Welcome to the Beginning of the End.
Welcome to my recaps of Fear the Walking Dead, which I will cover for the six weeks starting today. Many of us have waited for two years for this moment, and now the moment has arrived. Was it worth it? Well . . . let’s see, shall we?
The first three minutes of the pilot have floated around the Internet for a week, so we know the set up: Nick Clark, loser junkie, wakes up in a old church/shooting gallery after having gotten his fix on. He’s looking for Gloria, his junkie girlfriend, but she’s nowhere around. He goes looking, hears screams, finds blood, and eventually find some of his fellow horse fiends who are bleeding from open wounds to the neck. Then he finds Gloria—hey honey, how you doi—oh, fuck! She busy eating some guy’s face, and when she gets up to go after Nick, there’s a knife buried in her torso.
RT: Interesting fact, that sinew between her teeth is actually achieved by using pantyhose soaked in fake blood ;-) But, seriously, how good was the first few minutes?! While I was a bit concerned there would be no “edge of the seat moments” since, ultimately, we know what is coming, I think AMC did a good job of setting up the “fear” element of Fear The Walking Dead rather well.
CF: I thought the mood was perfect, and it was a call back to the original. Nick wakes up, looks around, and . . . DEAD INSIDE! It’s really a homage to TWD, but with a West Coast white trash spin. It was even pointed out that the part of the face Gloria ate was the same part Teddy Bear Girl was missing. And they played off the whole “It’s a drug dream” theory, which is Kirkman trolling the fan base.
RT: I totally agree about Kirkman trolling. Missed the homage to Teddy Bear Girl though – thanks for pointing it out :-D
Say what you want to about Nick being a junkie, but the dude isn’t carrying the Idiot Balltm, and when Gloria comes his way, he’s gone, daddy, gone, out a window and down the street as fast as his spindly little legs will carry him—until he gets hit by a car and ends up in the hospital.
Rule Number One: Cardio!
From there it’s a cut to the Clark Household: Mommy Madison, high school adviser, and Daughter Alicia, high school smart girl ready to blow L.A. and head for college. Add to this mix Travis Manawa, English teacher at the same high school where Madison works, and now live-in boyfriend. He’s divorced and has a son with a chip on his shoulder due to dad splitting on the family. Needless to say, the family dynamic here isn’t that good: at least Travis’ son wasn’t told daddy’s dead.
RT: I was really excited about Madison, until this episode :-( She just came across as a bit too hard-edged to be entirely likable, but, as you pointed out in our conversation earlier, she’s got a shitload on her plate, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt for now. Alicia was exactly what I expected: background noise – until she was gratingly, irritatingly perfect. I can’t WAIT to see her meltdown because she misses out on college. As for Travis, I was pleasantly surprised. In the lead up to FTWD, the actor has done little to win me over. He’s just not as badarse as TWD actors usually are – onscreen and off! But, he’s growing on me. I love the dynamic between him and Nick. The audience just knows Nick is using him because he has given an inch in regards to his “hallucinations” and Travis is just hoping anyone will like him, but I can see a real relationship developing there. As for Nick. He is my fave character at the moment. Flawed, street smart, completely untrustworthy.
CF: Let’s also remember who was bad-ass in Season 1 of TWD. Um . . . Glenn? Not really. Andrea? Dale? Lori? Even Rick was scared shitless at first, because he didn’t know what to expect. The only real step up and take it bad asses were Daryl and Shane, and that’s only because of their background. We’re really seeing college-educated city folk here, and they aren’t that bad in the ass area–yet. It’s going to be interesting to watch them put their skills to use. Nick is the best, though: now if he can just make it through kicking.
All these people show at the hospital, where the cops are getting shit from Nick, and Madison pretty much tells the cops to get the fuck out of the room. Madison’s a wreck: Nick is a stone addict, and he’s never stayed in rehab long. Alicia doesn’t care: her brother—whom she does seem to care for—is an adult, and if he doesn’t want to get clean, that’s his biz. Travis tells her to get to work; he’ll watch Nick and get someone to cover his classes.
It’s once Madison arrives at school that we hear about the “flu” going around. A lot of kids and teachers are out, and one kid, Tobias, tells Madison—after she finds he’s packin’ a blade—that something “else” is going, that people are dying over this. Madison tells him to stay the hell off the Internet, ‘cause it’s full of woo.
RT: I so want Tobias to make it out of this season alive!
CF: I want to see him pop up, too.
It’s also at high school that we meet Alicia’s boyfriend, an artist painting a mural. They kiss and talk; it’s all so cute. Move along, ‘cause everyone’s still alive.
RT: *cough* zombie fodder *cough*
CF: I think we’ve called this one.
Nick wakes up, gasping, and he’s freaking out. Travis asks what’s going on, if he had nightmares or hallucinations, and Nick wishes that was what happened. He tells Travis about Gloria: about the score, about nodding off, about how he work up and found her eating a dude’s face. It was all blood and dead people and Gloria eating people, like she was . . . if there was only a word starting with “Z” we could use. Nick really hopes he was high, because the alternative is he’s finally slipped his gears, and that shit ain’t cool.
RT: It was this sort of referencing to the fact they don’t know the “Z” word that I LOVED in this episode. There was some pretty great humour in spots as well as little nuggets of Walking Dead stuff for the fans to look out for, like just knowing that sick guy was a ticking timebomb in the bed next to Nick.
CF: What we were sort of seeing was what would have happened if Rick had come out of his coma early? I want to know what happened to the dead guy–he had to turn.
That gets Travis thinking, and he heads over to the church where Nick got high. He’s looking around, finds a scared junkie who freaks and runs off, and some gore that had to of comes from—what’s that Zed word again? Ah, shit: those don’t exist here.
RT: It’s not like the dead can just get up and walk away or anything…
CF: I didn’t bring this up, but I should have–WHERE THE HELL DID THE DEAD PEOPLE GO? Like you said, they didn’t just get up and walk away. Leads me to believe that there are “clean up teams” going around and investigating things. And stuff. And shit. Someone had to come and take care of Gloria and her friends.
RT: Oh, I hadn’t thought of it this way, it would also help account for the fact the school closed so early in the piece too. Although I am totally hoping Gloria will be the recurring zombie of FTWD ;-)
He finds Madison asleep with Nick the next day and hustles her off to school, but not before giving Alicia a few minutes with her brother. You can see she does like him, but when he says he’s done being crazy, she’s not really buying his shit before heading off to school—
—where she ends up behind the football field lights her boyfriend. She’s doing most of the talking, saying she wants to get out, another year and she can blow this joint. She’s talking about getting the hell out of school and how Nick probably won’t stay clean long; all the while the boyfriend is drawing a tat design on her wrist and lets her know he wants to hook up down in Venice. She shows up later, but he’s not there. He’s also not answering her texts. Alicia’s not a happy girl.
“I need a boy who doesn’t stay in the house. Where can I find one?”
At school Madison is roaming the halls while Travis is teaching, and he’s talking about Jack London’s To Build a Fire which, incidentally, I read when I was in high school. Madison and the principal listen in on Travis, and hear the message he’s spinning: in the battle of man against nature, man always gets his ass kicked. Does this mean zombies are natural?
RT: Of course Travis is having this timely lesson at school *rolls eyes*
CF: The one thing they could have left out. We get it: humans are screwed.
Nick cons a nurse into releasing one of his restraints so he can use his bedpan, and fortunately for him, the dude in the bed next to him dies, giving Nick a chance to grab his shit and boogie. Madison and Travis show up a bit later, and Mommy is pissed, but the nurse is all, “Not my problem.” Madison instantly starting thinking about places her junkie son might go, and she wants to visit the shooting gallery that Travis earlier told her about.
RT: Here, let me remove one velcro restraint and leave the room of the junkie who doesn’t want ot be here. What could possibly go wrong? How rattled was that nurse though when Madison and Travis show up though?
CF: I’m not going to say she would have stood there and watched him, because I don’t know the nursing situation in L. A. hospitals, but I would have imagined there would have been a “Watch this asshole” marker on his file. Maybe it is a drug hallucination!
RT: *shakes her fist at Kirkman*
“I don’t know what Nick sees in this place–it’s so dead.”
The arrive and go inside. There are no bodies here, no scared junkies, nothing. Madison is loosing it, and they get in the truck and go to see Calvin, who was Nick’s friend and obviously a former student. He doesn’t know where Nick is, but he can make some calls—
RT: Hmmm… nice car and clothes you have there Cal. How did you pay for all those…
CF: Next thing you’re gonna tell me is high school chemistry teachers are cooking meth…
Speaking of which Nick is wandering the streets with a fresh burner phone and a place to crash under a bridge. Meanwhile Travis and Madison are still out on the streets looking for said Burner Phone Cowboy. They go to exit the freeway, but there’s a backup, and police, and helicopters . . . It’s L.A. for sure. But there’s way too much activity, and there’s gunshots in the distant—Sheriff Rick is in town? Travis busts a move out of there, ‘cause he’s got a beater truck and gives no fucks about jumpin’ curbs.
RT: I loved how prevalent the sound of sirens were throughout this episode. Even at the start there was a lot of them, letting the audience know that shit was about to get real.
CF: It lets you know you’re in a city AND something’s happening in the background.
By morning school is like a ghost town because so many kids are out with the flu. But everyone is watching leaked video from some stuff that went down the night before, the stuff that Travis and Madison heard, and—hey, dead guy biting a paramedic! Being it’s L.A. the cops first beat his ass and then shoot him—and up he gets once more! Travis says this is what Nick was talking about; everyone else thinks it’s more Internet bullshit.
RT: This was my major gripe with this episode, it just felt like panic set in a little too soon. I just don’t think the school would close early on account of leaked Internet footage. Although, I guess once people started dying and getting up, civilisation would have gone down pretty quickly.
CF: I got the idea that the school was running on empty, and they might have been dealing with calls from parents as well. It did seem crazy, though, and . . . was someone else giving the order to close? We’ll find out.
Alicia is pissed and texting her boyfriend from class—YOU BETTER B DEAD she sends, and way to jinx his ass, ‘cause he’s probably Walker Chowtm by now. Feel better? She and two other girls are watching the leaked footage, and up close and personal they watch the dude getting shot, and BOOM! Straight up round the head—as one girl said, “Head shot, bitch.” Right then the school is let out for the rest of the day ‘cause most of the kids and teachers are out sick.
Nick has been making calls and finally gets through to his dealer. He heads to a cafe and there the dude is . . . and it’s Calvin. When Madison and Travis spoke with him, he looked like he was straight out of the cast of Book of Mormon, but right now he looks like the poster child for Thug Life. Calvin’s pissed ‘cause Nick’s mom was around looking for him, and he can’t have that. Nick gives no shits about that—what he wants to know is what was in the shit you sold me, Calvin? There was a fuckin’ blood bath, Gloria was killing people . . . Calvin calls bullshit, and doesn’t like the insinuation that Junkie Nick is accusing him of selling tainted meat—I mean, heroin. Sorry, I was on the wrong zombie coast for a moment. Calvin’s not letting Nick go, because the last thing he wants is word getting out about this freak out, so he asks him if he’s hurting. Nick says it’s been a couple of days since his last fix, so Calvin lets him know he’s gonna get him well—
RT: I so wanted some sort of Breaking Bad reference here. AMC needs to life their game if they want that “Breaking Bad started the zombie apocalypse” rumour to stick…
CF: Sky Blue better show or I’ll be disappointed.
“You can totally trust me, dude. I sell you drugs, don’t I?”
—By taking him to the L.A. River to fix him up. And by “fix him up” I mean put a couple of rounds in the back of Nick’s skull. Nick isn’t going down without a struggle, and in the process Calvin gets ventilated. Once more Nick scoots.
A while later he’s having a smoke and waiting for Travis, but Mom’s along for the ride, too. He tells them he killed Calvin, and takes them to see the body which—hey, there was a body here? Where’d it go? Nick’s freaking out again, Madison’s holding him, Travis is backing the truck down the tunnel leading from the river to the street, and there’s something walking towards them. It’s Calvin! Hey, dude, you’re looking a little, um, dead, you know. He tries to bite Madison and Travis, and while they try to figure out what to do next, Nick runs Calvin’s ass over! Better than a crossbow! Calvin gets up again, and Nick runs him over again, eventually dumping his drug dealing ass next to the river. All three stand next to the truck and watch the body . . . and Calvin is still moving, minus a lower jaw. But just like a Timex watch, he’s taken a lickin’ and is still tickin’.
How does Madison respond to this? “What the hell’s happening?” Humm . . . If only there were something like a television show or a comic that could explain this—
Maybe next week we’ll find out.
A few negative reviews have bitched about the slowness of the plot, how we didn’t see a lot of zombies. Last night was known as “character building” and let us wait for the next few episodes to air before deciding if we’re back at the Greene Farm, the West Coast version.
RT: I am a big fan of the “character building” episodes on TWD, so this episode was totally up my alley. Plus, if we see nothing but zombies, then we’ve obviously started the series too late once again ;-)
CF: I thought the pacing was fine and not slow. As someone who likes to write good characterization, I hate it when someone pulls out the “going to slow” argument. This ain’t The Walking Dead; let’s get to know everyone before you go all in with the zombies.
RT: My point EXACTLY. If there is no character development then how are we supposed to care when they are stupidly killed in a hospital?
Madison Clark — Kim Dickens
Travis Manawa — Cliff Curtis
Nick Clark — Frank Dillane
Alicia Clark — Alycia Debnam-Carey
Liza Ortiz — Elizabeth Rodriguez
Christopher Manawa — Lorenzo James Henrie
Daniel Salazar— Ruben Blades
Griselda Salazar — Patricia Reyes Spindola
Ofelia Salazar — Mercedes Mason
Fear the Walking Dead airs in the US on AMC at 9 PM EDT.