Tonight was the highly anticipated premiere of Fear the Walking Dead on AMC. The episode grew more and more suspenseful as the show progressed, drawing in the audience with every passing minute. The audience knows what is inevitably waiting for the protagonists, and that knowledge builds the tension. We know from The Walking Dead that no one — not even our favorite characters — are safe. At any moment, anyone could be gone. And the protagonists have no idea what’s waiting for them around the corner.
This is the recap of Fear The Walking Dead’s pilot episode. The recap is filled with spoilers from the pilot episode.
In The Beginning
The episode starts off with Nick waking up in a dilapidated church, calling out for Gloria. He finds her, only to discover she’s a zombie — but he has no idea what this means. To him, she’s just turned into some kind of monster who is eating people. He takes off running and is hit by a car: an unexpected moment that’s just as shocking than the zombie. That’s when the camera pans out and we realize he’s in the middle of a busy city.
This isn’t going to be good.
The next scene opens to a regular, busy family morning. Alicia’s late for school. We see that her mom, Madison, and Madison’s boyfriend, Travis, are very much in love. That’s when they get a call about Nick, Madison’s son, being in the hospital. Nick’s being questioned by the police. When they get there, Nick is claiming that nothing happened and he just had a “runner’s high.”
We’re then introduced to Travis’s family, with the help of a phone call from his ex, Eliza. Travis talks with his son, Chris, who really doesn’t want to come and stay with him for the weekend. Travis relents.
These first few scenes essentially set up that we are dealing with a very dysfunctional family with A LOT of drama. Alicia is a typical “I hate the world” teen and Nick is on and off drug (mostly on.) Madison is a guidance counselor who isn’t doing such a great job counseling her own kids. Chris has issues of his own, but we aren’t introduced to those much in this episode.
The Trouble Is Starting
Next we’re introduced to Tobias, a troubled student. He’s carrying a knife to school because he already knows something terrible is coming. He says “we’re safer in numbers” and that no one is going to college. He’s been listening to reports about a virus in five states that’s spreading and causing people to kill others. Madison doesn’t believe him: the authorities would tell them if something was wrong, she insists. Oh, how naive of her. As one Twitter user said:
One big takeaway from the conversation with Tobias is that we’re not going to see patient zero in this series. The virus has already started, and we’re not sure where. With five states already affected, tracking down the root cause might not be happening for us.
Next we have a brief scene where we meet Alicia’s boyfriend, Matt. He seems like a pretty nice guy and the two seem to have a pretty NOT dysfunctional relationship, unlike the rest of the family. This probably means they’re doomed, according to the terms of the world of The Walking Dead.
We return to Nick, who’s still in the hospital and under Travis’s watchful care, because Travis gets a lot of time off work. Nick reluctantly tells Travis what he saw… Gloria was eating the other people at the church. But Nick is both terrified that it could be real, and just as terrified that he imagined it from some really bad drugs. So what happened? How did Gloria turn into a zombie and not Nick? Was it in the drugs?
Getting to the Heart of the Matter
Travis has to know what’s happening, so he visits the church that night. Of course, if you think that something crazy happened at a place where drug addicts hang out, and one of them might be eating people, you go at night… Armed with only a flashlight… Travis trips and finds blood and body parts on the floor, getting it all over his hands. I briefly wonder if he’s infected, but luckily he doesn’t have a scratch or anything on his hands.
We have a few more scenes that provide some background on the characters. Alicia has been accepted into Berkeley and Nick was expelled from community college. Alicia, meanwhile, can’t wait to graduate and get the heck out of this crazy town. Poor Alicia.
In the next scene, we get a good dose of foreshadowing when we find out that Travis is teaching about man vs. nature. “Nature always wins,” he says in a way that’s foreboding in pretty much any Hollywood production, whether it’s Jurassic Park or The Walking Dead.
Next, we’re back at the hospital and Nick hears his hospital roommate breathing weird. It’s very tempting to think he’s a zombie, but we’ve already been teased by Artie and a guy in the church at night. Not going to fall for it again! The roommate codes though, giving Nick a chance to escape in his roommate’s oversized clothes.
The Zombies Are Coming
Madison wants Travis to take her to the church. They drive past signs of people missing and a homeless person walking menacingly in a park. Their visit to the church is pretty much a non-event, and they leave with nothing crazy or zombie-ish happening. Next they stop by Nick’s old friend Calvin’s place. Calvin seems like a decent guy, and he mentions that he never sees Nick because they don’t hang out anymore… you know … since Nick got into drugs and all. Calvin’s not like that.
Nick’s wandering the streets of LA, pretending to be homeless, and Alicia is stood up by her boyfriend on the beach. She texts him: “You’d better be dead!” That’s when we get the feeling that things are probably not going to end well for Matt.
Once night falls, Madison and Travis get stopped in a traffic jam. Police cars and ambulances pass them with sirens blaring. Helicopters are everywhere. This isn’t going to be good. Travis wisely decides to leave rather than waiting to find out what’s about to happen. That Waze app would’ve come in helpful in this situation, but Fear The Walking Dead takes place six years in the past. That’s also why the characters have outdated iPhones. AMC did a good job sticking to the timeline on this one.
We head into the next morning, with even more students missing from the “flu.” I would probably be missing from the “flu” too if there was a zombie on the news. All the teachers are watching footage of a man attacking a paramedic and biting him. The man is super strong and can’t be stopped, even after being shot multiple times. This is when the audience starts getting that sinking feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We know what’s going to happen, but the protagonists have no idea.
In Alicia’s class, they’re appropriately talking about chaos theory and brain states. The teacher, thinking her lecture is more interesting than a freaking ZOMBIE, threatens to take away their phones. Chaos theory is hitting LA too, however, and school is dismissed early.
Madison sees Tobias on the bus and they exchange a look: Tobias was right. But sadly, this isn’t an “I told you so” that he’s going to enjoy.
Next we cut to Nick, who’s still pretending to be homeless. He meets up with his drug dealer at a cafe and we learn the man is none other than Cal. Sweet, innocent Cal isn’t so innocent. He actually has a very dark side, and is mad that Nick’s mom came around his place looking for Nick. But Nick is too upset to focus on that. He wants to know why Gloria killed two people and if they were given some bad drugs. Cal is offended and decides to take Nick for a little drive.
The Wait Finally Pays Off
Cal stops in a very empty area and tells Nick to wait, which in drug dealer vernacular is never a good sign. He goes around to the back of the car and takes out a gun. In an incredibly well-choreographed scene, Cal and Nick fight for their lives. The audience is wondering if Nick’s going to live; in The Walking Dead world, no one is safe. But Nick shoots Cal in the struggle and takes off.
Nick calls Madison and Travis for help. But when they arrive at the car, Cal is gone. There’s no blood, so we’re left to wonder if Nick imagined the whole thing or if Cal turned into a zombie and walked away.
Our question is quickly answered when they drive down a dark tunnel and see Cal walking toward them. Cal attacks Travis and Nick runs over him with the truck. Cal gets back up, barely scratched, and Nick hits him again. Despite being horrifically mutilated by the truck, Cal starts to get up yet again.
And with that, the show ends. All in all, the episode was very good and filled with incredible tension. It’s going to be interesting to see how the characters adjust to a post-apocalyptic world and how long it takes them to learn the rules about zombie killing. After seeing some of the amazing transformations on The Walking Dead, I’m looking forward to seeing some of these characters turn into amazing bad-asses.
Here’s a sneak peek of episode 2, which could also be titled: “Why are people going back to school?”