TV Review: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’

Fear the Walking Dead Review AMC
Courtesy of AMC

The wisdom of situating “The Walking Dead” spinoff in a different place (Los Angeles) and time (at the very beginning of the apocalyptic outbreak) sounded like a shrewd move, and might still be. Yet the 90-minute premiere for “Fear the Walking Dead,” the eagerly anticipated offshoot of AMC’s megahit, initially feels too much like a snore, narrowly following a single, not-terribly-interesting family, and leaning heavily on musical cues to stoke a sense of suspense. A second episode begins to propel the story forward, thankfully, but for starters, anyway, it’s more a snack than a feast.

Created by “Dead’s” comic-book patriarch Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson, the new show can’t help but be a hit given the built-in demand and curiosity, which affords the creative team the latitude to proceed at its own pace. That said, the introduction ambles along too leisurely – dare one say zombie-like? – with a fair amount of fabricated tension but precious little that actually quickens the pulse.

The opening is certainly a grabber, with a 19-year-old junkie, Nick (Frank Dillane), awakening to a sight that, while familiar to “Dead” heads, should be enough to put any character that survives on a path to the straight and narrow. The experience lands Nick in the hospital, leaving his mother Madison (Kim Dickens) and her boyfriend Travis (Cliff Curtis) at their wits end.

Even Nick isn’t entirely sure what to believe, although evidence gradually begins to mount that something is very, very wrong, including a disturbing encounter caught on video by the local news. That said, through the pilot “Fear” is more concerned with the micro – and indeed, this single family, including Madison’s daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) – than the macro, as if an episode of “Parenthood” suddenly had to deal with the zombie apocalypse.

A second episode, fortunately, improves matters considerably, mostly in charting how the uncertainty of what’s happening begins to break down society, from civil unrest to rampant fear of the unknown. This hour points in a more promising direction, although as yet the characters still seem a little malnourished, particularly compared with the original, which niftily wedded a horror motif to an ongoing, evolving soap opera where no one is completely safe (OK, maybe just a few key people).

For “Walking Dead” fans, “Fear” does tap into a fertile vein, since the earlier show’s main protagonist, Rick, slept through humanity’s fall in a coma, leaving flashbacks to putty in only some of the gaps. Watching social norms collapse clearly plants an uncomfortable foot in reality, although Erickson, Kirkman and company have a long way to go in terms of conjuring anything approaching that sort of emotional investment in these characters.

Granted, the obvious goal was to see these extraordinary events unfold through ordinary people, but Dickens and Curtis, both fine actors, are left to dine on a too-thin gruel.

Strictly in pragmatic terms, AMC was savvy about scheduling the show, launching it in a relatively dead window that will only help pound the drums for the mother ship’s annual landing in October. In success, this second series — already renewed for another season — has plenty of room to grow without intruding on that other universe, while offering the opportunity to strategically help fill the gaps in the original’s lengthy hiatuses.

Because “Walking Dead” is such a juggernaut, AMC can easily ride those coattails, at least for a while. Yet when it comes to the longterm future of this new program, the network might discover that the only thing it has to fear is, ultimately, “Fear” itself.

 

TV Review: 'Fear the Walking Dead'

(Series; AMC, Sun. Aug. 23, 9 p.m.)

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Circle of Confusion, Symbound and Valhalla Entertainment.

Crew

Executive producers, Dave Erickson, Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, David Alpert, Greg Nicotero; co-executive producers, David Wiener, Adam Davidson; producers, Ron French, Craig Forrest, Bill Johnson; director, Davidson; writers, Kirkman, Erickson; camera, Michael McDonough; production designer, Michael Bolton. 90 MIN.

Cast

Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Lorenzo James Henrie, Ruben Blades, Patricia Reyes Spindola, Mercedes Mason

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  1. sharon thorbourne says:

    I don”t like “Fear The Walking Dead”. These people are far to dumb to survive the apocalypse. I think my mistake is comparing them to Rick and his group. These people, even well into season 2 still don”t get it!

  2. Misty graves says:

    Although the story is beginning to become a disappointment TWD is still my favorite show. Fear TWD is impossible to like. The family members are so dumb they would never survive and their personalities are beyond palatable. Probably will avoid the shows after episode 4 of this year.

  3. I was looking forward to walking dead spin off.
    Don’t care about one character.
    With Walking Dead you love all the characters.
    But I don’t care about one person
    I don’t care if they all die.
    Very sad. Even music is bad.
    Get new characters that we will bond with.

  4. Rad Chap says:

    “In the end I decided against it because I think expanding the book into a line of books would eventually weaken the popularity of the series and hurt sales and possibly sabotage the book.”

    Robert Kirkman The Walking Dead Issue 33 Letter Hacks

    Too bad you changed your mind. This show stinks and could get TWD cancelled with it. Then again, maybe that’s what you want so you can just write the books. Sneaky.

  5. Ryan says:

    I watched the first season of fear the walking dead. Poor job of casting. I can’t stand a majority of the cast and hope they become zombie chum!

  6. cats says:

    I thought the first episode was pretty slow paced and boring but it picked up for the second episode and im looking forward to the 3rd. Literally only started watching it for alycia debnam-carey and I’ve never seen TWD so i can’t really compare, but i thought this is a pretty good show especially compared to some I’ve seen recently.

  7. peanutlee33 says:

    For the most part the show is just okay. The first 1.5 episodes were decent… good reanimation flow at their respective times. But after that… horribly slow-paced. In fact I damned near dozed off a few times, I got so bored. For a Walking Dead spin-off it’s been very disappointing. Also, only a few of the actors are remotely believable in their respective roles. But not one of them is remotely interesting, unlike with The Walking Dead. From WD’s pilot episode through its following 6 episodes, I already had 3 character favorites. Not with FTWD.

    Unless TPTB completely WOW us with something significant by the final episode, I am tuning out. Permanently.

  8. Elizabeth B. says:

    I have tried VERY hard to give this show a chance…..The Walking Dead is my favorite show….this show is HORRIBLE!! The acting is terrible. Seriously, this family, brand new to zombies, simply say “hey, you’re sick” to these zombies as they approach them looking to eat their face off. Really??? Last week, the boyfriend walks in on a zombie, face first in a German Shepherd, and when the bloody zombie comes toward him he simply stands there – trying to reason with him. What a bunch of garbage!! If this were reality, the first time i see a zombie i’d be running like a fool screaming my head off and four miles down the road before the zombie got to the front door! All this praise for Dickens and Curtis being fine actors – i’m not seeing it. And i’m sick of the junkie son and his mom placating his need for drugs.
    It’s just unbelievable…Yes…i know the zombie thing is unbelievable, but at least in the Walking Dead the actors act “appropriately” when faced with a zombie. Like others have stated, i wish i could recapture the time wasted watching this poorly acted/scripted show. What a waste!

  9. I hate this show it is so boring and I care nothung for the people in this show you almost hope they get bit

  10. rainy says:

    so disappointed in the Fear the walking dead. nothing to fear except a boring plot, less than interesting characters and snoring acting. Please finish it off and bury it quickly.

  11. Caro Fran says:

    I love the Walking Dead and was so excited for Fear the Walking Dead. Unfortunately, I think it’s horrible! The casting is the worst. There isn’t even one attractive person in the cast and none of them can act. So sad. Can’t wait for October 11.

  12. Fogelsang says:

    This is the absolute worst bomb of 2015. Who wrote this garbage? What idiot did the casting? This was not even worthy of calling it B roll movie. It’s so horribly produced, acted, scripted and directed I think I might commit suicide after the first episode. Whoever gives this a positive review is a total paid shill for AMC.

  13. Tikiman says:

    Ugh… If she says, “Hey, Babe…” one more time…

  14. thenpp1 says:

    Trying not to fall asleep. TOO many plot holes and coincidences and stupid actions. (Spoiler?) When going to check on someone when do you EVER park a quarter a mile away and still in tunnel? And when leaving the scene of a NON-accident, do you ever decide to BACK OUT a 1/4 mile tunnel instead of pulling forward and driving out frontward? TOO MANY PLOT HOLES! Too many “let’s go into the scary place ALONE” moments. Not once, but twice. And how many teachers who have discovered blood in a scary place wouldn’t call cops and say, “Hey! Blood all over!”?
    Plus I fell asleep 10 minutes before end, so dull.

  15. 5170 says:

    While I’m forgiving of the pilot’s slow pace for plot and character development, I truly can’t stand the main characters already. I found myself hoping for them to get bitten or mauled as soon as possible. The kid is a useless junky, the mom is a major B who enables said junky while ignoring her good kid and the step dad is a tool. Yes, it’s only the pilot so I will keep watching. But I still hope they get bitten…..

  16. I found Fear’s opening episode to be, contrary to this review and other comments, far from a snore fest but rather an intriguing and engrossing hour of TV . I was grateful that the show resisted the urge to immediately descend into an orgy of the undead, and instead opted to develop the characters lives in their independence from the outbreak. The difficulty for this show was always going to be differentiating itself from TWD, and I think it achieved it admirably in this initial episode. However, the challenge will be to maintain a unique sense of itself as the zombie plague spreads, and i’m not quite sure what sort of plot devices and developments could be used to achieve this, as the mechanics of zombie takeovers would seem to me to be pretty similar no matter what side of the coast your’re on. Nonetheless I hope this show continues to be something other than a shameless cash in.

  17. Misty says:

    I think that the series finale of ftwd will end around the same time that the series finale of twd ends and the very last episode of ftwd will show rick waking up from his coma ?

    This show kinda bored me though ! I was expecting a little more i mean I understand its the very first episode but i was ready to be in the edge of my seat but instead i almost fell asleep ! Hopefully it picks up and becomes more interesting! The pilot to ftwd does not even compare to the pilot for twd ! Js !

  18. Indigo says:

    The Walking Dead is awesome! The pilot of Fear the Walking Dead was difficult to sit through…slow scenes seemed endless, I started doing other things while the show played in the background. While I immediately loved Rick, Morgan and Glenn in TWD pilot, none of these new FTWD characters were compelling enough to care about…maybe that will change but TWD pilot was far superior to FTWD’s pilot. I hope more characters outside of this family appear soon.

    • J. says:

      I agree–the original pilot was so well paced and the characterizations so complete that people were cheering when Morgan showed up nearly two years later, even though they hadn’t seen him since the pilot.

  19. rbmeoe says:

    Huge fan of TWD. This may make things odd as I watch Fear. First question, we’re did the walkers and or dead bodies from the church go? It was funny the line Travis had as he and Madison walked through “the bodies can’t just get up and walk away”. Yes they can. There should have been 2 or 3 walkers around somewhere. I know LA is weird, but someone would notice flesh eating dead people wondering around, even in California! Maybe a government cover up?

  20. The Walking Dead started out as a great show; since then, it’s become the same, repetitive, predictable storyline that won’t go away. We’re constantly trapped in a new community, with corrupt members who the characters that we are loyal to, cannot trust. It hasn’t reeled me in since the massacre at the prison; upon arriving at Terminus, you knew far too in advance what would happen.

    FTWD, has completely engulfed me – sure it was slow, but, what’s the point of creating the same exact series just in LA vs. ATL? This is where they differ. You get more of a storyline that you have to commit to, in which you eventually will (we hope) find out what happens with this disease, how it came about, how it’s affecting families, and eventually, how it spreads so rapidly. Some of the acting could use a boost, and perhaps a little more zombie action (felt odd that the first one we saw just disappeared, if I’m not mistaken), however, there is nothing that I didn’t love about this, enough to watch the encore immediately after.

    • peanutlee33 says:

      Actually Travis, one didn’t… ‘predict the outcome of Terminus, before it actually happened’. For the entire second half, the place was rumored the next “safe sanctuary”. And indeed, presumed to cover several episodes. But it lasted just two, before Carol blew it to shrapnel. The only real predictable spot was Woodbury :)

  21. Brian says:

    Absolutely terrible. I wish I had a time machine and I could relive those 90 painful minutes doing something enjoyable. Watching this was like going to the dentist. If this is your thing, I suggest YouTubing old episodes of Peyton Place or General Hospital, the acting is better, sans the tired stereotypes.

  22. Darryn James says:

    NOT ONLY BORING, BUT POORLY WRITTEN AND DIRECTED. 6/10

  23. Paul says:

    It had all the elements of a good lullaby, I was sleeping in no time.

  24. Will most certainly tune in to episode 2, only because I enjoyed the nap I took during episode 1.

  25. I haven’t been too excited about anything on TV lately, but this was intriguing. In my case it did NOT disappoint. Don’t know what the rest of you were expecting.

  26. Myra says:

    I think the 1st episode was good, I expected more, they advertised so much like it was Awesome.
    I just will see next week to see if it lives up to my expectations.

  27. Bruce Kowalewski says:

    Well the first three quarters of the show were slow/boring, but it did pick up. Next show seems to be a lot better, this is what the fans were expecting in the first episode.
    You have to understand that the timeline is pre Ricks comma, and basically during his comma.
    It’s going to be interesting to see how it spread, seeing how the USA is such a military power and how this could even spread, that is one of the main things missing in TWD.

  28. What’s with the God awful, obnoxiously LOUD music/sounds in the show? There’s so much of it it’s difficult to hear the dialogue or concentrate on the show. Tone it down, PLEASE.

  29. Carlyn says:

    I’m confused by the first episode of Fear The Walking Dead.People seem to come back from the dead just by every day deaths. Not being bitten or anything. I’m pretty friggin sure that, asa PREquel the writers should stick to the original story…you had to be bitten, not just simply die. Which makes me wonder if the writers of Fear The Walking Dead have ever even SEEN The Walking Dead, let alone are fans of it, as this seems to be a key bit of information. Color my unimpressed. The writers bitched this one big time.

    • Chippy Chin says:

      Nate is correct: everyone already has the disease. You don’t have to be bitten, you just have to die to return a “walker”. I thought this was an obvious known fact in TWD, but apparently some folks didn’t catch on. Color me unimpressed.

    • Nate says:

      1. The suspenseful secret the scientist from the CDC tells Rick is that everyone is infected, once you die you turn. Hence, Shane turning when Rick kills him or when a majority of the prison turns because of a lethal flu.
      2. The writer of the show is the one who wrote the original comics and helped write original show. So yes he has seen the origional show.

      • eric says:

        How did the first people turn? They couldn’t have been bitten. I think that in WD, that was a plot hole. If you had to be bitten by a walker, then how did the disease start in the first place?

    • They are sticking to the premise. The biting has nothing to do with turning other than it kills you. Any death can result in someone turning. Hard to believe you missed tha.

    • Kit says:

      People become Walkers/Zombies when they die, even every day deaths. We learned this when Rick killed Shane early on. So, they are staying true to the TV show (I can’t say whether they are staying true to the comics in that regard because I haven’t read them).

      On a separate note, the first episode of Fear the Walking Dead was soooo boring. Especially if you watch it on the AMC TV website. There were more commercials than show which made it super hard to get into on top of it already dragging along. I hope it picks up!

    • jack2damax says:

      Have you even seen the walking dead? Once your infected you turn just by being killed, that’s what the scientist told rick at the cdcin the first season, you obviously don’t watch the show dumbass

  30. Nick Green says:

    I was hooked on the Walking Dead from the first few minutes. Got a little tedious in the second series but otherwise it has been non-stop gripping entertainment.

    I couldn’t watch this in one sitting. I kept getting bored and distracted and walking away to do other things. Was the boy having visions? Why? Do I care? Not enough to pay attention or watch it again.

    Yet at least. I’ll watch a few more episodes in case it improves but so far I’m underwhelmed.

  31. Pat MacGuire says:

    It may have broken records for viewership, but will they be back next week? It’s maybe a blessing that Sunday has such piss-poor television offerings. This show was longer than misery and the pathetic, rather hateful junkie protagonist is dull and not in the least sympathetic. The only thing that intrigued me about the show was the question of where they found so many elderly teens.

  32. Bob says:

    Watching paint dry is more interesting than this snooze fest.

  33. Walking Dead says:

    I agree, it was a yawn fest. They spent way too much time on the family and in the hospital. Get on with it already.
    \

  34. Lisa Bernhardt says:

    I watched, however my heart lies with The Walking Dead. Definately , was hard to stay interested in this first episode of Fear of the Walking Dead. I did think the young drug addict did a great job with his acting abilities . The rest of the show was very slow.

  35. Peggy says:

    TWD is my all-time favorite show; I seriously schedule stuff around it so I am home and interruption free when it comes on. I even watch it the second and third time to see if I missed anything. Needless to say I was very excited about FEAR and have been anticipating its premier for weeks. I was sooooo disappointed. The acting was not good, the characters were horrible (no one I would root for), and the storyline was slow and tedious. I forced myself to try and watch it the second time because my attention kept drifting away and I thought maybe I missed the interesting part. I will give it some time to try and get me hooked, but from what I saw, not a fan.

  36. Carina says:

    I liked it! I cannot wait for the next episode. They touched on a concept that The Walking Dead fail to do, the beginning of everything, how did the zombies came to be, and why. Maybe the TV series has some answers. I love the walking dead, but I always hated te fact that Boone knows the reason why there are zombies. Keep up the good work. Well people complaint that it is too slow, well it was just the first episode, they are trying to give it a back story, give is a little information about how things happend. I am sure it will get better and better. Keep up the good work. Good actors!

  37. Len Turkel says:

    One Word: Yawn. You can tell a show is a hit when you emotionally engage with the characters and can’t wait until the next episode. Wasn’t bad – but nothing to make me want to watch next week.The plot and characters were lackluster – and the script could be much tighter. I’ll wait for the real TWD in October, and bypass this one.

  38. Lynn says:

    Very disappointed doesn’t even come close to The Walking Dead terrible acting wasted my time watching it

    • The mom (especially) is acting like she’s on Xanax. When the principal attacks her-then the kid-she just stands there. I’d be freaking out! It’s like everyone is phoning in their parts. And why doesn’t anybody say anything to each other? I know they’re trying to build the suspense, but come on. Don’t we have to like SOME of the characters? They’re all so weirdly emotionless. I want to love this, but so far…not so much!

  39. Mike Discolo says:

    Fear, “fear the walking dead”. The zombie apocalypse as imagined by Robert Altman . Placing “fwd” in Los Angeles is the ultimate in redundancy ! The humsns in the premier are more dysfunctional than the zombies .

  40. Mike Discolo says:

    Fear, “fear the walking dead”. The zombie apocalypse as imagined by Robert Altman .

  41. Cindy says:

    Couldn’t keep my interest so I switched to The Strain. I’ll give it a 2nd chance next week but if it doesn’t get better i’ll wait for my fave (TWD) to return in October.

  42. Melanie Oma says:

    If I hadn’t been de-sensitized by our heroes in TWD slicing, dicing, and shooting their way through herds of zombies throughout the seasons, my expectations for this pilot would have been different and I might have appreciated it more. TWD is all fantasy, in an imaginary universe where Rick woke from a coma and our world was gone. With “FearTWD,” I thought there were brilliant plot points, most notably how the public-at-large gets their first look at a zombie via a video that has gone viral. While it may have seemed slow placed, it was unnerving and suspenseful to me in that it puts the forthcoming zombie apocalypse into our reality.

  43. Angela Haag says:

    Worst ever premier of a series. What were they thinking with 90 minutes of boring? I understand introducing characters and planting the back story, but really???It was terrible.

  44. Dee says:

    Watched last night. I was so looking forward to it — totally excited. HOWEVER, I dozed off during most of it. I tried to re-watch it, but couldn’t. I tried to attached myself to a character, but couldn’t connect. Will give it another chance. Those teenagers are hard to take. Other than that, I’ll wait until Mother comes back in October–TWD!!!!!!!

  45. Jim Jacks says:

    all characters are completely unlikable nice way to start a show.

    • I totally agree with that. The husband is closest to being likeable but the mother needs to get bitten. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

      • Scoot2008 says:

        It was unexciting at a time when you would think that suspense wouldn’t be hard to come by. I mean it is a zombie apocalypse, right? That is perhaps forgivable for a first episode but the main characters are overly dramatic cliches and don’t seem to behave like real people. I agree that the husband is semi-likable but the decision to wonder though a drug den to check out a potential murder? No one does that kind thing and if they did you would call the police at some point. And saying it is to put the character in tense situations is a cop out. Again, it is a zombie apocalypse, you shouldn’t have to go looking for tense situations. Tense situations should spring up whether you want/need them to or not. I love TWD but had low expectations for Fear and my expectations were met.

  46. Worldwide says:

    I can’t wait for this to air. I really miss not seeing the “before” picture. It’s the one area I wish TWD had done more of to begin with. Now they are always just running from zombies and bad people, over and over again. So I think this will be a great show.

  47. RS says:

    I still plan to watch this and make up my own mind. If I had listened to past critics, I never would have watched a lot of TV shows or movies, that were great, but critics complained about them.

  48. Brian Clark says:

    I think that the show should be given a chance. Many great shows start out very bland and dry their first season but after the characters are built up and the story progression is envisioned – what starts as mediocre can quickly turn into a masterpiece. There are really no shows that quite compare to The Walking Dead, although attempt were made using different ideals. As long as the show does not turn out trying to compete with , instead compliment The Walking Dead – it will be nice to see a companion show out there.

  49. Given up says:

    After seeing the promos for this at SDCC, I decided that half the needs to be eliminated permanetntly, ASAP. They over-act to the point of being annoying, graduates of Ham U. Was looking forward to it but not now. Will wait for October.

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