Monday, 12 October 2015

Verdict: Fear the Walking Dead Season 1

This post contains spoilers for season 1 of Fear the Walking Dead - you have been warned.

Fear the Walking Dead is a spinoff of AMC's highly-successful, The Walking Dead. With an entirely new cast and fresh locale (Los Angeles rather than Atlanta), Fear the Walking Dead winds back the clock and gives audiences a glimpse at how things began through an inconsistent and sometimes straight-up dull first season.

Ever since Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) woke from his coma in 2010's series premiere 'Days Gone By', fans of The Walking Dead have been keen to learn more about the events that lead up to the show; how did the zombie apocalypse come about, what caused it and how did the world react? So if the original show is like 28 Days Later, this spinoff (also aired by AMC) is like World War Z in that we get to actually see the shit hit the fan.

However, rather than reviving Lori and the gang for a straight-up prequel, this spinoff shifts to Los Angeles and gives us a whole new cast of zombie food to gnash on. Leading the ensemble is Kim Dickens (from House of Cards) as Madison Clark, a high school teacher, and Cliff Curtis as her new husband Travis. Madison has two children from a previous marriage, Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam Carey) whilst Travis has one, Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) with his ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez).

Across these six episodes, we get to see the infection start to spread across LA, panic begin grow and law and order start to falter; it's a compelling premise, but one that the show only sporadically succeeds at. Not only is this new cast less engaging, it's also poorly paced; whilst I liked that things started out slow (no-one wants full-blown action right out of the gate), there were noticeable lulls where things slowed right down to a crawl around the middle of season. Most notably, the fourth episode ('Not Fade Away') which sees our characters treading water and bickering in a restricted quarantine zone. After the electric action and evocative imagery of the preceding episode ('The Dog'), this change of pace was jarring and didn't work. That being said, for every dull moment there was another that was truly shocking or captivating - that shot of the lights slowly being extinguished across LA was great, as was the riot scene in Episode 2.

I also felt that some characters were forced to make decisions that felt out of place; for example, Liza hops into a truck and zooms off to a field hospital around the middle of the season, choosing to leave her only son behind in the process. I mean, really? Only a week after the whole world went to shit? She doesn't even say goodbye which to me just felt silly. And don't even get me started on how long it takes these characters to wake up and realise that you simply don't go near the flesh-eating monster that used to be the sweet little Chinese lady next door.

That being said, the show does have a lot going for it; I liked the character of Nick and I thought that his drug habit was an interesting character trait that made for compelling drama between the group, whilst Madison had her fair share of memorable moments. The ending was interesting too - they've already begun to trim the cast back to the core members, and culling Liza was a good place to start.

I'm not totally won over by the first season of Fear the Walking Dead, but will probably be dipping into the second season whenever it crops up. It simply didn't grab me in the same way that the first season of The Walking Dead did, which is surprising given the action and thrills you'd expect from the premise.

Best episode(s): So Close Yet So Far, The Dog, The Good Man

Did you watch season 1 of Fear the Walking Dead? What did you think? Let me know in the comments section below!

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