Fear the Walking Dead (2015-)

FTWD10Full disclosure up front: I hate THE WALKING DEAD.

There, I said it. I tried getting into the series, was really hyped up about it. The first episode or two was exciting, and set pieces like Rick Grimes on his horse in Atlanta was fantastic. The idea of a weekly series utilising my favourite horror genre seemed ideal.

What happened? Well, for one thing, the show’s main characters were by degrees generic, anonymous and/or annoying. For another, the show’s pace seemed to match the revenants they were displaying – at least, when the characters weren’t spending an entire season hanging around an isolated farm wasting their time and mine. It might have picked up afterwards, but I didn’t stick around to find out.

So when I heard that AMC were producing a companion prequel series, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, I didn’t immediately leap with joy. As a rule, prequels suck – just look at George Lucas. Basically, if there was a story before the story first told, why not tell that earlier story? Why would anyone give a shit about the early days of Boba Fett or Scarlett O’Hara or Batman or Pauly Shore or other fictional characters? Still, I watched the first two episodes.

This won't end well...

This won’t end well…

FEAR opens in a grungy former church now serving as a heroin den, as Nick (British actor Frank Dillane, who played the teenage Voldemort in HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE) wakes up to see one of his fellow junkies chowing down on a fellow, which is totally uncool, man (is that what kids say nowadays?). Nick stumbles out and down a deserted street – only to be knocked down by a car, and we pan back to see we’re in crowded, Pre-Apocalyptic Downtown L.A.

Four people. Not a smile between them.

Cheer up, it’s not the end of the world…

Nick is brought to a hospital where we see his dysfunctional family: school counselor Madison Clark (Kim Dickens, HOLLOW MAN), her daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey, INTO THE STORM), who resents all the attention Nick gets for being a junkie and all, and Madison’s teacher boyfriend Travis (Cliff Curtis, WHALE RIDER), a divorcee who shares custody of his rebellious teenage son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) with his bitch ex-wife Liza (Mercedes Mason, QUARANTINE 2: TERMINAL). Nick is coming down from his high, and naturally isn’t sure of what he saw in the church.

Uncharacteristically, Travis and Madison goes to the church, and instead of seeing some crusty wafers or a vat of swirling green fluid, sees big pools of blood. “Something bad happened here,” Madison deduced. Smart woman.

"The Truth is Out There! Also, lots and lots and lots of porn!"

“The Truth is Out There! Also, lots and lots and lots of porn!”

We also meet Matt (Maestro Harrell), who is dating Alicia, and if you have two brain cells to rub together, you just know that such a romance is doomed, and not just because they’re from opposite sides of the proverbial track. At this point, nothing’s been made official, but the viewer is given clues: there’s a constant stream of sirens in the background, and one of Madison’s students, a loner named Tobias (Lincoln A. Castellanos), after being caught in school with a knife, warns her that all the reports around the country of infections is just the start of Doomsday.

When the dead rise after being run over, only the accident lawyers will suffer...

When the dead rise after being run over, only the accident lawyers will suffer…

Nick escapes the hospital and looks for his dealer, believing his heroin had been laced with PCP. A fight in the famous L.A. storm drains (after all the giant ants and mutant babies down there, aren’t those places locked up?) results in Nick shooting dead his dealer, and after coming back with his parents, discovering that the dead don’t stay dead.

The second episode revolves around Travis trying to find and collect his son, Madison returning to her now-closed high school to collect medicines to help Nick go cold turkey, and the city around them beginning to collapse into anarchy. Showrunner Dave Erickson warned folk, “It’s a family drama.” Which you’d think is another way of saying, “It’s gonna be boring for zombie fans.”

And you’d be right, mostly. The first episode plays too much like a Very Special Episode of some family drama, with a lot of time spent on Nick coming down from his high, the teen romance and Travis arguing over custody of his son with his bitch ex-wife (yes, I know I’ve used that a lot, but that’s basically her character portrait: to be a living obstacle to Travis making sure his son is safe despite his ex-wife’s obtuse objections).


When Goth Zombies Attack!

A lot of it reminded me of George A Romero’s DIARY OF THE DEAD, where we see people looking at YouTube footage of folk coming back from the dead, biting paramedics and getting shot. We didn’t see anyone checking out the news, which you’d think people would be doing. There is a politically-charged scene in the second episode where the police (who clearly know more than the authorities are revealing) are under siege by locals who think they’re being heavy-handed with a gang banger they’ve just shot and to which are ready to put a despatching bullet to the head.

FTWD11It’s that element, plus the CONTAGION-style scenario and the ways people will have to adapt to survive, could make this series work. Also, if they stay away from trying to identify a source of the plague, or by making any obvious connections between this and the parent series beyond being in the same universe. And hopefully, there’ll be fewer examples of people being stupid (or is my child the only one who actually answers my calls instead of ignoring them?).

The first season of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD comprises six episodes, while the second season (yes, AMC is smart enough to milk this dead cash cow) will consist of 15 episodes to air in 2016. 

Deggsy’s Summary:

Director: Various

Plot: 2 out of 5 stars

Gore: 4 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Deggsy. Fear the Working Dead – or as I like to call them, Government employees…

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