It’s hard to know what to make of the start of Fear The Walking Dead. There were certainly some good, perhaps even stellar, moments throughout this premiere, but the show suffered from many of its connections and similarities to its older sibling early on.
First, though, we should commend the character development. As a show that needs to stand on its own two feet as it unfolds, it’s a relief to see solid ground work put in here to establish the main cast. Sure, it might come across as a deliberately dysfunctional family unit for the sake of drama, but it does offer up some modern, intriguing interactions that will likely resonate better than the traditional nuclear dynamic that is the norm. Travis seems key to this, juggling his relationship with his biological and step sons respectively, and hopefully this gets built on week by week.
The tone was also a good fit, and an element that felt distinct from TWD. The influence of Atticus Ross on the music was audible – he’s only credited here with composing the theme music, yet there was much of the foreboding, synth heavy sound that he curated with Trent Reznor for Gone Girl in the rest of the show’s music. Given the context, the brief shots of to-be-walkers that sparsely populated the episode were given the significance they needed.Unfortunately, however, this brings me back to the central issue with the show. When you’re used to scenes of walker-related mayhem as on TWD – the tank scene in ‘Days Gone Bye’ or the recent warehouse carnage, for example – it’s hard to place such emphasis on just one guy. Especially given the apparent indifference of the majority of characters to much of the episode’s developments. The viral video – of a seemingly dead crash victim jolting away, attempting to bite a paramedic, then taking a full pistol clip and still surviving, only being stopped by a shot to the head – is met with less shock than you might expect; much like the horror trope that people in slasher films haven’t seen a slasher film, people in Fear The Walking Dead have never seen a zombie film.
This slow pace and near-oblivious attitude is somewhat a crime of necessity. Once people start turning in their thousands and the rat race to survive begins, then Fear is going to have a hard time not just being ‘The Walking Dead: LA’. It’s a situation similar to Gotham, in that when you have a logically finite amount of space to develop, you can’t just make a blockbuster beginning and leave nothing for later. While the Batman prequel didn’t really get that idea, the pedigree of those behind Fear grants them a temporary asylum.
Ultimately, we’ll have to wait till episode 2 to pass fair judgement, as it did feel like an episode that sought to make sure that both the returning TWD viewers and those entering the franchise for the first time felt at home. So it might just be that I enjoyed the easter eggs about the apocalypse – how it might have begun and where – while new viewers enjoyed other elements entirely, and as we go on, common enjoyment will emerge.