This Sunday brought us the first episode of The Walking Dead spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead. Is it good?

First, a preshow warning

Ever wonder how talk show hosts and/or guests talk about movies or TV shows they don’t like without trashing them? It’s actually a subtle art form.

For example: When Letterman, Leno, Conan are interviewing a guest about a movie they didn’t like, they’ll say ‘You were very good in this film’ rather than praising the film itself.

On the Talking Dead preshow before Fear the Walking Dead premiered, guest Jorge Garcia was asked by Chris Hardwick what he thought of the opening episode. His response:

“It was crazy.”

That’s not a good sign.

Losing my religion

Tom Riddle from the Harry Potter films has fallen on hard times. We open with him (a character named Nick) waking up in an abandoned church that has been repurposed as a drug den. Nick wanders around a bit before getting freaked out by a dead body. It’s been a while since anyone in The Walking Dead universe crapped their pants over a corpse, much less one that wasn’t moving. This is our first clue (aside from the excessive promos we’ve seen during the summer) that this is taking place before the zombie apocalypse has taken place.

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Nick begins calling out for his girlfriend Gloria like he’s Van Morrison. He eventually finds her chewing on some dude’s face. This also freaks him out, which I guess eliminates PCP use as something he’s accustomed to being around. Nick bolts out the door and runs in slow motion down a busy, pre-apocalypse LA street. Then out of nowhere, a car (which you know had to be driven by Lori) slams into him.

Cue the credits.

Nuclear (meltdown) family

We’re introduced to our main characters via a hectic morning that leads all of them to Nick in the hospital.

  • Maddie, a mom who loves her son dearly despite the fact that he’s an unrepentant junkie.
  • Travis, Maddie’s live-in boyfriend who really wants to be a good father for this family and the one he shares with his ex-wife.
  • Alicia, Maddie’s daughter. I hate her already.

When they get to the hospital, Nick starts talking about seeing his girlfriend eating someone. They all chalk it up to drug-induced hallucinations.

Maddie leaves Travis with Nick and heads to work at a local high school where she’s a guidance counselor—and a pretty terrible one, it seems. Less than two minutes after walking in the door, she helps some kid with a weird skin condition named Tobias get away with bringing a knife into school.

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She does take the knife away from him, at least, but not before Tobias begins talking about some type of illness that’s making people go crazy. Maddie calmly explains that if something were actually wrong, the authorities would tell people.

It was at this point that I had to stop watching for a few minutes to recover my eyes, which had rolled so hard that they fell under the couch.

Super (step) Dad

Travis listens to Nick’s story and decides to check out his face eater story…by breaking into the abandoned church drug den…alone…at night. Even if Travis was hallucinating about face eating junkies, IT’S STILL A DRUG DEN AT NIGHT. I know you want to show that you care about this family, Travis, but c’mon.

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But I digress…after searching around the church for a while, he finds a crazy person (not completely unexpected) and a truck-load of blood and guts. Travis immediately fails to calls the police and leaves.

Alicia pouts a lot and has a boyfriend named Matt who seems cool. God bless him for being able to put up with her.

Nick Knacks

Back at the hospital, Nick uses his elderly roommate’s death (and clothes) to escape. He contacts his drug dealer, Calvin, who meets up with him at the diner where Pulp Fiction was filmed (I think). Nick freaks out, asks Calvin if he laced his drugs with anything, and starts to cry. Calvin hugs him and says he’ll get him a fix to settle his nerves. This should end well.

But first…

Maddie and Travis are looking for Nick. Travis takes her to the abandoned church (in daylight this time, at least), where there’s still a lot of blood and guts. They look around, decide something bad happened here, once again fail to call the police, and leave.

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Later on, they get stuck in the freeway and hear gunshots. You’d figure people would be used to this in LA, but it freaks them out enough that they drive away.

Calvin 2.0

Calvin takes Nick out to a deserted area. Nicks seems fine with this until he notices that Calvin has a gun. The two struggle for a bit. Nick somehow ends up shooting Calvin and killing him. Nick calls Travis. Travis shows up with Maddie. Nick explains that he killed Calvin.

They don’t call the police.

Nick gets in the truck with Maddie and Travis. They drive to the place where the shooting took place. Calvin is gone. His car is still there, though, along with a gun lying next to it.

They don’t call the police.

As they leave the crime scene (without calling the police), Calvin pops up and attacks them. Nick tries to run him over a few times. Calvin gets up again and again. Maddie asks what the hell is happening.

You know what’s not happening, Maddie? The police arriving to help…BECAUSE NO ONE FREAKING CALLED THEM!

Is It Good?

This show already had two strikes on it going in.

The first is its premise. Part of what makes The Walking Dead such a great show/comic book series is that it explores the long-term survival of a zombie apocalypse rather than the opening months, which is the setting for most zombie stories. Fear the Walking Dead is treading on some very familiar territory within the genre…which is completely fine if it’s done well.

The fact that it’s a prequel also hampers things a bit. We know what’s going to happen (sort of), but once again, that’s totally fine. Maybe this show will give us a fresh perspective on the show’s mythology or even an explanation for what caused the dead to rise.

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Instead, we got an opening episode that made me want to fall into a coma right next to Rick Grimes. There’s a fine line between tension and tediousness, and Fear the Walking Dead is paced slower than an original Romero zombie shuffling across a cornfield.

And while none of the acting performances are bad, the characters are horrible. Travis may be the only one who’s likeable and he’s an idiot.

About the only thing I did enjoy was the way social media seemed to be picking up on the signs of the outbreak before the news did. Otherwise, this was 90 minutes of exposition and people doing really dumb things. You can get that at a city council meeting or a church service with snake handlers.

This show needs to start showing us something new or different, because the characters certainly aren’t worth our interest. We’ve only seen two confirmed walkers so far and I’m already rooting for them against the humans.

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 1 "Pilot" Review/Recap
It's kind of cool the way social media seems to be picking up on the zombie plague better than the news media/government.
The characters are so dumb/unlikeable that it makes the show's well-worn premise even more dull.The pacing is excruciatingly slow, especially for a show where we already have a good idea about what's going to happen.
2Overall Score
Reader Rating 15 Votes
3.9
  • Tony Snark

    Why would they call the police after Nick thought he shot Calvin? To automatically implicate Nick in murder? I mean, I get that Travis and Maddie might have wanted to call after they saw the blood pile for the first time, but why would Nick call on himself unless he’s looking to incarcerate himself?

    • Cutty from the wire

      Well, they should have certainly called someone when a reanimated corpse attacked them several times.

      • firethewalkingdead

        Several times??? – learn to count!

    • RamblingBeachCat

      I understand what you’re saying, but for folks like Maddie and Travis (who are both public school employees), leaving multiple crime scenes is pretty unthinkable, especially when it involves someone they know (Calvin) and their son is claiming self defense.

  • occasionallylucid

    Nick–
    I agree with you concerning the program’s weaknesses but I do not believe those weaknesses are as debilitating as you apparently do.
    Your overall score of 2 is too harsh. Let’s give this episode a 5 and expect better development in subsequent episodes.

    • RamblingBeachCat

      Not with so much hype an a present, built in audience. More was and should be expected.

  • Cutty from the wire

    Great recap. They did so many things that make no sense at this stage.

    • RamblingBeachCat

      Thanks–I’m starting to think the zombies won because the people in The Walking Dead universe are stupid.

  • firethewalkingdead

    This show is a huge pile of steaming horse shit!