If You've Seen the Teasers for Fear the Walking Dead, You've Seen the Entire Pilot

Monday, 24 August 2015 - 10:28AM
Zombies
Fear the Walking Dead
Reviews
Monday, 24 August 2015 - 10:28AM
If You've Seen the Teasers for Fear the Walking Dead, You've Seen the Entire Pilot
When there's a ton of buzz and hype surrounding a show, and a copious amount of footage released, sometimes it feels as though you've seen the whole pilot before the episode even airs. And usually shows preview their most interesting footage before the episode airs, in order to get the viewers to tune in. But in the case of Fear the Walking Dead, the trailers gave away every single potentially interesting moment. Here's what you missed on last night's Fear the Walking Dead pilot, which, if you've seen the teasers, is essentially nothing.

Little hints at the encroaching apocalypse










My favorite teasers from Fear the Walking Dead seemed to preview a slow-burning show, but one that included little hints at the oncoming apocalypse to ratchet up the tension. The teasers showed every single one of those hints: a glimpse of a mysterious person who might be infected, the throwaway line about kids being out sick with "the flu," and a panicked boy who spends a lot of time on the internet. I like a slow burn, but if there isn't going to be traditional action, there needs to be more atmospheric tension than this.

There's also a brief scene (also in the trailers) in which a video showing the police emptying rounds in a walker, who continues to come after them. Alycia and her friends just say, "This can't be real," and it's somewhat effective, but again, we needed more scenes like this to establish a sense of dead.

Walkers






And then when there is action, it's both too much and not enough. It's too much because the idea of a mass epidemic is frightening enough in itself; showing a full-blown walker within the first three minutes of the show kind of defeats the purpose of making a prequel. As it stands, this isn't a show that plays on our paranoia about contagious illnesses, but The Walking Dead with far fewer walkers, which is boring. 

It doesn't help that the actual scenes with walkers are anti-climactic (and all but given away in the above teasers). The first zombie encounter is fairly eerie, and is filmed in an interesting way that does build suspense. But the second encounter (which comes a full hour and a half later) didn't even feel like it had stakes. Aside from a brief moment in which the dead drug dealer nearly bit Kim Dickens's Madison, there was no real sense of danger. And then after spending the entire episode telling Nick he was hallucinating and refusing to believe there's a zombie apocalypse looming, Travis and Madison barely even seem surprised. They just saw a man continue to survive after getting shot and run over twice, even after his entire jaw goes missing, and they can only manage a tepid "What the hell is happening?" 

One-dimensional characters and ridiculously on-the-nose school lessons




So what happens in the hour and a half in between walker attacks? Basically exactly what you see in the first minute or so of the above trailer: Family dysfunction! Resentful teenagers! Blended, modern family hijinks! Usually, I would applaud an attempt to get the audience attached to the characters who may or may not be brutally killed in future episodes, but unfortunately, none of these characters are much more than stereotypes. Alicia is the smart, driven golden child, Nick is the screw-up drug addict, Madison is the enabling parent, and Travis- doesn't have much of a personality, actually. He's supportive of Madison and wants to be close to his son, but those are really the only character traits we get out of him. And with dialogue that (painfully, at times) explicitly establishes the dynamics between the characters, the exposition really could have been done in about fifteen minutes without the viewer losing anything. 

And speaking of none-too-subtle dialogue, Fear the Walking Dead employs a trope that I always loved in my teen soaps: ensuring that the school lessons exactly relate to the plot of the episode. First, Travis discusses Jack London (of course) with his English class, insisting that "NATURE ALWAYS WINS." And in case you still didn't get it, the math teacher in the next scene is talking about CHAOS THEORY. Get it now?

To be fair, the writers could be playing a longer game with these themes, as showrunner Dave Erickson told THR:

Opening quote
Some of the things that Travis articulates in that scene for me, thematically, I like to let those things play out over course of the show. The "nature always wins" argument, which is not the most original sentiment or thought, is interesting to try and think about the wolf dog in relation to the man in that story. My question is: Who of our characters is the wolf dog? Who is it that will become one with the new world and one with the apocalypse and one with nature and be able to survive?
Closing quote


If he understands that the show needs to engage with these themes in a more original way in order to make any sort of impression, then that's encouraging. But overall, the show either needs to pick up the pace, or render its characters at least modestly interesting. Or, just kill them all off and write more interesting ones. That would work, too.
Science Fiction
Sci-Fi TV Shows
Zombies
Fear the Walking Dead
Reviews