Fear the Walking Dead: "Pilot" (Season 1, Episode 1)


Wow. What a total misfire.

I tuned in for the premiere a few minutes early and caught the end of "The Talking Dead." Chris Hardwick went on and on about how exciting it was that the audience would know what's going on in the nascent zombie apocalypse but the characters wouldn't. [Face palm] Yeah, we just watched 90 minutes of characters not knowing what their show is about. A necessary corollary is that not much of anything could happen because otherwise they might know something, zombie apocalypses tending to be rather self evident, as they are wont to do. Why that makes for less than riveting television shouldn't require explanation.

I understand the desire to do something different. I think showing the zombie apocalypse develop could be very interesting. I just wouldn't start with a bunch of character drama that's low rent even for Lifetime. Hell, for the first hour you'd have thought you were watching a bad episode of "The Cleaner." [For those not getting the joke, that was a show on A&E about a former addict trying to help others dry out; the few episodes I saw were better than this.]

The opening sequence is a rip off of other zombie movies. It still beats anything that follows. Young addict Nick wakes up in an abandoned church. He calls out for his friend Gloria. He wanders through the church until he finds someone with their throat torn out. More wandering ensues until he stumbles across Gloria eating some guy. Nick races out of the church and down the street until he gets hit by a car. Surprisingly, it's the episode, not Nick, that goes into a coma.

There's no plot here. I'll just list the tedium.

1. Madison, Nick's mom, her boyfriend Travis and her daughter Alicia show up at the hospital. Everyone talks.

2. Travis has an argument on the phone with his son, Chris, who doesn't want to come over for dad's scheduled weekend. We won't see Chris again the entire episode.

3. Madison counsels some kid at high school who's worried about reports of a viral outbreak in five states. She blows him off. Makes sense to me. Everyone surely recalls the quiet, dignified stoicism with which America greeted our Ebola non-epidemic last year.

4. Travis talks to Nick. Nick describes what we already saw in the opening. This being an awful episode, he takes a little longer to describe it than it took us to watch it in the first place.

5. Alicia talks to her high school boyfriend.

6. Travis goes to the abandoned church where junkies congregate to shoot up in order to check Nick's story. [Face palm]. He goes alone. [Double face palm] He goes at night. [Triple face palm.] He wanders around a lot before finding some blood.

7. Alicia and her boyfriend talk some more. A lot more. [Checking my watch] A whole lot more.

8. Travis lectures his high school class about Jack London, who certainly knew how to tell a story better than this.

9. Nick escapes from the hospital. He wanders around.

10. Madison and Travis go to the abandoned church alone. They wander around. Madison is surprised to see that the abandoned junkie hangout church is kind of filthy.

11. Nick wanders around.

12. Madison and Travis go to see some guy named Calvin to ask if he knows where Nick is. He doesn't.

13. Nick wanders around.  

14. Madison and Travis are caught in a traffic jam. Police start arriving. There's a whiff of panic in the air. Shots are fired. Is this episode threatening to become a little less boring? Nah. Travis just leaves through an opening that was apparently always there in this horrific traffic jam. In LA. [This isn't a horror show--it's urban fantasy.]

15. The high school lets out early the next day because maybe something is happening. Not that they'd tell anyone what.

16. It's unclear, but Alicia's boyfriend may have stood her up. Thank God for small favors.

17. Nick meets Calvin, who it turns out was his drug supplier. Nick wants to know what was in the stuff Calvin gave him. Calvin thinks Nick is a liability. He drives Nick down into a storm drain to kill him. The pathetic, emaciated Nick overpowers Calvin and shoots him. Hooray! Something happened. It's followed by Nick whimpering. He wanders a little more, too. Cuz' heaven knows if there's anything this episode could use, it's a little more wandering around.    

18. Madison and Travis arrive at the storm drain to meet Nick. They run into the revived Calvin. Nick hits him with their car. He gets up. Nick rams Zombie Calvin again, this time hurling his body out into the storm drain. Zombie Calvin still twitches. Madison says "What the hell is happening?"

That, my friends, is the end of the episode. At this point, viewers are begging for the opportunity to tell Madison what is happening. Anything to get this show jump started.

The zombie apocalypse has to happen. Right? That's the whole point of the show. Surely when it does, the pace will pick up.