The wait for “The Walking Dead” (TWD) for zombie fans is finally over. “Fear the Walking Dead,” which featured Sunday night at 8 p.m. CT on AMC is finally front and center, and now only ratings will decide if the show lived up to all the hype presented by TWD creators, writers and directors.
So far though, the spin-off show has people talking. Critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the show a rating of 6.3 out of 10 and 72 percent on the TOMATOMETER. The audience score is at 79 percent with an average rating of 4 out 5.
Overall, the buzz about FTWD has been positive, and many Dead fans hoped the show wouldn’t be a poor interpretation of the top series that brought in the highest rating of 15.8 million viewers and an 8.2 rating for the Season 5 finale among adults 18-49. According to AMC, the series delivered 10.1 million viewers and a 6.3 rating among adults in the same age range.
Apparently, the show appeased TWD fans with its Walking Dead-like themes about nature versus man and the depravity of humanity, which ultimately leads to the apocalypse.
The Beginning of the Dead
Sunday’s Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot starts with Nick (Frank Dillane), a 20-something drug addict, laying on a deserted church’s steps with sunlight gleaming through its dirty but majestic windows. The light provides a luminescent glow, like lit candles in a church. There are papers, blankets and scattered clothes everywhere, indicating this is a place where he lives or stays. As he adjusts to his surroundings, Nick yells out for “Gloria,” and begins looking for this person.
He walks down a withered stairway slowly, similar to the way Rick Grimes does in Season 1 Episode 1 when he’s looking for signs of life amongst the grisly scene at a gas station. However, Nick has no gun as he makes his way down the church stairs. He calls out again, “Gloria! Love!” As he descends the stairs, he hears a male screaming and continues to venture forth. He sees blood on the stairs and blinking lights in a hall, and notices a man with a torn-out neck.
Nick throws himself back against the wall and takes a deep breath. He picks up a church handle iron and proceeds slowly. When he turns the corner, he sees “Gloria” in her panties kneeled over something, almost as if in prayer. He says, “Love, we gotta go.” Unfortunately, Gloria is not on her knees praying; instead, she looks up with blood and meat around her mouth, and her eyes, with their light blue, sightless orbs, stands up in her naked glory and starts after Nick, who notices a dead unknown African American male on the floor, the body Gloria had fed from. Unable to comprehend what’s happening, Nick falls back, runs out of the church, and right into a car.
Hence begins the start of the end to everything.
Humans Have Lost Their Humanity
Two of the primary themes zombie fans love to watch play out in TWD is nature versus man and how humans have lost their way. “Fear of the Walking Dead” aimed to please using characters, dialogue and specific situations.
1. The crazy overbearing woman with no faith
Similar to Laurie in TWD, Fear of the Walking Dead’s leading lady, Madison Clark, played by Kim Dickens, is an overbearing and aggressive take-no-crap kind of woman who yells at cops, has no faith in her new live-in boyfriend, Travis, and responds to life as if she has an answer or cure for everything. However, in reality, her own family is falling apart.
Nick, who started the story, is her druggie son who got kicked out of Berkley, and who walks around town homeless and hopeless, like the dead. Then there’s her teenage daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who makes it obvious in the beginning that she despises her mother’s boyfriend and the new living arrangements. Not to mention, she’s hiding an interracial relationship of her own with an African-American artist who goes missing by the end of the show.
2. The unexpected anti-hero
Rick Grimes in TWD started as the typical cowboy hero Americans love; however, Travis, played by Cliff Curtis, is no sheriff, cowboy or typical hero. He’s more the emasculated anti-hero and a patient educator whose own son, Chris, doesn’t want to be with him because of his choice to live with Madison. Although Madison’s kids treat him terribly, he tries to help them, including Nick after he gets hit by a car and ends up in the hospital. He is the guy who is willing to take a moment to find the truth, even if it’s a bit farfetched. Travis also may not exude cowboy heroism like Rick, but he is the voice of reason in the story.
3. The characters who aren’t what they appear to be
Then there are the minor characters of the story; the people who foreshadow the coming of “The End.” The first person is Principal Arty, who at first glance, seems a kind and caring educator, but in actuality, observes teachers by invading their privacy with the school’s PA system.
Next comes Tobias, a pimply, overweight teenager who gets caught with a small cutting knife by Madison and Principal Arty, and who tells Madison things like, “We’re safer in numbers. No one’s going to college. No one’s doing what they think they are,” and “They say it’s connected, but I don’t believe them. They don’t know if it’s a virus; it’s spreading. People are killing.” No one, including Madison, however, believes the plain “fat” kid who probably plays too many video games.
Finally, there’s Calvin. The anti-climactic character who isn’t what he appears to be. To Madison, he’s a clean-cut kid who is a close friend to her son; however, in reality, he’s the thug who feeds her son’s heroin addiction. Nick also thinks Calvin is his friend until he tries to kill him for “rambling” about what he does. When Calvin reanimates, that’s when Madison, Travis and Nick know “something” is happening.
4. The dialogue that gives it away
Tobias’ phrases foreshadows the something that’s happening, but other phrases and discussions that tip viewers off starts from the very beginning. It’s ironic that the first zombie seen in a broken down Catholic church is Gloria, which eludes to the Latin song “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” This means Glory to God in the highest. However, there is nothing God-like about Gloria as a flesh-eating zombie. Also, when Nick is explaining what happened in the hospital, he says, “Gloria, my friend, she was…Jesus Christ!”
Not to mention, as Travis is working on the kitchen sink, he tells Madison, “Have ye a little faith,” to which Madison responds, “Ye of no faith.”
Hence, the allusion to God, Jesus and no faith pretty much spells out, “You’re screwed!”
Finally, during class, Travis is teaching Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” a story about a man who gets stuck out in the wilderness in beyond freezing temperatures, and who tries to find a way to survive nature. As he’s teaching the story, a student, Russell, is asleep. Travis stirs the teenager awake and gets him to talk about the story. Russell says, “The man tried to cut the dog open to keep his hands warm. That’s gruesome.” To this, Travis responds, “This is a story about Man versus nature. It teaches us how not to die, but Nature always wins.”
This dialogue clearly creates the path of what’s to come, which is a gruesome end to man and new world of man versus nature, or rather, man versus dead man versus man versus nature--or something like that. Therefore, it's no surprise kids are not showing up to school, police are killing re-animated corpses and people are finding themselves in strange traffic jams, similar to the ones in "World War Z".
Holy Heck! It’s The Apocalypse!
As in all zombie flicks, including TWD, the apocalypse occurs when families are broken, children no longer respect their parents or their elders, government officials (or in this case education officials) no longer have morals or values, and people no longer have faith in God. All in all, “Fear of the Walking Dead” played out “The Book of Revelations” in Los Angeles.
So how does this play out over all?
Well, for the first showing, “Fear of the Walking Dead” gets a solid B+ rating from San Angelo LIVE! The story stays true to Zombie culture and it reiterates what fans know about humanity after the apocalypse in TWD. The show also plays on some of the themes and characteristics exuded by TWD characters, which helps connect the two shows. However, there’s this weird thing that happens with the zombies. Calvin’s eyes, when he reanimates, look like a sky blue rather than the light gray blue associated with zombies in TWD. Also, the bites of the victims in the opening scene didn’t look as “realistic” as they do in TWD. Maybe that’s the newness of the situation, but there’s something about brown blood that doesn’t look quite as interesting.
Other than that, there’s no doubt zombie fans will tune in to AMC on Sundays until the season premier of “The Walking Dead” Season 6 starts October 11, 2015.