Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 Episode 1 Review: “Pilot” (Dara’s Take)

Fear the Walking Dead

For Fear the Walking Dead reviews at TVOvermind, we will be doing something different than usual and having two of our writers, Randy Dankievitch and Dara Driscoll, give their opinions on the series. Both of them will review the premiere and finale, while alternating between the other four episodes. Here’s Dara’s take on last night’s premiere:

Who doesn’t like a good apocalypse? You might think that The Walking Dead is a tired show, that maybe it needs a spark to keep it going. I’ll admit I was skeptical when I heard there would be a spin off of this incredibly successful zombie show, but I could also watch Michonne and Carol slay zombies and bad guys for twenty seasons. Fear established a new excitement in me for the franchise last night.

The episode begins with Nick, a young drug addict, wandering around a church. This entire scene had a very ironic Christ-figure feeling. He was wearing a white shirt walking around a church looking for a girl named Gloria, come on. He finds Gloria shortly after he sees her first victim, a man with his throat ripped out. Gloria is eating another man when Nick reaches for her, but he manages to get away…and get hit by a car.

Madison and Travis, Nick’s mother and her boyfriend, rush to the hospital to see him. Apparently he goes missing for weeks at a time, without a word to them. The hospital staff put him in restraints and the police were questioning him when they arrived. We briefly meet Travis’ son, Chris, who has no interest in spending the weekend with his father. I’m certain we will see more of him.
Fear establishes Maddie as a strong willed, determined person. She is the school’s principle, which is already decked out with metal detectors. Maddie is also patient and understanding when she pulls Tobias aside to discuss why he brought a knife to school, instead of reprimanding him.
This scene in particular missed the mark for me. If it was a normal, non-supernatural show I would give the scene a pass, but Maddie and Tobias vaguely talk about a disease and how they are “all connected.” Maddie dismisses his claims, and allows him to go on with his day. I would have loved more clarification about the stories on the news. It would have set up the tone of the show much better than ‘everything is normal, and some people are sick.’
Despite disliking Travis, Nick opens up to him about his supposed hallucination, and Travis goes to investigate the church after their conversation. Travis, no! Do not go looking for trouble, you’re a high school teacher, call the police! Fortunately, Travis only runs into an intoxicated person, and escapes the church safely after falling into blood on the floor.

Alicia visits Chris, and he swears he is done with the drugs for good this time. Soon after he convinces a nurse to untie one restraint and he escapes as his roommate flat lines. He wanders around a bit, and calls Calvin, who we met earlier when Travis and Maddie went looking for him. Yet another scene that fell flat: Nick and Calvin meet at a diner. Calvin asks if Nick has told anyone his secret…and it did not immediately occur to me that he was dealing drugs. Something was missing from that scene to establish that Calvin was posing as a good kid and dealing on the side.
Even more unbelievable, Calvin tries to murder Nick, an essentially harmless addict, in the middle of the day. If Nick saw it coming, I didn’t (and let’s be honest, Nick certainly didn’t see it coming). Nick accidentally shoots Calvin in the chest and runs away.
During the previous night, after Maddie and Travis investigate the church yet again, they run into a massive traffic back up. They see helicopters and sirens, and Travis makes one good decision when he decides to turn around and avoid the chaos.

They learn the next day at school that the mayhem involved an injured man attacking an EMT. Groups of students, Maddie, and Travis all watch in disbelief as several officers beat the man who has definitely risen from the dead with a nasty case of munchies. They shoot him multiple times until one last shot lands on his head and he’s down for good. A disturbing and inconsistent aspect of this scene was Alicia’s friend saying “Watch this, the new normal, kill shot,” as the final blow kills the man. The Walking Dead exists in a parallel world where the concept of zombies simply does not occur. It’s odd that a teenage girl who lives in the same universe as The Walking Dead would know that the only way to kill a zombie is shooting it in the head.

In the morning, while schools are let out for a half day, Travis and Maddie find a hysterical Nick, who called out of desperation. They discover Calvin’s car, without Calvin’s body, and Maddie corrals Nick back into their truck. Of course, in the only exciting part of the episode, they encounter Calvin, newly dead, wandering around the exit tunnel. Maddie and Travis, in their naïveté park the truck and approach him. Calvin makes a move to bite Maddie in the arm and she escapes, but only because Travis pulled her away and Nick drove the car into Calvin. He stands up again and the couple looks on in horror as they have now personally witnessed what they saw on the news.

Nick drives into Calvin’s body one final time and he falls backwards into the clearing. Maddie asks, “What the hell is going on?” as we get a close up of Calvin’s missing jaw and decaying face. The pacing feels just right for the introduction of a zombie outbreak, and while it was slow, I enjoyed the time spent on the characters in Fear. I often wonder who the characters in The Walking Dead were before the end of the world, and now we’ll get to see just the reverse. As much as I’m looking forward to how these characters will survive this extinction event, I am also looking forward to how the writers decide to play with our emotions in just six short episodes.

[Photo via AMC]


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