With a show as astronomically popular as The Walking Dead, a spin-off was always going to be met with the highest of expectations, no matter how good. After the announcement of Fear the Walking Dead, many fans were sceptical of the possibility of its success. How could any other expansion of the brand possibly live up to the original? However, the new show has several components on its side; it has a totally different setting to The Walking Dead, in that it’s set before the apocalypse, and it has also wisely featured a roster of totally new characters played by almost unknown actors.
Recently the first three minutes of the show were released online, obviously to give the show an extra publicity boost before the premiere of the anticipated first episode. This glimpse at what was to come seemed promising, and showed main character Nick (Rick? Get more creative, guys) discovering his junkie friends being eaten by a girl called Gloria.
The first episode transitions pretty smoothly from this beginning to Nick (Frank Dillane) running as far away from the scene as possible, only to be hit by a car (because his day just wasn’t bad enough). He ends up in the hospital and, as a junkie, is restrained to the bed. We’re soon introduced to Nick’s mother, Maddie (Kim Dickens), who is a teacher, and sister Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), as well as Maddie’s concerned boyfriend, Travis (Cliff Curtis), although it’s very clear that the kids aren’t Travis’s biggest fans.
Nick’s story is dismissed almost unanimously as just a hallucination he had while high, although Travis seems to care enough about him to check out the church/crack den that Nick was staying in. After finding some guts splattered on the floor, he (eventually) relays this information to Maddie, who still doesn’t believe Nick’s story and spends most of the episode looking for him after his great escape from the hospital.
The tension in the first episode was palpable, particularly during the scenes in the hospital, as we’re constantly expecting an attack from a newly created walker that never comes. The episode featured very few actual walkers, which was refreshing as we’re used to seeing them pop up all over the screen, as any fan of TWD can attest to. When the time finally comes for Nick to face another of the walking dead, it’s both expected but somehow very satisfying.
A difference between the two shows that I noticed was that the fresh walkers didn’t look at all like the ones we know from TWD; these ones have retained their facial features and the only giveaway is their stumbling walk and crazy eyes. Basically, these are some good looking flesh-eaters. Although this is to be expected, as shit is only beginning to hit the fan, it also raises some interesting questions about the physical shelf lives of walkers.
Unfortunately, at times FTWD seemed as though it was shot by an amateur videographer who just discovered the slow motion feature on Final Cut Pro. There really were a few too many scenes of Nick’s mouth opening and closing like a doped up fish. Although there were a few moments where you were yelling at the screen for the characters to get on with things, ultimately the pacing was good. I think my issue with some interactions was due to years spent watching characters deal with walkers; perhaps it’s because of this that I got frustrated at the stodgy, naive responses as the characters are just beginning their apocalypse.
There were lots of hints of what was to come throughout, including a video posted online of police fighting off a newly created walker. This was presumed fake by a lot of people, however Maddie had her doubts after hearing Nick’s story. She also had a brief interaction with a student called Tobias, who tried to bring a knife to school to protect himself. Thinking she was doing him a favour as he could be expelled if caught, she confiscates the knife and dismisses his concerns that he thinks something bad is coming. Another fun hint was during Travis’s class, as he discusses the lengths humans will go to so they can survive; a class which should use Shane as a prime example of hardcore human ruthlessness.
One of the reasons I enjoyed the episode was because I truly didn’t know which of the characters would still be around by the end of the episode. I changed my mind every few scenes, as it was very hard to predict. One of the strongest focuses of the series is on family and relationship; whereas TWD brought stragglers together and created a family, FTWD starts with a family you want to see stay together. This first taster of what is to come is by no means perfect, and I haven’t seen any star power from the cast just yet, but it certainly has potential.
What did you think of episode 1? Will you keep watching? Let us know in the comments!