When Rick Grimes from the Robert Kirkman‘s comic book series and the AMC television series “The Walking Dead” awoke from his coma, the proverbial dog doo had already hit the fan and, for five seasons, we loyal fans watched as Rick, his family and friends struggled to survive walkers and nasty people. Now, with “Fear the Walking Dead,” we get to see how it began. If our government officials can’t even agree on how to handle a case of Ebola, how will they handle the apocalypse? Welcome to episode one.
A young man awakes in a drug house. It’s an old church where the druggies go for ‘junkie communion.’ Needles and drug paraphernalia litter the room. Nick (Frank Dillane) goes searching for his girlfriend, Gloria. What he finds is a nightmare that sends him running for his life and right into an oncoming car.
Nick is part of a blended family, but he’s not too happy about it. His mother, Madison (Kim Dickens), when she’s not counseling high school students, is trying to make a new life for her children. She and her boyfriend Travis, a high school English Teacher, move in together. This is not the Brady Bunch and the children of both Madison and Travis make it quite clear that they don’t do blended. Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Nick’s sister is a bright but cynical teenage girl who has no hopes of Nick ever getting off drugs. Alicia is dating a guy named Matt (Maestro Harrell).
Right from the start we find ourselves liking Travis (Cliff Curtis). His son, Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), isn’t happy about blending in and refuses to spend the weekends with dad and Madison’s family. Madison and Alicia have given up hope on Nick because when you’re dealing with a drug addict; there is little hope. Travis has not. After Nick confides in him about Gloria, Travis goes and investigates. What he sees worries him.
Madison is a mother who is trying to make a life for her children while also helping troubled children at the high school where she works with Travis. She has no patience with Nick and his drug use. When she visits him at the hospital, you can tell that she’d rather not be there at all; seen that, done that too many times. Nick’s promise to start clean falls on deaf ears and why not? It’s a promise that is seldom kept.
Children are calling out sick. A troubled student, Tobias (Lincoln A. Castellanos) comes to school with a knife. Tobias knows, even as young as he is, something just isn’t right. The young always know, but adults rarely listen.
Nick thinks he’s going crazy from the drugs he took and escapes from the hospital. When Madison and Travis go searching for him at a friend’s home he isn’t there. Calvin is your clean cut neighborhood suburban kid with a secret. He’s Nick’s dealer and, he goes looking for Nick before he leads the police to his home.
Things come to a head when reports of people being attacked appear on YouTube. The schools dismiss their students and tell them to go straight home. Alicia and her classmates think the videos are bogus. Wouldn’t you? With the right visual effects, anything can be made to look authentic.
Madison and Travis still doubt Nick’s story until he tells them that he had to shoot Calvin in self-defense. When the dead Calvin tries to bite them, all doubt is gone. The dead are not staying dead and they are hungry for flesh.
I freaking loved this episode which was well written. Kudos to Kirkman and Executive Director, Dave Erickson for a well done pilot. The cast were very believable in their roles. Frank Dillane reminds me of a young Johnny Depp both in looks and acting style. I like this kid. Cliff Curtis makes us care about his character because he plays his Travis as a regular guy, who is trying to help his students and his own family while all hell breaks loose. Kim Dickens plays her Madison as a mother/teacher who has seen it all, but still wants to help her lost and troubled students.
Fear the Walking Dead is going to be successful because it shows, by following one family, how easily a virus or a microbe can decimate a population and, all the time, citizens would have no clue it was happening. Don’t believe me? Remember me mentioning the Ebola debacle at the beginning of this post. The government kept telling us not to worry, but that nurse refused to stay in isolation. What if she had the disease? How fast would it have spread?
I always wanted to know how a zombie apocalypse could start and no one notice, but if a person (walker) isn’t showing signs of decay, how would you know they were dead? Wouldn’t you just assume that they were disoriented or confused and, there are diseases that mimic the blank stare of a zombie: diabetes, Alzheimer’s, drugs. How do you tell the difference from a person on high on PCP and a hungry zombie?
Around two years ago, a story hit the news. A female police officer in Florida had to shoot a man dead because he was eating the face of another man. The authorities blamed it on drugs… how do we know for sure? The apocalypse may have already begun.
“Fear the Walking Dead” is a winner in my book. See you next week.