Disclaimer: Daniel Smith is sort of a writer. By that we mean he writes stuff for us. However, he never proof reads, sometimes does run-on sentences and basically does everything that would make a high school English teacher wake up in the middle of the night screaming. He also sometimes tells us, “Hey guys, this new thing came out, so I wrote about it,” and we are stuck with it because no one else is writing for us. We can only pay in him half-eaten Pringles cans, but he keeps doing this. And no… we do not know what is happening to all of the Pringles cans.
Most The Walking Dead fans have seen something like this before. A guy wakes up a little paranoid in a dark room. They stumble around in a dilapidated building that has not seen any maintenance in years. They look for their companion (in this case it was a chick that he probably slept with – they didn’t say it, but he woke up with his pants unbuttoned and she was in her underwear). They find their companion… eating someone’s face off. They run, tripping over stuff, squeezing through a fence not looking back. But this is where it all changes. In the past, we would have expected them to dodge walkers or maybe jump into a car with another group of survivors to race off to safety. But this time, this time he gets hit by a car. He is surrounded by people. They call an ambulance and the camera pans back to show a skyline, people, and cars. Civilization has not fallen yet.
The gentleman running from the walker? That would be Nick, a drugged up guy with a family more dysfunctional than your Uncle Jeddah’s family. (But cut Uncle Jed some slack, he is working really hard with his second mail order bride and we are sure this one won’t end with another monkey-bar accident.) His mother, Madison, is a high school counselor worrying about a leaky faucet, kids bringing knives to school, and the location of her druggie son. Her significant other, Travis, is a teacher at the same school (because working with the person you are sleeping with is ALWAYS a good idea). He is worried about the same leaky faucet and how to integrate his son into this new family he is building. Nick’s sister, Alicia (the actresses real name is Alycia, btw), is a brilliant student concerned about how she will make it with her boyfriend when she goes off to college and he is stuck in their hometown. If you have not picked up on the theme yet, these are what most of us would call “First World Problems.” No one is worried about where their next meal is coming from or if their life will be in danger whenever they open a door.
This opening episode is loaded with symbolism and foreshadowing. The cool thing is that we, the audience, know that the world is going to fall to pieces soon. I kept seeing so many things that people take for granted, things that no one will care about in the near future. Nick taking the time to put on his clothes before making his escape. He probably won’t think twice about having his shirt on when he is being chased by a horde. Madison complaining that the shoes Travis brought her (he tries so hard) do not match the clothes he brought. Nick probably wanting drugs. (OK, that one might still be a thing when the shit hits the fan. If there is one thing that I have taken from The Walking Dead, it’s that people still do dumb stuff even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. Bob drank. Nick will probably shoot up.) Nick even has the “good fortune” of finding a cigarette on the street after leaving the hospital. You don’t just find things out in the open in the post-apocalyptic world. Once again, the camera pans back and shows us civilization, but this time at sunset. Maybe this is signifying the sun setting on civilization as we know it. Travis even does a lesson on Jack London and the importance of needing to be able to make a fire, only to be rebuked by a student who says he does not need to make a fire because he has a stove for heat. Travis closes his lesson by stating that nature always wins, ignorant of the fact that he is about to be fighting for his life against nature. Alicia is in a class where you can hear a teacher lecturing on nonlinear occurrences that you cannot control. (I’m going to let this slide and not go off on a tangent about how they want us to think Chaos Theory is being taught in high school.) Maybe I am looking too far into this. Maybe I’m trying to do some next level A.P. English-style analyzing of the story. The point is, none of these characters are remotely prepared for what is coming.
Right off the bat, I feel like none of the supporting characters are safe. I’m convinced that we will see a few characters built up as important to the main story. And then, just when you think they are safe, a sudden death. I call these characters a Raditz. In Dragon Ball Z, Raditz shows up announcing that he is the brother of Goku (Goku is the… no, I’m not explain DBZ here – you’re on the internet right now – use it) and you get the feeling in the very first episode that he will be an important character since he just smacked around the main characters. Nope, he dies quick. In Fear the Walking Dead, I feel like Alicia’s boyfriend Matt might be a full-blown Raditz. They have several touching moments. They cuddle up by the stadium lights. The writers go so far as to show her texting him after he stood her up at the beach. The text says, “You better be dead.” Is it bad that I laughed at that? I don’t think we are going to see Matt again this season. I think he will wind up dead or they will find him in a survivor camp in the future. Cal is another example of a Raditz. We are made to think he is a nice guy until he turns out to be Nick’s dealer. He has the makings of a complex character. But then he is killed in a struggle for a gun. So far, we have two confirmed walkers in Gloria (likely an overdose) and Cal (gunshot wound), neither bit first, and I would hope that people are smart enough to figure out that this just happens when you die now.
Fear the Walking Dead is going to slake our thirst for information on how the outbreak started. It might not tell us what caused it, but it’s going to show us what society looked like as the world went to hell. We know that the writers are talented and things are not just thrown randomly at us. Maybe the knife Madison took from Tobias (I bet he winds up getting eaten right in front of Madison) will end up saving her life at some point. Maybe Travis’ ability to fix a faucet will play some role down the road. Alicia’s Spanish acumen could come in handy. I’m excited to see where this goes and to see if Travis goes through a Rick-like change, realizing that he just can’t take chances with his family. All we do know is that Travis and Madison know that Nick isn’t crazy, and now Nick can stop doubting his sanity. They know something is wrong and they are afraid. People do crazy things when they are afraid. We might see that a frightened population is more of a threat than walkers.
Also, in all likelihood, they will end this six-episode first season with a cliffhanger and make us sit there waiting for resolution for a good eight months. Those eight months will involve thousands of theories. Fans will try and find connections between Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead. The internet will be a fun/frustrating place until season two starts. Personally, I am trying to keep all of this in perspective and remember that this is not The Walking Dead. This is a different show. The walkers are fresh. (Cal still looked human until Travis got really close), the characters are new, and the potential is great. I recommend watching this show to enjoy it as opposed to watching it to find reasons to complain on the internet that it isn’t the same as The Walking Dead.