Premiere: August 23, 2015
Written by: Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson
Directed by: Adam Davidson
Living in the same universe as The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead is a gritty drama that explores the onset of the undead apocalypse through the lens of a fractured family. Set in a city where people come to escape, shield secrets, and bury their pasts, a mysterious outbreak threatens to disrupt what little stability high school guidance counselor Madison Clark and English teacher Travis Manawa have managed to assemble. The everyday pressure of blending two families while dealing with resentful, escapist, and strung out children takes a back seat when society begins to break down. A forced evolution, a necessary survival of the fittest takes hold, and our dysfunctional family must either reinvent themselves or embrace their darker histories.
A highly dysfunctional blended family is forced together when they realize a reported virus is actually the onset of the undead apocalypse.
Forget everything you know about Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. That’s the best way to enter the world of Fear the Walking Dead. While flash backs and The Walking Dead webisodes gave us a glimpse at the world during the initial outbreak, Fear the Walking Dead will drop us head first into the chaos and paranoia the heralded the apocalypse. FtWD will tell us the story of society’s downfall during the 4-5 weeks Rick Grimes was in a coma during The Walking Dead.
The pilot episode introduces us to our core group of survivors. Madison Clark, and her boyfriend Travis Manawa. Clark has two children, Nick and Alicia. Travis has a son, Chris, with his ex-wife Liza Ortiz.
Introducing Ortiz, played by Elizabeth Rodriguez, gives us a deeper background on the relationship Chris has with his father. Many will recognize Rodriguez from Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.
As the pilot episode opens, as seen in the official trailer, Nick Clark, played by Harry Potter and Sense8 alum Frank Dillane, wakes up from a drug induced stuper. It becomes apparent that Madison’s college-flunk out son is going to be battling a severe drug addiction as the dead rise and eat the living. Gloria, Nick’s drug addict girlfriend, is our first infected. Just over 3 minutes into the first episode as Nick is waking up in Needle Alley. These aren’t the rotting walkers we’re used too. We see only a few of the infected in the 1st episode, but what we see introduces us to the infected on a terrifying new level. Being the early stages of the apocalypse, their much more fresh, less decayed and not as easily recognized as the rotting walkers from the current season of The Walking Dead.
The tension in the first few episode is palpable. The future survivors think they know what’s going on, but they have no idea the scope of what’s about to befall them. As seen in the trailer, Tobias, played by Lincoln A. Castellanos, a student at Madison Clark’s high school, tries warning her about the virus that’s now affected 5 states. Madison reassures Tobias that he’s just paranoid and needs to spend less time on the internet. Tobias, a wise-beyond-his-years senior, believes the outbreak will turn into Doomsday.
As viewers, we know what’s coming. The fear happens when we want to warn the survivors of the impending zombie apocalypse but all we can do is hold our breath and hope for the best.
Writers Kirman and Erickson use Nick’s drug addiction and troubled past to flawlessly explain away his interaction with the infected during junky communion, and raise doubt from Nick’s mother. “Everyone was dead,” Nick tries to explain to Travis Manawa, Madison’s boyfriend and fellow high school faculty member.” And Gloria, she was eating them.”
Why would anyone believe Nick though? He’s a burnt out. Honesty is the most important virtues in life, and we find out that Nick hasn’t been honest with his family or friends.. After his first lie is told, doubt will forever reign with Madison, Travis and his sister Alicia. Trust, once lost, is the hardest thing to ever regain again, but this family will need to learn quickly to trust each other if they’re too survive.
Veteran director Adam Davidson uses that mistrust, fear and paranoia to build on to Kirkman and Erickson’s story. FtWD feels like The Walking Dead that we’re used too, but it takes us back to a place and time that is more relate-able. What draws me to FtWD is that, while taking place in TWD universe, the stories are original. Kirkman has stated that none of TWD’s characters will appear in FtWD. It’s uncharted territory. I can imagine that some of the story from The Walking Dead’s comic books may be used in FtWD, but, for the most part, none of us will know where their stories lead.
As a whole, Fear the Walking Dead will ask us one question: What will you do not to die?