Last Sunday night, Aug. 23, AMC gave zombie fans a delight when they premiered the pilot episode of “Fear The Walking Dead,” a show that takes place in Los Angeles and gives the viewers a new look into the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. “Fear The Walking Dead” is a new spin-off of “The Walking Dead,” arguably the most popular show on TV in terms of numbers and enthusiastic fan frenzy for the franchise. Variety is reporting that “Fear The Walking Dead” is now the, “No. 1-rated cable series launch on record with 10.1 million viewers, including 6.3 million adults 18-49. In total viewers, ‘Fear’ surpasses TNT’s ‘Raising the Bar’ (7.7 million in 2008) as top dog among cable premieres.”
The show begins with Nick Clark waking up from nodding off after shooting some heroin with his girlfriend Gloria in an L.A. drug den that was formerly a church. While he is disorientated and shambling around, much like a walker might, he begins calling out for Gloria. She is nowhere to be seen in the immediate vicinity of the second floor of the former church. Nick encounters a dead man with a nasty throat wound at the end of the stairway and moments later, while still in shock, finds Gloria near the church pews. He calls out to her and as she turns around it becomes evident she is a walker and she’s been eating the face off a victim on the ground. Gloria begins to come after Nick and he flees the building.
Nick runs into the street while fleeing and gets hit by a car. As the camera pans up from the scene it becomes apparent that this version of “The Walking Dead” is going to be different, mostly because of the landscape and the pure volume of people in Los Angeles, a city that in 2010 had population of 9,818,605. It should also be mentioned that the Greater Los Angeles Area is estimated at over 18 million residents. There will be no shortage of the dead to, well, walk around, so to speak. Nick ends up in the hospital and the pilot does what a pilot episode does, it next introduces us to the family that Nick belongs to in an attempt to humanize the junkie and perhaps gain a bit of sympathy for a character that has virtually no endearing qualities.
At her house, Madison Clark, Nick’s mother, knocks on the door to the family bathroom and opens it, upsetting her daughter Alicia, who has just gotten out of the shower. Madison tells Alicia, “You got five minutes,” and Alicia, like a typical teenager, freaks out and scorns her mother saying, “Did I say come in? Jesus, Mom.” Alicia slams the door and the camera follows Madison to her kitchen where Travis Manawa, her boyfriend, is fixing a leak in the sink. You get the feeling that there is an incredible amount of tension in this blended family and all the members have interpersonal issues going on. Life, even before the impending zombie apocalypse, seems complicated. The phone rings and Travis answers it which leads quickly to the next scene where the entire family is reunited in the hospital where Nick has been admitted.
The police try to question Nick, but Madison quickly sends them away after it’s clear they aren’t going to arrest him for committing any crimes. Nick is restrained in the hospital bed and all the members of the family begin to argue about the situation until Travis suggests they all take a moment. Travis gets a call moments later from his son with his ex-wife and after an argument they decide not to have their upcoming visitation. Later, Madison and Travis end up having a heart to heart in the hospital and reaffirm their commitment to their relationship and new family. Also touched upon in this pilot is a relationship between Alicia and Matt, an artist and fellow student at her school. You get the feeling one of them, or both of them, might eventually die in the impending apocalypse.
That’s also the feeling you get about all of the characters on the show, to be honest. Let’s be honest, it didn’t take long for the government to napalm Atlanta on “The Walking Dead,” and so that’s a possible scenario we could see play out in the next few episodes on “Fear The Walking Dead.” Viewers were treated to some very picturesque and cinematic views of the city in this pilot episode, all of which will make great comparison images with upcoming episodes when the apocalypse has settled in and taken it’s toll on everything and everyone in California. It’s also pretty obvious that Alicia’s school, the same school that Madison and Travis also work in, would be a good base of operations, sort of like the prison was for Rick and his group.
Perhaps the most important thing a survivor in the zombie apocalypse needs to learn right away is the kill shot to the head that nullifies the walker. The kill shot was demonstrated by the viral video that Madison and her friends were watching, and it helped establish the new set of rules that apply in a world that has forsaken the living. Interestingly enough, the student Tobias might just be the most prepared and aware cast member we have at the moment. Madison isn’t quite sure what to make of his prophetic ramblings and warnings, but you can tell it’s there at the back of her mind and she’s mulling it over to a degree.
Nick eventually escapes the hospital and makes contact with his dealer, Calvin, who is sympathetic to a degree, but also fed up with the situation. While the two sit in a diner, Calvin tells Nick that his mother Madison and Travis came looking for him, and he can’t have that happening anymore. Calvin simply doesn’t want to risk being exposed as a heroin dealer and he goes to great lengths to appear to have his life together. Calvin drives Nick to an underpass with the intent of shooting and killing him, however Nick turns the gun on Calvin and shoots him in the stomach during a struggle. Nick runs off and eventually reconnects with his family, telling them he’s done a bad thing. All the while during the episode there’s a constant feeling that something bad is brewing through the sounds of helicopters and emergency vehicles in the background.
When Madison, Travis and Nick return to the scene of the crime they can’t initially find Calvin. Eventually they leave and on the way out do find Calvin, who is shambling down the underpass. Madison and Travis get out of the truck and Calvin, now a zombie, attacks them. Nick slams the truck in reverse and runs over Calvin, but when that doesn’t put him down for good, Nick runs into him once again, this time in forward, and sends Calvin flying through the air and into a ditch. Perhaps the most telling words exchanged come next and sum up the episode when Travis and Madison look at each other shocked and Madison asks, “What the hell is happening?” A shocked Travis can only reply, “I have no idea.” Next week they’ll begin to understand that the world is falling apart all around them and eventually most people will become, literally, the walking dead.