Published on October 12th, 2015 | by Bean0
Fear The Walking Dead – Season 1 Review
WARNING! CONTAINS SPOILERS!
As far as most mini-series go, the premise is usually a self-contained storyline that evolves and concludes over the course of it’s run of episodes. The format has undergone something of a revival with such flagship shows as True Detective and Fargo raising the bar in recent years; both titles enjoyed such success that further mini-series under the same name were commissioned immediately, but following new characters in different cities or eras.
Whether Fear The Walking Dead decides to go down this route for its already-secured second season remains to be seen; the zombie apocalypse is a ripe narrative strain for global-level storytelling, Indeed FTWD has taken us to America’s West Coast to explore the origins of the breakout in an urban setting. However, the first season leaves us in the midst of trauma, possibly indicating that we’ll be seeing more of these characters next year. This might be wise given the time it takes to establish rapports, dynamics and get a feeling for character arcs, without which it is difficult to care for the travails of our players.
FTWD was always a tricky proposition; retrofit the universe of The Walking Dead with different perspectives to the ones earned over many years and a host of dramas without being repetitious or giving away any information TWD may still wish to impart. The conceit of placing the timeline before Rick’s awakening from his coma (a wafty amount of time by anybody’s books) allows the initial outbreak to be the focus of the first few episodes of FTWD.
The first two episodes alternately thrum with tension and flounder in the holding pattern awaiting carnage. Scenes during the riot or in the abandoned school stood out as taut examples of patient storytelling, giving us just enough to grip without blowing the balance. Much time is spent laying foundations for the central relationships – three inter-connected families – and whilst necessary to our investment in their stories, the change of pace from TWD is so noticeable as to occasionally be ponderous. At this point I should state outright that I had difficulty not comparing the two shows, despite the spin-off clearly being quite a different animal. Corpses are fresher and much is not yet understood.
My main reservations about FTWD began to set in mid-way through the run and revolve around my inability to be patient with the protagonists as the end of the world as they know it slowly dawns on them. So slowly. This is all to the show’s credit in fact; it boldly takes it’s time, allowing action to unfold unhurriedly, like a growing sense of nausea. The fact that I couldn’t enjoy these developments as they were intended is more a comment on how successful TWD has been at indoctrinating me into the quick-fire post-apocalyptic reactions of survival their protagonists (and by proxy, I, from my sofa) employ.
To wit; why are you fuckwits a) not armed, b) wearing ballgowns and c) not killing the obvious zombie lady? The point of the show is underlining that the survival responses (ARM YOURSELF) made so basic on TWD are things nobody on FTWD has any reason or right to realistically have. The horrible decisions made on a regular basis by characters all make sense within the framework of shock and denial that makes up a large part of their mindset. But it makes for frustrating television. However, as the dubious safety the army seemed to offer is rescinded, everyone must step up, and moments of paralysis suffer consequences.
Those whinges aside, the cinematography is grimily gorgeous, the score and dialogue are sparse and on point and the cast are uniformly excellent; Kim Dickens and Ruben Blades’ quiet resolution are standouts, and Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam-Carey make strong impressions as the respectively lost and weary siblings. In the final episode the sister’s argument that you can’t save everybody feels true to form for a person who has seen countless attempts to save her brother from his destructive addictive behaviour fail. Cliff Curtis has a tougher sell as the good man reluctant to make hard decisions, but is never less than compelling in the role. Of the recurring cast, Colman Domingo captivates as the enigmatic and ruthless Victor Strand, the main reason I hope the second season returns to this rag-tag team.
And so, next week heralds the return of The Walking Dead’s sixth season, and with it the fallout of Rick’s attempt to school the Alexandria newbs. Bring it on!
Review by Nina Clark
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