I have to admit that I didn’t really have the highest hopes for Fear the Walking Dead, and perhaps that’s why I was able to write the pilot episode off as decent, as peaking my interest just enough to decide that yes, I’ll tune in next week.
No, that’s not the best endorsement one can give a brand-new TV show, but hear me out. I mean let’s be honest, The Walking Dead has plenty of problems of its own, so it’s not surprising that there are issues with Fear the Walking Dead, too. They’re different, but nothing is perfect, right? Mostly I just hope that this show will actually work harder than TWD to overcome its obvious imperfections.
The biggest problem is the absolutely nonsensical way the outbreak is being handled. This show has a chance to explore the political and societal side of something like that, but instead it treats the whole thing, well, very stupidly. (And it’s not like AMC hasn’t tackled issues with some political/societal repercussions before – Breaking Bad is a damn good example that they can and will do so.) But instead, FTWD gives us this mysterious flu and tells us people have been talking about it for some time, as well as bringing up the fact that there have been reports about weird things happening in five states. One minor character, high school student Tobias, tells us: “People are killing – “…and then he gets cut off by Kim Dickens’ character Madison, a high school counselor who spends most of the episode refusing to believe that anything weird is going on even when the evidence is shoved in her face.
And considering the example of the recent-ish Ebola outbreak, I really can’t believe that there would be this much evidence of a major crisis and people still insisting it must be fake.
Second, while FTWD has a much more diverse cast than its parent show, in the first episode we are introduced to two seemingly important black characters – Calvin, who is Madison’s son Nick’s drug dealer, and Matt, daughter Alicia’s boyfriend – yet by the end of the episode Calvin is a zombie and Matt has disappeared and is very probably dead (a logical conclusion considering that one of the texts Alicia sends him when he doesn’t respond to her is, “You better be dead”). Part of me wants to hold out hope that Matt is still alive and that FTWD isn’t following in TWD’s footsteps in terms of constantly killing off, you know, every black character…but I’m just not sure the producers/writers for these shows know any other way.
Much of the pilot episode was made up of exposition, and while I’m not yet overly fond of any of the characters, the acting is decent and the one good thing about the whole zombie apocalypse origin story is that they have a bit of time to explore and develop these people rather than just throwing them all together a la The Walking Dead. (Not that I’m really complaining about the beginning of TWD – its pilot episode is still one of the best I’ve ever seen. It’s just nice to have more time to get to know these characters in their ‘normal’ lives.) In this case I’m totally okay with the ‘slow build’ they’re portraying so far.
I’m also interested to see how FTWD is going to handle the new setting. Los Angeles is a big change from the Southern countryside we’ve gotten used to in TWD, and I really hope they utilize it properly.
As I already mentioned, I’m going to keep watching (for now) in hopes that they tidy up some of the messiness from this pilot episode. If future installments are less repetitive and a bit more self-exploratory, Fear the Walking Dead may have some promise yet.
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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