Fear The Walking Dead – The Beginning of The End

by Cassandra Hennessey

(The following review has MAJOR SPOILERS, so don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

There are a lot of fans comparing “The Walking Dead” and “Fear The Walking Dead”. It’s natural, of course, to want to find similarities between the two, but that’s not necessarily reasonable. One story takes place in the midst of the global pandemic of zombification, while the other chronicles the contagion from its outset.ftwd-logo

Is there any correlation between the two shows’ main characters (TWD) Rick and (FTWD) Nick (English actor Frank Dillane)?

Well, Rick’s a cop.

Nick’s a teenaged junkie.

Opposite ends of the spectrum, wouldn’t you say?

The only similarity they have is Rick sees the horror of the Zombie Apocalypse in the hospital after awakening from a coma; and Nick sees the horror, tries to flee from it and a minor run-in with a car lands him in the hospital.

No one believes Nick when he says he’s seeing “dead people”. After all, he’s an addict, fresh off a mind-altering high. He’s in restraints on a hospital gurney. He probably hallucinated the whole thing, right?

I mean, it brings to mind the song “Rosetta Stoned” by Tool. All right, maybe Nick wasn’t ranting like that, but the dialog did allude to him sounding irrational to the police and medical staff as he was relaying reality as he saw it– fellow junkie Gloria was nom-nomming some dude’s face like it was seven layer nacho dip.

And when Travis (Cliff Curtis) goes to that horrible husk of a church where the addicts all congregate for “Junkie Communion”, he discovers a BIG pool of blood and gore; however no bodies.

Who wouldn’t doubt Nick’s story?

It’s like Travis said, “Dead bodies don’t get up and walk away.”

The badge of dubiousness is pinned securely to Nick just because he’s an addict and a wayward son; he’s deemed unreliable by — of all people — his own mother.

As Maddie (Kim Dickson) rationalized to Travis as he tried to argue the validity of Nick’s story about the church, “Bad things happen there.” She’s a mother who has been through disappointment and despair time and time again with her son, while working as a guidance counselor, setting teenaged students on the path toward their hopeful futures. Seeing her own child throwing his future away must be gut-wrenching. Kim Dickson’s performance depicts a woman who is about to throw up her hands and walk away from her own flesh and blood.

At first, I didn’t like Maddie (nowhere next to the almost obligatory universal disdain for Lori Grimes, but…) However, I did give consideration to her reactions towards her son. It seems he’s been on a downward spiral for a while; and there’s been a series of interventions, rehabilitation and epic failures. She’s in the midst of another of these cycles, and losing hope. Then I “got” her character, and the seemingly “blasé” exterior. But believe me, it’s only a veneer.

But what about the walkers?! We want more walkers, some viewers were yelling.

Patience is a virtue, my friends.

Character development — when it is done well– does require some time. After all, this is the pilot, the show’s premiere, and it is formally introducing us to new “people”. How else are we going to acquaint and grow to know these characters if they are not fully developed? Why would we care for them if we didn’t feel we “know” them?

The deliberate slow pacing of the show is to be commended and not condemned, for it is realistically depicting the genesis of any outbreak scenario. Trust me, the chaos and collapse of society as we know it is imminent. Imagine it being like turning a faucet; first a few drips and then a mighty gush!

What I found interesting was Nick’s dysfunctional family unit; two previously married adults (Travis and Maddie) in love, trying to merge their families together, while dealing with tumultuous estranged relationships and emotional baggage. (Maddie’s daughter Alicia harbors resentment toward her brother Nick — the Prodigal Son — and yearns to escape the drama when she goes to college after her senior year; and Travis’ estranged son Christopher holds a grudge against his father’s compassion for Nick).

This is a classic example of a “modern-day” family with all its faults and foibles.

I believe we’re going to see some powerful moments with this family; and their struggles to stay together and ALIVE.

The other touches of modern-day tropes of technology were all-too-familiar; Alicia’s (Alycia Debnam Carey) text messages to her artist boyfriend Matt (Maestro Harrell) going unanswered and being miffed but not-yet-concerned; in class watching the viral video via smartphone of a police confrontation with an insanely violent suspect that just wouldn’t stay down, even after being loaded with lead.

Signs of the times, wouldn’t you say?

Both Gloria and the “crazed” guy on the back-board who attacked the EMS worker and was gunned down in the viral video by police were direct references to the “Miami Zombie of 2012”.

I mean, we all look like Zombies during the day, skulking around, head hanging, reading tweets, texting, or checking e-mail.

Think of how often you utilize your own smartphone. A lot, right?

When the “collapse of civilization” does happen, there will be no more tech, no more net, hell, no electricity. The sudden inability to get “information” will definitely be a huge shock to the system for these characters, as it would be for us in real-life.

Anyone who has been through a power outage when neglecting to charge one’s phone before the lights went out will attest to that!

Okay. Time for the section I like to call “Things I Didn’t Like”…

…The “Oo, is this guy a Walker?” teases. Namely, The Student with his head on his desk in Travis’ English class; and Maddie’s POV shot of the back of the Principal as he sat suspiciously motionless, but was merely eavesdropping on classes through the PA system, “evaluating teachers’ performances”. These were not “OMG!” moments; they were unnecessary and annoying anticlimactic moments of manufactured suspense.

Shame! Shame on using this cheap trick! I’m surprised there wasn’t a cat used for a jump-scare in the church scene, then!

And the “Nick Escapes The Hospital Scene”. People expire in the hospital all the time. You mean to tell me there wasn’t one instance of some corpse going “full on Walker” somewhere in that hospital? In the ER? In the morgue? Just saying. I think they missed an opportunity to really freak Nick out and send him running for Cal for his hookup to dull his memories of the horror.

Now, “Little” things I did like: The SOUND of LA. Police sirens. Copters overhead. Anyone who’s ever been there knows these sounds are an authentic Los Angeles experience.

The MUSIC. The Nine Inch Nails inspired despair-and-dystopia soundtrack is unnerving and frenetic. Brings to mind the “Fragile” album of 1999. (By the way, my discerning ear “nailed” it; NIN producer Atticus Ross crafted the music).

Hmm… 1999. Strange. Back in ’99, we were wondering if the world was going to end. Not by a Zombie Apocalypse, but by Y2k. Lest, I digress…

I don’t know. Maybe we TWD fans have been unwittingly bestowed the powers of Nostradamus; seeing what is to come before it actually happens in this tale of contagion and chaos. We’ve witnessed the full-blown effects of a Walker-riddled world before seeing the slow descent into destruction.

“Fear the Walking Dead” is The Beginning of The End.

The trickle of incidentals. Missing persons reports. Strange news stories of irrationally violent suspects attacking innocent civilians. More and more children absent from school. Adults not showing up to work. All precursors to something much more sinister.

This hell wouldn’t suddenly break loose. But when it does… Oh, but when it does, it does so in an exponential, uncontrollable fashion.

I have to say I really liked the Internet conspiracy-theory savvy kid Tobias. I do feel sorry that he’s found himself caught in a real-life Creepy Pasta. I can’t tell you how many kids his age I’ve met who are well-verse of the latest “underground information”. They make Jesse Ventura look like Ryan Seacrest.

The climax of the pilot’s building suspense had a freak-out factor of 10; the freshly-turned Cal getting run over not once but twice by Nick in Travis’ truck, and still moving in his reanimated crumpled-heap state, much to the horror of Maddie and Travis.

The atmosphere of the show is tense, unsettling. The walkers in their “freshly-deceased” state are unnerving, because their previous visages of humanity are still very much there. Hats off to Greg Nicotero for creating the nightmarish vision of “new” walkers.

It’s going to be interesting to discern the method to the madness of a city being plunged into chaos. We as viewers will get to see what happens to LA as opposed to not actually witnessing the fall of Atlanta.

Despite some critics and tweeters complaining about the slow pace of the pilot, 10.1 million viewers tuned in, making “Fear the Walking Dead” the Number 1 all-time pilot premiere in cable history and ensuring a legacy of Walker-driven programming for AMC.

Unlike the harsher critics, I’m just saying give the show a chance. Let it creep up on you. I’m sure once the Zombie Apocalypse hits its full stride in LA, it will be a gripping, nail-biting extravaganza.

Stay tuned.