Fear the Walking Dead: Pilot

"Nature always wins."

Although I wasn't blown away, I thought this was a strong pilot. I'm a big fan of The Walking Dead, and the one thing they never did was how it all began. Rick woke up and it was already over. This time, Nick woke up and it had just begun. (Nick and Rick? Was that deliberate?)

The intro was really good. The first shot was a little Lost-like (everyone seems to do that lately), with Nick opening his eyes, but upside down. (Pretty obvious what that meant, since his world was about to tilt on its axis.) I'm not sure why, but Nick was the character I connected with right away. He reminds me of someone -- a young Johnny Depp, maybe? and I liked his humorous matter-of-factness about his addiction that almost certainly covered a lot of pain and helplessness. Since life and death can nudge getting high right off the table, I bet Nick's two bookending walker encounters have just scared him straight. The fact that he survived both makes me think Nick might have The Right Stuff when it comes to survival in the zombie apocalypse.

The other main characters were painted with broad character brush strokes. Nick's mother Madison (Kim Dickens), a high school guidance counselor who puts kids before the rules, is tough but she cares deeply. She has tried to accept the very real possibility that her son will die soon so that it won't destroy her. She and her boyfriend Travis appear to have a good relationship: lots of teasing and hugging and doing good things for each other. And Travis, who takes fathering seriously, actually went to the church to check out what Nick had told him.

We didn't get a lot about Madison's daughter Alicia, except that she's sarcastic and smart, a junior in high school, can't wait to leave home and go to Berkeley, doesn't like Travis, and she has a boyfriend named Matt who draws strange hearts on her arm. There was a brief introduction to Travis's ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez from Orange is the New Black) and their son Chris. I'm sure we'll get more soon.

There was a slow introduction to the approaching apocalypse. Lots of kids in school were out sick. One of the kids, Tobias, tried to tell Madison that something heavy was happening. There was a shot of a possible walker in the park, the class discussion of chaos theory. At one point, Travis said that bodies couldn't just get up and walk away. A high school literature teacher, Travis told his class that Jack London was trying to teach his readers how not to die, and that nature always wins. Foreshadow much?

There was also obvious symbolism that God has abandoned humanity: the desecrated church, the huge upended cross, the blood of the lamb on the church floor, even the names of the two walkers that knew Nick: Gloria, the first walker we see, and Nick's dealer Calvin (Calvinism).

I wonder if this is the right spinoff story, or if the producers made a mistake? So far, and yes, it's early, Fear the Walking Dead feels totally disconnected from the original show. Although as a long time Angelino, the L.A. backdrop does intrigue me. There is still the bright sunshine, but the grime and graffiti were everywhere, and many of the shots, especially in the church, were shaded in dirty pastel colors.

Things were bad enough in Atlanta. How much worse will it be in Los Angeles, which has the inescapable ocean on one side, the desert on the other, and a zillion people in between?

Bits:

-- Nick kept his works in a book entitled Winesburg, Ohio. I've never read it, but there was some obvious meaning to that choice.

-- Nick and Alicia actually look a lot like siblings. Good casting there.

-- The hospital… was that the infamous Linda Vista?

-- Loved that the video of the patient attacking the rescue worker "went viral", pun intended.

-- I thought they were setting up the obvious with the old man in the next bed, especially since Nick was in restraints. But no. Thank you for not doing the obvious.

-- Arm bone. Gross. Shuddery and effective.

-- Fear the Walking Dead will end the week before The Walking Dead's sixth season premiere on October 11. Chris Hardwick isn't doing Talking Dead for the spinoff, which makes me sad. Maybe next season?

Quotes:

Travis: "Ye of little faith."
Madison: "Ye of no faith."

Nick: "I don't know what 'viscera' is."
You will.

Madison: "The authorities would tell us."
I wonder how long that will take?

Nick: "You buy on the corner and you can shoot at the church. Junkie communion."

Nick: "I'm insane. (laughs) I really don't want to be insane."

Three out of four dirty pastel colors,

Billie
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Billie Doux is the founder of Doux Reviews and has been reviewing her favorite shows for quite some time. More Billie Doux.

7 comments:

Jess Lynde said...

I thought it was an okay start. I'm curious to see how the collapse spins out, but I'm not entirely sure this initial slow-burn worked for me. The family drama felt a little tedious at times, and some of the "nature always wins" and "chaos theory" stuff was a bit heavy-handed. I do like Kim Dickens though, and I'm curious to see if I can dissociate Elizabeth Rodriguez from Aleida.

Of course, I'm also concerned about what happens after the collapse spins out. Does the show just become more of the slow war of attrition we've been getting for years on the mothership? I really don't think I need two shows in the same 'verse telling that same, basic story. But we'll see.

Strangely, the moment that stood out most for me in this pilot was near the very beginning when the phone rang as the family was going through the morning routine. The morning routine had nice, comfortable and loving vibe to it, but then everyone quickly shifted into dread at the sound of the phone. It was immediately clear (to me) that they were all prepared for it to be a call telling them the junkie was dead. I thought the way Madison couldn't bring herself to answer it, the way the daughter hung at the edge of the room, and the way Travis quickly moved to take the impact for Madison said a ton about those characters, their relationship, and the overall family dynamic. A lot going on with the unspoken beats there. I wish more of the following material had resonated with me in the same way.

Re: Talking Dead --- I thought I had read that Hardwick would be doing one episode for the spin-off this season. Maybe somewhere near the end of the season? Or did that change?

Billie Doux said...

I really don't think I need two shows in the same 'verse telling that same, basic story. Yes, exactly.

You're probably right about the Chris Hardwick thing. Maybe if Fear takes off, they can get him to do it next summer for all of the episodes.

Gavrielle said...

I don't like zombies enough to watch this or its parent, but my fingers are crossed for it so our Kiwi boy Cliff Curtis does well. (It seems the US TV industry is full of British, Australian and New Zealand actors right now. Not sure why - America must have zillions of great actors. But I'm not complaining! )

Billie Doux said...

Gavrielle, I just saw a couple of articles that said it was the most watched cable pilot in history. Unless there is a huge drop next week, and I suppose there could be, it will probably do fine.

http://tvbythenumbers.zap2it.com/2015/08/24/fear-the-walking-dead-becomes-most-watched-series-premiere-in-cable-history-with-10-1-million-viewers/452459/

TheShadowKnows said...

This was pretty good, but I'm really getting sick of zombies, especially Romero-style flesh-eating zombies. I actually wouldn't mind a treatment that went back to their roots in Haiti and voodoo, but otherwise I'd like to see the topic get a long rest. How many times are we going to see these same kind of scenes: zombies in hospitals, and people getting bitten, and cops shooting zombies, and zombies eating people? It's all pretty tired at this point. Or maybe I'm just terribly jaded...

Billie Doux said...

TV Line gave Frank Dillane (Nick) performer of the week. So I wasn't the only one impressed with him.

http://tvline.com/2015/08/29/frank-dillane-fear-the-walking-dead-performance-pilot/

TheCount said...

I thought it was a really good pilot. I'm glad it's not connected at all to the twd. there is no way people would immediately assume that what is happening is the zombie apocalypse. I also think there would be no information just like on the show & the gov would try to hide what was really happening. I think people just didn't like the dad, because he was a weak powerless man, unlike rick. he didn't seem to care about his own son & was letting the step kids insult him.