Fear the Walking Dead Review: “Pilot”

The Walking Dead skipped the end of the world. Rather than show the rise of the zombies—that’s been done to death—it brought us into the already wasted-land through the eyes of Rick Grimes, who slept through the apocalypse. The spin-off shambles back to those early days, when the world began to end. Can it sustain this premise, by going into a level of detail that would have been beyond the classic zombie films?

Cast and Crew

Directed by Adam Davidson
Written by Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson

Kim Dickens as Madison Clark
Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa
Frank Dillane as Nick Clark
Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza Ortiz
Mercedes Mason as Ofelia Salazar
Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris Manawa
Rubén Blades as Daniel Salazar
Maestro Harrell as Matt
Keith Powers as Calvin
Lincoln A. Castellanos as Tobias
Lynn Chen as Nurse
Leon Thomas III as Russell
Lexi Johnson as Gloria the Chow-down Queen


Members of a blended family in LA slowly become aware of impossible events that signal the end of the world as we know it. Meanwhile, over in King County, Georgia, Rick Grimes lies in a coma.

High Points

The show minimizes the gore and plays up the suspense. The parent-show could learn from its prequel.

The focus on the world ending brings to the forefront one of the main fears on which the genre plays: the jenga-pile fragility of our society.

Low Point

Compared to the premiere episode of The Walking Dead, this one feels very much like conventional television, and often in ways that do not serve the show. Characters and twists are predictable; topical issues and conflicts get presented immediately and in obvious ways.

The police don’t investigate the location whence the terrified addict comes running, and therefore miss what appears to be the undisturbed scene of a serious crime? People encounter a zombie in broad daylight, and remain stunningly calm once they’ve dispatched it?

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 The show is well-done, but it’s a spin-off of an established property based on an overused premise. It also feels more like traditional American television than its parent show, with its conventional characters, LA settings, and TV teens.

The show also echoes (intentionally or not) a number of related genres. The substance-impaired witness as first reporter of the fantastic occurs elsewhere, most notably in Them!. The conspiracy elements, most fervently expressed by the mid-twenty-something with acne makeup playing a teenager, reflects current internet-driven fears, but would feel perfectly in place in many 1970s productions.

Effects: 6/6 The first episode uses only a few effects; we’re building to the end of the world. Those effects have been well-crafted and well-utilized.

Acting: 5/6 As in the parent show, this one features strong performances. The characters are more conventional, however, and the actors at times must struggle against cliché.

Story: 4/6 As much as I appreciate the world-building and suspense, the first episode needed slightly faster pacing and fewer foci.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The show features several scenes—the opening, in particular—that are suitably unsettling.

Production: 6/6 Although the show (or, at least, its first episode) appears to be a less expensive production than The Walking Dead, they haven’t shortchanged the production, and this bodes well for a series that will bring us the shambling end of things.

Overall: 4/6 Fear the Walking Dead has been well-made. Thus far, however, it brings very little that we haven’t already seen. Its success will depend on the degree to which viewers bond with its characters (well-acted, but thus far only moderately interesting) and desire another zombie show.

It will also depend on how effectively and convincingly the series can show the unraveling of the world.

In total, Fear the Walking Dead‘s “Pilot” receives 31/42

2 replies on “Fear the Walking Dead Review: “Pilot””

  1. Regarding pacing. I think they’re really out on a ledge on that one. If this show can get the pacing of “the end of the world” right, it could be a great show. Counterintuitively, the slow pacing of the opener indicates they might do that.

    This show cannot drop into full walkers everywhere mode, no authority anywhere mode too fast. If they do that, they’ll become a total carbon copy of the parent show.

    The downfall needs to take some time with this show.

    However, the pacing of the pilot was slooooow. There are other things than full on zombie carnage that can be utilized to pick up the pace of the story.

    Also, I kinda hope the show loses its focus on this one family. I think that might be too much like the main show. I really want to see what the authorities do about this and how they fail to work things out. I’m guessing our view of the breakdown of the authorities and society will be viewed through this family’s eyes and if done right that still could be pretty good stuff.

    The jury is out on this one and I think it’ll be 2-3 episodes before we can make a clear call.

    • While I’m sure we’ll see other perspectives, the comments from the show’s creators suggest it will mostly focus on this one family’s experience of society’s collapse.

      As you say, we won’t really know for 2 or 3 episodes, but I don’t know I’ll be adding this to my “must watch” list.

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