The companion series to AMC’s hit show The Walking Dead finally made its way onto our screens this week and it looks as if it will be able to live up to the high standard set by its predecessor. Unlike the world that Rick finds upon waking up from his coma in The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead places itself right on the cusp of the outbreak of the zombie apocalypse. By following the lives of a dysfunctional LA family, Fear promises to explore these pivotal early moments and to shed some light on this period of time that has previously remained untouched.
Fear the Walking Dead may share the same universe as The Walking Dead, but that’s just about the only restriction that the writers are faced with when choosing what direction that they want to take the series. Unlike the latter, Fear doesn’t base itself on any pre-existing material and although The Walking Dead doesn’t always follow the comic books page for page, it does tend to move in the same general plotlines. Every character in Fear belongs exclusively to that show and therefore there’s no sure-fire way for avid fans to explore their fates ahead of when it occurs on-screen. This introduces a whole other level of threat to the characters’ lives, making their safety in a hostile environment all the more insecure. As the show progresses I am sure that this will be something that the writers choose to take a huge advantage of.
Speaking of the show’s characters, the choice to centre the action on such a complex family unit is a brilliant idea. As with all pilot episodes, Fear spent a great deal of time developing its characters and in that respect it could be considered a bit of a slow burner, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. By the end of this episode we already have a set of four complex characters whose relationships to one another are equally as complicated. The step-father figure, Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), really stood out in particular as someone who will be fascinating to follow. The way that he is the first to believe what Nick (Frank Dillane) is saying, despite the fact that both of Madison’s children had spited him in the typical ‘you’re not my real dad’ fashion, shows how he is resilient to their hostility, whilst also really trying to make their relationships work. His position as the outsider of Madison’s family will likely be challenged repeatedly as the series progresses and since his own biological son is out there somewhere during this apocalypse, it will be interesting to see how his relationship with them all develops.
The art direction of this episode certainly places the series into The Walking Dead franchise, whilst also giving it its own unique feel. This is most notable when looking at what the walkers’ appearances. The fact that Fear is set at the outbreak of the zombie epidemic was clearly taken into consideration when the makeup team chose what they wanted Gloria to look like reanimated. Of course we never saw what she looked like pre-resurrection, but there is a clear difference between her and the walkers seen in The Walking Dead. There’s a certain kind of freshness to her complexion and to her clothing that would make it very difficult to tell her apart from a regular human being. As The Walking Dead progressed further down its own timeline, a change in the walkers’ state of decay was introduced as to mark the progression of that time. This artistic direction has clearly been brought on board for Fear the Walking Dead and has hence created a much earlier stage of how the walkers appear, something truly unique to this series.
All in all, Fear the Walking Dead’s pilot episode is a promising start to what will hopefully be a highly successful series. It is simultaneously a continuation of all of what fans love about The Walking Dead and also something unique and commendable in its own right. Already, the characters are starting to be fully fleshed out and the world that they live in is rapidly crumbling into chaos. Now all that we have to do is wait another week to get our walker fix.