If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m a fan of the zombie genre. So it was with great anticipation that I sat down to watch last night’s premiere of AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” series.
This morning they said the 90-minute episode made television history by becoming the #1 series premiere in cable television history for total viewers and all key demos, with 10.1 million live/same day views.
But was it worth all the hype? Almost.
The series is a companion to AMC’s hit “The Walking Dead,” and it starts a bit earlier, at the initial outbreak of the infection in Los Angeles. It centers on a dysfunctional family featuring mom Madison (Kim Dickens), a guidance counselor at a high school; her husband Travis (Cliff Curtis), a teacher at the same school; and her children Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who both attend that high school.
As the series opens, stoner Nick is on a drug binge with his girlfriend in an abandoned church now functioning as a drug den. He awakes alone and sets out in search of her. He eventually finds her eating some guy’s face off, understandably freaks, bolts out of the church, and not paying attention, he’s hit by a car and put in the hospital.
This is all before the title credits.
What happens after this action are slow character-building scenes that try to pack too much information into the first episode. It seems Travis was married before, and has another teenage son who wants nothing to do with him. And that’s all we know about that. I’m sure it’ll come up in future episodes to be important, but it wasn’t really in this episode.
Throughout the episode, we’re shown little nuggets of info about the start of the infection: paranoia is taking over the city, a large amount of people are staying home from work and school, Alicia’s boyfriend mysteriously misses a date…one student even starts babbling to Maddie that something strange is happening across the country, but he doesn’t show her any of his findings.
Lots of random info that nobody really seems to be paying attention to.
And let’s not talk about the stupidity of Travis going to the abandoned church to check out Nick’s story of the massacre AT NIGHT…ALONE… *sigh*
Maybe it’s because this show has to set up the whole zombie invasion from the beginning, “Fear the Walking Dead” seems to be taking its time getting to the action. Unlike “The Walking Dead,” where Rick woke up well after the zombies had started walking, “Fear the Walking Dead” only showed us two additional zombies, one on a cellphone screen via the news, and one near the end of the episode.
It’s this last scene that gave viewers the thrills that we’ve come to expect in “The Walking Dead”…someone dies that the family knows, and won’t stay dead, no matter what they do to him. It’s chaotic, and creepy. But strangely, even though Nick is freaked out, the parents are rather calm. It doesn’t feel right.
Overall, “Fear the Walking Dead” used most of the first episode to set up the family dynamic instead of focusing on the actual epidemic starting to happen. This left some viewers expecting an action-packed first episode a little wanting.
I, however, can see there’s some potential in this show. Maybe, like the infection, it will take a bit to gestate before becoming a full-blown zombie epidemic.
My verdict: If you were disappointed by the first episode, give it another two episodes. I think the action will ramp up, judging by the previews at the end of the show. And hopefully Nick and Alicia will become less annoying and self-absorbed once they realize what they’re up against.
“Fear the Walking Dead” gets a 7 out of 10, based on the first episode.
What did you think of the premier? Let me know in comments.
[Photos courtesy AMC]
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