Fear the Walking Dead premiered Sunday August 23rd to record breaking ratings across the board, which isn’t surprising due to the continued success of its predecessor. Although Fear is set in the same world as The Walking Dead, it sets itself apart by taking place prior to the events depicted in the forerunner. Fear will seemingly tell a vastly different story because its pre-apocalyptic setting allows its characters a unique sense of security that we never see in The Walking Dead. The drama of this show will come from this sense of security being slowly taken away rather than the constant threat of hordes of zombies.
Another noticeable difference the pre-apocalyptic setting offers to Fear is the opportunity to really get to know the characters on multiple levels, rather than just how they react to a zombie eating them or someone they love. Don’t get me wrong, I love to see how well someone can use what’s around them to inflict zombie-killing rage, but it will be interesting to really get to know the characters before they presumably start dying. I believe this is going to offer an emotional attachment to the characters on a much grander scale than we get with The Walking Dead.
Episode one introduces us to characters who have normal jobs and semi-normal problems. Maddie is a high school guidance counselor who is trying to balance her job as well as her home life. She’s dating Travis, an English teacher at the same school, who is constantly trying to win the approval of not only Maddie’s children, but also his own son. We only get a brief glimpse of Travis’s son Chris, but he’s sure to be a regular on the show. Maddie’s daughter is a teenage girl full of angst, who might remind fans of The Walking Dead of Carl, the only teenage character on that show. If she gets anywhere near as annoying as Carl, I’ll be rooting for her to be one of the first to be chowed down on by zombies.
The most interesting character by far is Maddie’s other child, Nick. The episode begins with a close up of Nick’s face as he wakes up, an obvious nod to the beginnings of The Walking Dead. However, rather than waking up from a coma, Nick is waking up from a heroine induced drug trip. He proceeds to look around the abandoned church he’s in for a girl who turns out to be a zombie who has eaten the face off of a fellow junkie. Nick obviously freaks out and runs away from this most terrifying of situations. After all, zombies aren’t real right? He struggles the rest of the episode with whether or not what he saw was real or an effect of the drugs on his mind.
After Nick’s initial run in with the undead, we don’t really see any other zombies for the majority of the episode. There are definitely subtle hints to an outbreak however, as there are many missing persons posters up in the city, and students begin to stay out of school sick in larger numbers. One student, Tobias, is the Nostradamus of the episode as he predicts that all of these things are connected, and something awful is about to happen in the world. Obviously no one is going to take him too seriously, and they will all soon be dead or regretting it.
It will definitely be a while before any of the characters have a real grasp on what’s happening to the world around them, but that’s not a bad thing. The buildup to the zombie apocalypse is what will set Fear the Walking Dead up to be its own show, and separate it from The Walking Dead.
Overall, the first episode did a great job of introducing its characters and the world they inhabit. I look forward to seeing the slow collapse of infrastructure and how everyone will deal with it.