Fear The Walking Dead Season 1 Episode 1: Pilot Review

fear the walking dead cast photo

After five seasons of The Walking Dead, the survivors have journeyed from Atlanta to Washington DC, struggling to keep and regain their humanity in the zombie apocalypse. AMC’s new companion series Fear the Walking Dead starts off at the beginning of the outbreak, centering on a blended family in Los Angeles.

One of the biggest challenges in creating a companion series is developing its own identity and purpose, but still have a general feel and tone that fits with the original show. As a prequel, Fear can paint a bigger picture of how civilization collapsed which was not depicted on The Walking Dead.  By placing the story at the initial stages of the outbreak, the focus at this point is not on the horrors of survival but on a family trying to stay together as the world falls apart.

If you’re on the fence whether to watch Fear the Walking Dead, continue reading for a spoiler free reaction to the premiere episode.

The series stars Kim Dickens (Gone Girl, Deadwood) as Madison Clark, a high school guidance counselor.  She’s a single mother to a high achieving teen daughter Alicia and a college drop-out, drug addict son Nick. Madison’s fiancee is Travis who works at the same high school as an English teacher. Travis has a son of his own from a previous marriage. The pilot episode spends it’s time fleshing out the main characters and their relationships in a believable way.

At first glance, the family members don’t seem to possess any special attributes or skills that would help them survive a zombie apocalypse. It’s nice that none of them happen to be doctors, cops or ex-military. They each come across as everyday people who could exist in present day L.A.  As the story unfolds, Madison is conflicted on how to deal with Nick’s drug problem which may give insight on how she’ll handle more challenging moral dilemmas down the road.

As the cause of his family’s turmoil, Nick is a tricky character to pull off. He’s not written as someone who we instantly connect with but it helps that there are scenes which show the more likable family members caring for him. If viewers find Nick polarizing it’s likely not because of the performance. Actor Frank Dillane does a great job at portraying the mannerisms of a junkie and conveying the fear he could be going insane after what he’s witnessed. 

While the slow burn of the pilot is especially noticeable in an hour and a half run time, the pacing is working well enough so far. Hopefully taking the time to develop the characters will pay off down the line. There’s a gradual build to the suspense which is heightened by the tense, atmospheric music. Fear’s pilot episode doesn’t attempt to top The Walking Dead in terms of gore and violence. In fact, there’s not much that’ll shock or gross out seasoned viewers. However, setting the series in greater L.A. could potentially set the stage for a disaster that’ll eclipse the original series in terms of size and scope.

Even though Fear can be viewed without having any knowledge of The Walking Dead, it’ll primarily appeal to fans of the original series.  So while Fear isn’t a must watch television series, on first impressions, it’s well acted, has two solid, relatable adult characters and is confidently written. 

Are you convinced whether or not this is a series worth watching? If you have already watched the pilot did you like it or are you disappointed?

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Posted on August 24, 2015, in Fear The Walking Dead, Television and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. I found myself very disappointed with the episode, the pilot should make an impact, but i will try the rest of season as it looks like it will only be 6 episodes, if it was any longer i would just wait for the show and Ash to come on

    • Yeah, there wasn’t an exciting pay off in this episode and I heard the next episode is also a slow one, focusing again on the family stuff. I liked it myself but can understand why you are disappointed.

  2. I think as a pilot it did little more than set up the characters. I felt like I was watching a drama rather than a zombie apocalypse show. However, I keep seeing some very tense scenes in the ads for future episodes so I will keep watching. I just hope all the action doesn’t happen in the final episode. I’m hoping after the set-up of this first epi the action will really explodes now.

    • I heard one of the executive producers downplay the pilot as a family drama, meaning there wouldn’t be a lot of zombie mayhem. This probably won’t be a World War Z scenario where everything goes crazy at once, but I’m also hoping they’ll be more tense scenes and some action before the final ep.

  3. The first episode was a bit boring, but I’ll stick with it because I love TWD!

  4. Great review. Not sure when it’s coming to the screens in the UK (or on what channel) but I may wait to see what further episode reviews are like before deciding to watch this series.

    • That sounds like a good idea to wait for more episode reviews before deciding to watch it or not. If you do decide to, you may want to check out AMC website, it’s streaming the full pilot episode, available I think for the next few months. Thanks Lauren!

  5. was sooo disappointed here! Im a huge fan of TWD and this was too slow burning. Hope it gets better

  6. The pilot’s a mixed bag. I like the approach FtWD is taking by focusing on the initial pockets of outbreak, and how in a universe where the zombie genre doesn’t exist, the companion series will attempt to pit the humans against something as unprecendented as face muchers.

    • I like watching for little clues and hints about the initial pockets of outbreak, although I don’t think this series will give direct answers on the origin. I’m okay with leaving some things a mystery. These humans will have to learn the rules very fast and know how to stay alive. Seems like this first episode is about getting the characters to the point where they know these undead face munchers are for real.

  7. I’m with the majority and thought the pilot was a bit slow. However, I do understand the need to develop the characters. The outbreak is just starting and, unlike TWD where we got thrown into the action and peoples lives right away, Fear will have to be a bit slower. I found the daughter less relatable than the son. I didn’t get how she seemed so unhappy with her family but was around them all the time. I do like Travis and the actor who played him, so agree about the solid adult leads.
    It’s a show worth checking out because of the “what happened before” premise. Though I’m not sure if everyone will give it a chance given the complaints during TWD slow episodes and Fear beginning slow as well. It’s only six episodes which makes it worth the investment to at least check it out.

    • That’s a good point that since the outbreak is just starting, there aren’t many zombies right now. So it makes sense there isn’t much action just yet. The alive outnumber the undead but that will change. I think one thing that helped the original series pilot is that everything was strange, creepy and new, we saw it all from Rick’s respective. Fear’s pilot didn’t have that surprise factor of what the heck is going on and it’s a little harder to invest in these characters off the bat. I do like Travis and the actor, he’s the family’s reliable foundation and we’ll get to see his other family next ep. The daughter had the least development and the least interesting, but I like the actress and hope there is potential there. There’s mixed reaction and this pilot was nowhere as good as the original series’. But like you said, there’s only six episodes to watch. I’m liking it enough and I’m going to stick with it.

  8. I liked it, there are some unbelievable elements in it with how the parents reacted to Nicks friend near the end but that side it was a solid start, I wasn’t expecting everything to fall apart in the first episode so there is time to build towards the eventual collapse.

    I’m curious to see how things will pan out when the two families in the show meet up and I guess try and survive together, might feel a bit more like TWD season 1 then depending on how far gone society is.

    • Nice to hear you liked it. Overall I liked it too. I found the ending to be a bit anticlimatic or left me wanting more (which is not a bad thing). But I wasn’t expecting for the whole city to fall apart quickly in the first episode. The show can build that up over this short season.

      I really hope that I can invest in the second family, Travis’ son already looks like trouble from that one scene. It’ll be interesting to see how these families will survive and what their plan is when the outbreaks spreads.

  9. I got really bored with The Walking Dead and I never got past season 3. Not sure if I am keen for this one. I think I have zombie fatigue.

  10. Sounds pretty solid. Like with TWD, I’m going to try to watch Fear TWD with my brother and we have not got the chance to watch it yet. I’ve really enjoyed TWD these past couple seasons, so I hope this can be a solid companion to that. Also like that girl from The 100, so her inclusion doesn’t hurt! Great review.

    • I think if you go into Fear TWD knowing it’s going to be slow and focused on family drama, it’ll help with the expectations. Hope you and brother like it enough to stick with it. It’s only six episodes that’ll tie us over until TWD starts up again. I heard the actress will return to The 100 next season and also do this show, so you’ll be seeing a lot of her. 🙂 Thanks!

  11. The first two acts where abysmally slow but it did get my interest at the end. Guess you can’t have a zombie TV show without the zombies 😀

  12. Oh yeah, it was really slow at the same time I liked taking the time to get to know these characters before all hell breaks loose. Haha, gotta have them zombie kills for us to talk about. 😉

  13. Since I didn’t watch the original series, I probably won’t get much out of this one. But I like the casting of Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens though.

    • Yeah, I don’t think this series will be of much interest to anyone who hasn’t been following the original. The ratings seem to be doing very well so far. I really like the casting of Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis too, hope they get good material to work with. Thanks as always for commenting and stopping by!

  14. I don’t watch either show, but this one appears to have been somewhat mixed. Excellent review.

  15. Hey dude! Cracking review yo, I believe that you’ve highlighted a few things that I hadn’t considered like Madison’s attitude towards her son and how that would affect her decisions later on or the fact that these main characters aren’t specialists in any main department. It has taken me a while to watch this episode because I had to wait for my mum and sister. All in all it was an interesting watch, but the show was incredbly slow-paced and for me took a while to get to a point of intrigue and having me fully engaged. As for the characters I didn’t like anyone besides Nick and Travis as they seemed like the only characters who had a bit of logic and personality traits that I liked (if that makes sense). I’m curious to see how things play out, however if teh family are the only key characters we’ll be stuck with for the first few episodes or the entire season, they this’ll be a hard watch for me.

    • Hello there! Thanks man, I sometimes try not to say the obvious in the recaps but I guess I shouldn’t miss the point either haha. I remember thinking “this is really slow” while watching it and kept waiting for the hook to get me really intrigued. I think one issue is that as viewers of TWD, we already know a lot of things that these characters are beginning to figure out. Sometimes it can be frustrating when a character does something we know they shouldn’t do. Very cool that you liked Nick. I was worried about him at first but then got over it. You know the actor is the son of Stannis Baratheon right? Travis is cool too, I think my favorite. We meet Travis’ other family next episode, but I think these families will be the focus (at least for the first season/6 episodes). Appreciate you stopping by and discussing as always! 😀

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