Fear The Walking Dead debuts

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And there you go: The pilot for Fear The Walking Dead. Which could just as well be called “Come On Board Nick’s Drug Train.”

Look: Going forward, you have to start somewhere. Admittedly, Fear The Walking Dead has some pretty big shoes to fill not only as a companion series but where The Walking Dead‘s pilot is concerned. Admittedly, TWD‘s opener was pretty damned compelling. Trying to recreate a story such as that — everything opening up to the new world TWD showcased in its first episode — is a pretty tall order to follow. And I, for one, am glad The Powers That Be decided to go in an entirely different direction with Fear The Walking Dead.

Trying to pack the entire apocalypse in a mere 90 minutes is a monumental task. One could plainly see how you could drive yourself crazy trying to do so. The answer? Neatly encapsulate a singular tale wrapped inside one character’s flawed being and worry about unwrapping the remainder of the apocalypse — and all that comes with it — in subsequent episodes. Guess what? For the most part it worked, leaving us with a nice wont of things to come.

I’ve wondered for months how the producers were going to launch Fear The Walking Dead, and the way the story unfolded in the premiere was more than adequate. It wasn’t neat and tidy, far from it. It was messy and frantic and confusing and flawed. And, where I wasn’t certain on viewing in real time whether that was the way to go, in retrospect I believe they hit the nail on the head, creating something completely different from TWD‘s opener, giving birth to a unique child to be nurtured in an altogether different manner.

Nick (Frank Dillane)? The kid’s a mess from top to bottom. Filthy feet, unkempt, greasy mop of hair, fragmented, irreverent thought process (in part courtesy of illicit pharmaceuticals not to mention a passive aggressive family life) and swaddled in ill-fitting, devil-may-care attitude. But the fun of Dillane’s character is in the unveiling of his fragile, emotive state. Smiling and aware one moment, he seamlessly breaks down in a sobbing man-child mess the next proving this 20-something English actor has got some distinctive acting chops. He’s given character to Nick beyond just part of the background of a rampant and sad L.A. drug culture scene. I’ll be watching Dillane throughout the series with a keener eye.

Yes … we got to see a couple walkers in the premiere. Keenly, the very first one put questions in Nick’s mind as to whether what he saw was real. As seasoned and knowledgeable viewers of The Walking Dead, we know better. But to introduce the players in the game to such (well, one player at the start, anyway) … that was a somewhat edgy, sly trick to get the ball rolling. And then to leave several of the characters hanging with the multiple-times-over reanimation of Nick’s “friend” Cal at the end, pretty appetizing way to leave us hanging and wanting more. Bravo, FTWD creators.

Those writers (TWD creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Dave Erickson) gave us a nice little taste of things to come. It wasn’t straightforward, it wasn’t orderly, it wasn’t systematic. It was jarring and messy. And, overall, I liked it.

Again, we know what’s coming. But the characters do not. Put yourself in their shoes and you might get a new appreciation of what they’re in for.

Kibbles And Bits

Of course I have gripes about Fear The Walking Dead. You might think the following things are trivial, but they’re not. They bear witness, if nothing more than because they should follow order and sequence. This stuff is important.

  • In the church / drug den when, in fear, Nick picks up the wrought-iron candle holder (if that’s what it was) we initially saw him spin it with the pointed end away from him. Immediately, in the next scene (and without any pause for repositioning) the other end was facing away from him. It was flipped 18o°. Hello! Continuity!
  • The scene with Tobias walking through the school metal detector? Madison slipped (and called out) 77¢ when she reached into his pocket to see what set off the metal detector. In her office, Tobias later tossed a mere 53¢ onto the table. Again … if you’re going to mention stuff like this, keep the continuity.
  • In the hospital, Nick is full of piss and vinegar talking with his mother Madison, sister Alicia and his mother’s boyfriend Travis:

“You can’t help me …” — Nick to Madison

“Listen to your mother, Nick …” — Travis

“You definitely can’t help me … you can’t do shit …” — Nick

  • There was a definitive defiance from Nick in addressing Travis about being helped. Moments later, when everyone had left except Travis, Nick uncharacteristically opened up to him and began confessing.
  • In the skylights at school, Alicia is being “inked” on her left inside arm by her boyfriend. The image he’s drawing appears to be the left half of a heart. But, when revealed, it doesn’t even resemble what was initially shown. It’s some random, angular spiral, way smaller than what was originally being drawn.
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  • You know why I’m so big on keeping the order of things like this? Because The Walking Dead has a tendency to drop a lot of clues in this manner that crop up later in an episode or several episodes down the line, not to mention in different seasons. They’re references that can be important down the line. Get sloppy with them and they lose their importance.
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One Comment

  1. Glad you discussed the continuity issues, I noticed them as well. In fact, my biggest issue with the ep was the “you certainly can’t help” to “you are my most trusted ally” transformation. I was also a bit disappointed in the passive introductions of the ex-wife and other son, I think there could have been a little less driving around and a little more development there, but really the quick switch on the step-father was my one big issue.

    I thought I was going to be concerned by the lack of awareness in hospitals, where the walking dead should have been turning up in disproportionate numbers; however, the panicked ushering of the old man out of the room once he passed (far more urgency after death than before) told me that they were aware and just covering it up, to avoid panic I’d like to think. I thought this was well done, subtle and effective while making a consistent and believable story.

    Nice review… I’m excited for next week (both the show and your review!)