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Review: Fear the Walking Dead Series Premiere

For those of us who love The Walking Dead, news of a spinoff series was welcome; most of us have been counting down the days until the series premiere. Summer buzz offered many premiere dates that came and went, but still no new zombies to obsess over. Last night, however, the wait was finally over and AMC gave us two and a half hours of new material with Talking Dead and the series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead that should tide us over until next Sunday’s episode.

Episode Recap

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When Nick wakes up from a drug-induced haze to find his girlfriend nibbling on the face of another man, he leaves in a rush and ends up getting hit by a car. Enter his mom, Madison, her boyfriend, Travis, and Nick’s sister Alicia, as they rush to the hospital to wait by his bedside and listen to his insane ramblings.

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Madison, a high school guidance counselor, returns to work to discover that the flu is going around and people are absent left and right. Good thing she got her flu shot. Meanwhile, Travis decides to scope out the location where Nick saw his zombified girlfriend chomping on another human being, and heads to the church where all the action began. Once there, he finds a lot of blood, but no bodies. I wonder where they all ran off to?

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Nick manages to get free of his restraints and leaves the hospital to try and find out what really happened.  He meets up with his dealer who turns out to be not so nice. Alicia is getting irritated because her boyfriend seems to be avoiding her and won’t call her back.  It seems like there may be something going on in the city based on the increase in helicopter activity.

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Madison and Travis finally catch up to Nick in the end, but he’s still raving about dead people. They go with him to see if he’s telling the truth, and find out something is definitely going on – something much worse than the flu.

Episode Review

If you were expecting World War Z or Dawn of the Dead, then the series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead is bound to be a disappointment. The premiere is probably slower than most people expected, but by the end the pace was picking up. In fact, I would have to argue that the slow build actually offers a lot that traditional zombie movies lack.  There is a lot of character development, and a delightfully slow building of the tension that should keep us coming back week after week.
The subtlety of the show is refreshing, there is a lot to indicate that the pace will be picking up. From Travis’ lesson on Jack London to the steady increase in the background of sirens and helicopters, you sense the chaos long before you actually see anything. They tempt us with scenes where we expect to see the dead rise and start snacking, only to turn it into something mundane like a kid sleeping in class.
The biggest surprise for me was Frank Dillane’s (Nick) performance. From trying to keep it together to complete vulnerability, he is able to invoke frustration and sympathy in equal parts in what is the perfect portrayal of a junkie who is afraid he’s going insane. The rest of the cast did a great job, but I’m hoping that some characters will be a bit more fleshed out in the future (no pun intended). At the very least, they need to make us care about more people before they start feeding them to the dead.
In the end, I was surprised by how well the show turned out, and I’m excited to see how it progresses and where the story is heading. I’ll definitely be watching Fear the Walking Dead and probably re-watching it throughout the week.

 Content Warning

Language – There is cursing throughout the show and it’s generally conversational (a**, a**hole, bulls***, s***, b****, f***). The Lord’s name is used as a curse or exclamation several times (Jesus, Christ, God).
Violence – In short, zombies = violence. The longer version is that there are several instances where graphic violence is shown. The first scene of the episode shows several dead bodies and a girl eating someone’s face. One scene is of various people watching a video of a zombie being repeatedly shot and finally killed. Two men wrestle for a gun, and one is shot and killed. One scene shows a zombie attacking and being repeatedly run over until he is too injured to move.
Drug/Alcohol use – Nick is a heroin addict and the episode begins with him in a shooting gallery coming down from a high. There is a lot of discussion about his addiction and rehab, but Nick is clearly not planning to get clean any time soon. One scene shows Nick talking to his dealer about whether or not the heroin he got was laced and the dealer offers him more product.
Sexual Content – Madison and Travis are living together while not married, but there is no sexual content or nudity shown. There is some kissing and hugging, but no groping.

What did you think of Fear the Walking Dead? Let us know in the comments!

*All photos courtesy of amc.com

By Lari Burkhart

A life-long book addict, I spend most of my time trying to find a way to avoid reality through sci-fi and fantasy. I've been a Christian for quite some time (no numbers, please) and I'm always ready for a discussion about how fiction mirrors the Bible and its principles even when it's trying not to.

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