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Fear the Walking Dead - Pilot - Review: "Destined for Greatness"

     When I first heard that the writers of "The Walking Dead” were making a spinoff I was absolutely terrified for the original series. While plenty of good spinoffs have been produced (Better Call Saul, Frasier, NCIS just to name a few), the word “spinoff” alone can induce cringing. I guess the real fear for me was that the original series would somehow be tainted by a disastrous spinoff. Luckily for everyone, the real fear may not be The Walking Dead’s name being ruined by a subpar spinoff, but that the original may be outshined by its spinoff.

     Going into the pilot, I knew that things would not be as action packed as your typical episode of "The Walking Dead” and was looking forward to the change of pace and tone. The first scene of the series (which can be viewed here), did a tremendous job of giving the audience a feel for how this series will progress: slowly, but surely. The downside of a prequel is often that we know which characters can and cannot die, but with this series, we just know the general direction, but we don’t actually know anything about these characters or their surroundings. This gives the writers the ability to take advantage of our assumed knowledge in extremely inventive ways. From faking the audience out with the principal hunched over at work to teasing the inevitable fall of civilized society, “Fear the Walking Dead" does a great job of taking what we think we know and showing us something different.

     That being said, any decent television show needs more than just original series tie-in brownie points. This is why the writers of "Fear the Walking Dead" not only have to explain the early origins of the disease that made "The Walking Dead" what it is, but they also have to give us a reason to care about it, besides the fact that it’s an origin story. Look no further than our central characters of this series. The casting department of “Fear The Walking Dead” deserves a gold medal. The role of Madison was practically written for Kim Dickens who has become a favorite actress of mine over the last few years. This first episode did a marvelous job of showing us a conflicted and imperfect mother who is doing her absolute best to keep her family together. Also doing his absolute best (and not succeeding at it yet) is Cliff Curtis’s character, Travis, who is stuck in the middle of two extremely displeased boys, his son and his sooon-to-be-stepson. I really enjoyed the contrasted relationship between Madison and her son and Travis and his son. While Nick (Madison’s son) seems to have a record of entering, exiting, and re-entering rehab, but maintains a decent relationship with his mother, Chris (Travis’s son) wants nothing to do with his father or, more specifically it seems, his soon-to-be-stepbrother. Such a strange combination of characters makes me wonder what the reason is for the tension between Travis and his son. I look forward to seeing the relationship between these characters fleshed out more in the coming episodes.

     Instead of making Alicia, Madison's daughter, the continuously grouchy daughter that does nothing cliche that I worried she would be, the writers have given us an interesting character that is still quite grouchy (seriously, who sends a loved one a text telling them that they “better be dead!”?). Her boyfriend's survival is definitely doubtful at this point, but this does give the audience another relationship to root for, and also, quite fantastically, to fear for. Given that Alicia’s boyfriend disappeared just as this outbreak begins, I don’t have a whole lot of faith in his character’s longevity, but I do in Alicia's. Only one episode down and we know quite a bit about Alicia. She has an interesting relationship with her brother because while she doesn’t have the greatest relationship with her brother (at one point even suggesting that her mother cut him off), she definitely cares about him a lot (why else would she spoon feed him in the hospital?). Alicia’s already deeply layered characterization is just another example of what makes “Fear the Walking Dead” stand out against other shows.

     Outside of the fantastic characters, I was really impressed by the action that came at the end of the episode. Not only were the character’s reactions perfect and realistic, but I loved how the act of killing the walker was downplayed quite a bit. Having seen walkers up close and personal, Nick knew what he needed to do, but without the experience of the cast of "The Walking Dead”, it wasn’t quite the clean (and by clean I mean totally gruesome) kill that we are so accustomed to seeing. This speaks to the skill of the writers to immerse their viewers in this completely ridiculous, yet seemingly real world. With realistic responses and legitimate characters, this series knows how to succeed.

     My favorite part of this episode was, without a doubt, the reaction the world has to the start of the outbreak. At one point in our lives, we have all thought about what we would do in the beginning of a zombie walker apocalypse. Well, now with the help of "Fear the Walking Dead", you can see exactly what everyone would do and that would be to tweet, post to Facebook, and watch YouTube videos until things started actually getting really bad. With only five students riding the bus to school and none of them paying attention (I really laughed at the “Killshot bitch” comment when the students were watching the news footage from school), it’s obvious that the zombie walker apocalypse would definitely be an interesting time to live in. Why else would we all watch these shows?

Rating: 9.6/10 - AMC has nothing to fear about Fear the Walking Dead. It is the perfect companion series for The Walking Dead. With great characters and the fantastic dichotomy between what we think we know and what we actually know, this series is destined for greatness. While it’s definitely a slow burn, it does a splendid job of setting up interesting characters in an interesting setting. What more can an audience member ask for?

Did you enjoy “Fear the Walking Dead” as much as I did? What would you do in the beginning of a zombie walker apocalypse? Let me know down in the comments below.

About the Author - Brandon Rowe
Brandon is a freshman in college and enjoys watching a lot of TV. Brandon likes to write articles about his favorite shows which include Falling Skies, The Bridge, 24, Suits, and more than can be written on this page. Brandon also managed the "In the Hot Seat" competition here on SpoilerTV in 2012 and would like to do it again in 2015 if possible. Feel free to use the Facebook, Twitter, or G+ links below to contact him.
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