Fear or Failure? A Review of Fear the Walking Dead’s Pilot Episode
By D.R Grahl
AMC’s The Walking Dead has engrossed America’s zombie-loving culture with excellent Southern gothic touches, contemporary ideologies and gut-wrenching symbolism. The Walking Dead has kept fans in living rooms, on couches and in their seats since 2010, and its October reappearance is highly anticipated. Robert Kirkman and Terry Moore, The Walking Dead comic book creators and dramatic series, have worked alongside Frank Darabont to create the bloody paradise television viewers love.
Now, Robert Kirkman and David Erikson’s spin-off, Fear the Walking Dead, proposes a pre-apocalyptic lifestyle slightly reminiscent of The Walking Dead’s lead show character backgrounds, Merle and Daryl Dixon. While an inherent departure from southern backwoods meth culture, Fear the Walking Dead plays upon the toils of Los Angeles society, where drug dealers, blue collar espionage, broken family politics and citywide discord prevail.
Fear the Walking Dead’s first episode, titled “Pilot,” kicked off Sunday, August 23, introducing new zombie apocalypse survivor group intended to capture the world’s final days of—what the characters, at least, presume as—societal coherence.
Make no mistake, Kirkman himself stated the apocalypse’s causes will not be revealed throughout Fear the Walking Dead. Disappointed with The Walking Dead’s Season One, Episode Six episode, “TS-19,” he’s openly stated touching further upon the walker disaster’s mechanics was a no-go. However, Fear the Walking Dead quickly vacates the space of such wants, departing from the introduction’s bloody church scene and entering character-centric plot.
Fear the Walking Dead may be slow, but it’s a slow roast. With six episodes, Fear the Walking Dead
supposes a companion series touching upon culture’s ever-prevalent zombie apocalypse culture
problem: “How did the world fall?” Here, Fear the Walking Dead is highly promising.
Established circa 2008, the show balances eminent disaster with societal ‘what ifs,’ touching upon our addiction to mobile technology, cars, communication, and information. The show establishes several ‘knowing’ characters early on, nodding to humanity’s inherent snoop nature likely to breed its survivors. While dismissed by others, the existence of such characters invigorates Fear the Walking Dead with dynamic life—dynamic life needed in such a setup to properly convince viewers of a realistic disaster.
Fear the Walking Dead is not without bruises, however. At times, its inner-city public school system is reminiscent of Degrassi, ensuring viewers, once more, how bizarre, manic and even sinister adolescence can be. Greasy, tweaking Nick, brooding sister Alicia, drug dealer Calvin and others, at first, appear ingloriously colored—portraying classic ‘teen misfits’ subjected to L.A’s environment of educational malnutrition.
However, the show mustn’t be viewed through such a lens. It’s Fear the Walking Dead, not Fear the
Living. Remember Rick Grimes and Shane Walsh, P.D enforcers, and—some might say—portraying a near good-cop-bad-cop relationship, given the chance. Remember wild teenager Glenn Rhee, racing down Atlanta’s outbound in a Dodge Challenger.
Such characterizations are transient, and are, admittedly, entirely functional to the show’s platform.While The Walking Dead features enchanting dynamics of character downfall, redemption and new-world ideologies, Fear the Walking Dead plays upon society’s pre-established character lifestyles.
These are supposed to be L.A’s commoners: the slightly aware, inherently gritty and quality personas the zombie apocalypse needs. Any baseline characterization, if even existent in Episode Two, will likely be entirely transformed—meshing to Fear the Walking Dead’s new, haunting mold.
Where haunts, themselves, are considered, Fear the Walking Dead, surprisingly, is not afflicted by The Walking Dead’s shadow. It feels fresh, it feels colorful and—as is warranted by its movie-time feel—it feels good. Fear the Walking Dead contains traces of The Walking Dead’s Season One invigorated by the show’s Season Six production value. Had The Walking Dead been bound to an L.A location, procuring its later-rewarded fiscal earnings sooner, it would have looked similar—and that’s entirely acceptable.
Acceptable, because Fear the Walking Dead is free of one of The Walking Dead’s most irreversible detriments: its pre-established story. While not injured, arguably, by the on-spot representations Game of Thrones creates book fans recognize, The Walking Dead still suffers from character appearance questions, powerful fan theories, character-death-by-episode knowledge and the show’s shapeshifting presence around its comic-verse. Fear the Walking Dead, in its very existence, is free. It will be interesting to see such a narrative divide develop. It will be similarly interesting to view The Walking Dead’s source material as either a helpful or harmful entity in comparison.
For now, Fear the Walking Dead has overcome its entry barriers, succumbing only to a couple of ‘false reveals’ where less skill would have cashed in for suspense’s sake. Fans had high expectations, and they were, for the most part, met. Fear the Walking Dead’s most difficult trial was its entry-race pilot episode horse—one bet against based upon the course’s structure. In quality, Fear the Walking Dead prevails.The race’s final stretch may be known, but the wagered horses aren’t—and that’s a good thing.