Fear the Walking Dead, S1 Ep1 – Pilot

fear the walking dead

Fear the Walking Dead opens with  a drug-addled teenager fleeing from one of his companions, whom he has just caught eating someone else. A gruesome image but one that audiences of The Walking Dead have come to expect. After the opening scene, however, we don’t see much of the walkers and instead focus on the reactions of the drug addict’s family to his situation, as well as looking at their daily lives.

"These drugs are more powerful than I thought they would be."

“These drugs are more powerful than I thought they would be.”

It was interesting to have the first encounter with a walker done with a character whose testimony would be sketchy at best. Nick (Frank Dillane) isn’t sure if what he saw was the effect of the drugs or if he was losing his mind. No one believes his story and he doesn’t seem to believe it himself. Thus, we are still a long way from people believing that a zombie apocalypse is about to wreak havoc in Los Angeles.

The show creators did warn us that this season would be a slow burn and the pilot demonstrates this. While the story does move at a relatively slow pace (compared to the action-packed series premieres of the main series, for instance), it feels necessary so that the audience can properly immerse themselves in this new setting and get to know the characters. Being set in Los Angeles some time before the huge walker outbreak, things still seem to be normal. It’s also a bit refreshing to see functioning technology, as well as characters dressed in clean clothes. It’s clear that we are still a long way from the gore and grime of the main show.

Classroom foreshadowing #1 "Man vs. Nature"

Classroom foreshadowing #1
“Man vs. Nature”

What the opening episode succeeds in doing is giving both the characters and the audience a sense of inexplicable apprehension. Even the most mundane scenes seem to be filled with an underlying sense of dread. The audience, of course, already knows what is to come, but even the characters who haven’t encountered any walkers yet seem to sense that something is not quite right. And despite the pacing, some progress is already made towards introducing the spread of the walker/zombie virus in the city. There have been sightings and rumors and walker/zombie virus in the city. There have been sightings and rumors and people have mysteriously gone missing, subtly but effectively setting us up for the chaos to come.

Classroom foreshadowing # 2: "Chaos Theory"

Classroom foreshadowing # 2:
“Chaos Theory”

Most of this first episode was devoted to exploring the daily lives of the core characters. It’s not exciting fare, but it is important to establish who these characters are before all hell breaks loose. And spending time with them makes them more fully realized as individuals and thus makes it easier for the audience to relate to them. After all, we need people to root for otherwise no amount of zombie guts and gore would keep us engaged in the show.

"One more year and life will get better."

“One more year and life will get better.”

The cast did an excellent job of portraying a group of relatable characters, noble and flawed, and all trying to live their lives. Kim Dickens plays Madison Clark, a high school guidance counselor and single mother to Nick and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). Cliff Curtis plays her fiance, Travis Manawa, a high school English teacher and divorcee who shares custody of his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) with his ex-wife, Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez). They are a family struggling to stay strong as they deal with Nick’s drug problems as well as other normal problems. Madison and Travis are a loving, supportive couple and the latter shows a genuine concern for Nick, and even goes so far as to investigate the church where the young man claimed to have seen horrors. As the series progresses, we will undoubtedly be introduced to more characters and if they are as well-portrayed and well-written as the ones we have so far, we have nothing to worry about.

"Why is my drug-addled son roaming the streets unsupervised again?"

“Why is my drug-addled son roaming the streets unsupervised again?”

It will be interesting to see how much they will change as the show progresses, whether the apocalypse will break them or make them stronger. The characters are what keep the audience invested in the show and from this first episode, we have met a group of people we care about enough to keep watching.

Fear the Walking Dead delivered an intriguing opening chapter with solid performances from the cast, an effectively eerie atmosphere, and a few glimpses of the horrific zombies we have come to expect from the franchise. While it starts at a slow pace, with only six episodes this season, we are sure to see things pick up as the show progresses.

How did you like the opening episode? Please let us know in the comments below.