first walker of the series, his friend Gloria chowing down on the rest of their friends. He’s no Daryl Dixon and so he does what anyone else in the pre-apocalypse would’ve done…he gets the heck out of dodge and fast. Of course he doesn’t look where he’s going and gets hit by a car. Being one of the main characters of course he survives with only a few scratches and a lot of side-eye from nurses, cops and sisters alike.
He ends up confiding in stepdad-to-be, Travis (Cliff Curtis). Curtis turns out to be the other bright spot in the new series. Given that this was only the first episode, we have time to meet more of the cast (I’m especially looking forward to Rubén Blades) and having other characters further fleshed out. I enjoyed the fact that Travis didn’t just ignore Nick’s fears or write him off as crazed. He goes to the abandoned church/drug den and that was sufficiently creepy. I almost wish he’d found more there besides the puddle of blood and other gooey bits of viscera. On the other hand that might would have meant undercut that great reveal in the tunnel at the end of the episode and Nick’s worry throughout the episode that he was either losing his mind or tripping on a bad batch of heroin from his dealer, Calvin.
Other things that worked. Los Angeles as a character, vibrant with color and life. You watch and see the flood of people living their lives and just know that about 90% of them will soon be vacant eyed and shambling along.
Also, though the show doesn’t operate at breakneck speed and we’re further ahead in the narrative than I assumed we’d be after producers and writers continued re-iterating that this is not a show about the zombie apocalypse and we’ve got a ways to go before that becomes the new reality. I was certain that we the audience would see a zombie or two in the premiere, but the question for me was how long would the main characters be left in the dark about the walking dead. The show much to my delight, answered that question quickly. At least regarding Nick, Travis, and Madison (Kim Dickens), when they are confronted with walker, Calvin, after Nick runs shoots him in self-defense and then of course runs him over several times. You can’t keep a good walker down though…unless you get a headshot. Hopefully these characters will learn that sooner than later.
What Needs Major Work
Never thought I’d say this about composing maestro, Bear McCreary (Battlestar Galactica, Outlander, etc), but the music throughout the series première came across as less than inspired. I wasn’t as impressed with Madison’s daughter, Alicia, and Travis’ son, Chris. These two characters felt less fleshed out than some of the others and more cliches than anything. Alicia is the unhappy, straight A student looking to escape her troubled family unit and encroaching stepdad-to-be by going away to school. Chris, in his one and only scene so far, wants nothing to do with his father or the new family unit. Here’s hoping the next five episodes of the season digs a little deeper into these two characters. Nitpicking now, but that nurse would absolutely not have loosened Nick’s restraints and then left him unattended. Nope.
That just happened…
Nick’s breakdown after Calvin’s body disappears and he’s hallucinated their violent encounter. AWESOME.
Tobias! Tobias has the entire 411…well not completely, but that kid is on the right track. Please tell me he survives and joins Madison and Travis’ Brady Bunch ensemble.
Nick’s just running away from that walker wearing a very clean-looking cardi…that belonged to Gloria perhaps.
Travis and his ex don’t hate each other. How about that for going against the cliché.
So after my fifth viewing of the episode, I can’t look at Nick and not see Johnny Depp…thanks so much for that internet.