Fear The Walking Dead Series Premiere: It is actually pretty good (Review)

Posted on August 23, 2015


It’s not just a cash-in, It’s actually pretty good!

by John DA, editing by Adam MS

The new zombie drama is finally here, and after the premiere tonight, the reactions are pretty bold to call this show a hit. And AMC has previously screened the first two episodes for the critics across the country. and the surprising verdict is that Fear the Walking Dead is actually pretty good.

The more-intimate companion series has been met with a mostly positive reception, with comment on how it successfully sets itself apart from the blockbuster original:

To say that I had reservations when AMC announced that it was developing a spin-off series for ratings juggernaut The Walking Dead is an understatement of zombie horde proportions.

Here’s what surprised me: The series is really quite engaging. The strength comes down to the performances and its ability to be self-referential without devolving into self-parody.

As fans will recall, this is a world where the term zombie has never existed. So when they begin to rise, and the living to fall, the characters are left bereft of direction and without context for the phenomena. This is where the bulk of the – surprisingly effective – tension is derived from.

The first episodes of The Walking Dead were shot on 16mm and had a grainy, deliberately low-budget look, like a ’70s slasher. Fear the Walking Dead is glossier, with a smooth, digital look that plays up the sun-soaked streets and gilded Los Angeles skyline.

Reimagining the aesthetic does much to give Fear the Walking Dead an identity all its own – a good way to persuade a hard-to-please audience to take this thing on its own terms. Consider any concerns of cash-ins or pointless repetition dispelled. This is a totally new experience for fans of The Walking Dead.

Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia and Frank Dillane as Nick in Fear the Walking Dead The Hollywood Reporter
It’s not quite a prequel, of course, but it gives fans a look at the very first outbreak moments when the world began to slowly realise something awful was happening. There’s rich dramatic material to be mined in that scenario, and Fear should get to it sometime within these first six episodes.

The real trick in Fear will be keeping the full weight and extent of the zombie insurrection at bay for some time and focusing on the early days of the outbreak in a way that makes it different but also equally original and entertaining.

For the most part, Fear the Walking Dead aims to pick up something the mothership lost along the way, specifically an existential horror behind all the gore.

The question lingers as to how AMC’s “companion series” can chart new narrative territory after its first season, but if Fear leaves the expendable hordes to The Walking Dead, and concentrates on the psychology of its namesake, we may yet have a worthy companion after all.

Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia, Frank Dillane as Nick, Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza, Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris, Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar, Patricia Reyes Spíndola as Griselda Salazar and Mercedes Mason as Ofelia in Fear the Walking Dead Variety
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.

Fear the Walking Dead is very much not The Walking Dead. The new show, which premieres on August 23 on AMC, is its own creature, trembling with anxiety and dread. If The Walking Dead is a horror story, Fear the Walking Dead is a mood piece, more artful than the original series.

The first two episodes are beautifully directed with serene tension – quietness and confusion are the elements that help create the fear in the show’s title.

Fear The Walking Dead returns Sunday on AMC, and will premiere August 31 on AMC UK.

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