Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'FEAR OF THE WALKING DEAD' REVIEW - TO LIVE AND DIE IN LA

Ok, I've been seriously behind on this blog this month. I just started grad classes again. Grad classes means I'm using my writing talents to write papers. *Sigh. I finally was able to watch 'The Walking Dead' spinoff 'Fear the Walking Dead.' Color me not so impressed. The original pilot for TWD was magic--brilliant and terrifying. It's what happens when you get an acclaimed film director like Frank Darabont to direct a television pilot.

I'm not sure who directed the FWD pilot, but it's just not made of the same stuff the TWD pilot was. The first half of the 90 minute episode focuses on Madison Clark (Kim Dickens of 'Deadwood') and Travis Manawa (played by the wonderful Cliff Curtis), who have just moved in together with their blended families. I know that's all the rage these days, but my family's been blending it since the 80s. Anywhoo, we start our fair episode by learning about their problems. Madison and Travis work at the same high school. Madison is a tough, but fair school counselor and Travis is a beloved teacher. Madison is the mother of two children Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Nick (Frank Dillane). Nick is a scummy skinny drug addicted Johnny Depp look alike and he is who we meet in the episode's first scene. Travis has a kind ex-wife, coupled with a bratty son who won't see him.
Admittedly, the first scene is spooky. Whilst in a drug induced stupor in a drug den, Nick awakens looking for his girlfriend Gloria (Lexie Johnson), only to find her eating someone's face. Perhaps she got some PCP laced bath salts, but in the pending zombie apocalypse we know better. Nick runs for his life and is hit by a car and rushed to the hospital where he's reunited with his family who have grown tired of his antics. Now we're in full time family mode. We learn all about their family dynamics and their problems. Part of the beauty of TWD is that we don't need to know a lot of background about our characters lives. We get little glimpses in TWD and that's all that's required. For example in TWD, we know that Carol (Melissa McBride) was once a victim of domestic violence, which turns her into a complete butt kicker. It's true that TWD is post-apocalypse and 'FTWD' is pre-apocalypse, but the first episode started to feel like a Lifetime movie warning us about the perils of drug addiction.

Besides the first scene, the first half of the 90 minute episode was BORING. The episode doesn't get interesting until the final scenes when we discover that Calvin (Keith Powers of 'Straight Out of Compton'), Nick's best friend and a kid who Madison and Travis think of as a "good kid," is actually Nick's drug dealer. Perhaps the best scene in the episode is when Calvin confronts Nick in a diner about potentially exposing him as a drug dealer. This scene was well acted by Powers and Dillane. Frankly the lack of Powers in this episode hurts the episode. It speaks to Powers talent that he was able to convey so much in such a short scene. Calvin later attempts to kill Nick after that scene, but it doesn't go as planned for neither of them.
There are other clues throughout the episode that something is afoot. There are Youtube videos of people attacking people, being shot, and getting back up. One of Madison's students, Tobias (Lincoln A. Castellanos) brings a steak knife to school and says cryptic things like "it's safer in large groups." But the episode spends way too much time on the dynamics of this one particular blended family. Character development is important, but there was room for other characters in a 90 minute pilot. It also doesn't help that one of the main characters (Nick) is completely unlikable. Yes, I understand that addiction makes people selfish, but focusing so much of the episode on Nick and his problems was a mistake. Perhaps the show writers feel that there will be plenty of time to get to other things? In my opinion, every moment of a pilot (especially a pilot!) should have purpose. Again, this was a little too Lifetime movie for my taste. I will reserve my judgment in hopes that the series gets better. However, I find that if a pilot is bad, the show doesn't stand much hope of improvement.

19 comments:

  1. I concur with this feels like a Lifetime movie. I find it hard to be invested in characters that, to be blunt, suck. I'll give it a few more episodes if it doesn't improve I'll jump off.

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    1. Me too! I typically give a show 3 eps. If it doesn't capture me in 3 eps I'm out. Sometimes I've missed out on some good shows, but most of the time I haven't.

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  2. I thought it moved glacially slow. Had some good atmosphere, but...

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    1. It did have some good atmosphere, but it was sooo slow! You're right.

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  3. I enjoyed this for the most part. It's an interesting perspective, and I didn't mind that it was slower. It's building up. I just hope they put off the total ZA for as long as they can.

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    1. I just got so bored. Perhaps my attention span isn't what it used to be now that I have a toddler!

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  4. Not watching, can't - just can't stomach the eating part. But, I love reading about it, and following the following, is that weird? Probably, no answer needed! :)

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    1. Ha, I know what you mean. I actually fast forward through gross stuff. Sometimes I can take it; sometimes I can't. I actually enjoy reading spoilers of shows too! Even if I don't watch the shows.

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  5. The first episode did feel dragged out a little but then again the world in this show has yet not become the eerie and dangerous one like in TWD.

    PS: & he does look like Johnny Depp!!!

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    1. Hi there! Yes he does doesn't he? He really reminded me of Johnny Depp when he was in 'Nightmare on Elm Street." I hope it gets better.

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  6. Hi Mariah! Hmmm, I'm not much of a zombie genre fan and I don't watch TWD so I probably won't get much out of this one. That said I like Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens!

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    1. Ha, I don't blame you for not being a zombie fan. I'm starting not to be either!

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  7. Yeah I've heard mixed reviews of the show. I've never gotten into TWD so the prequel wouldn't do much for me. Kind of like Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. A spin-off of Michonne would rock though

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    1. Before I forget you're putting your writing talents to good use and congrats on your grad school

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    2. Oh thank you Maurice! I hope your About.com articles are going well! Yes, I'm wondering if I should be in the zombie genre either. I'm starting to lose interest.

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  8. It's not a major spoiler but in the next episode a walker-like character has to be killed, and my family was quick to start yelling at the tv for them to just do it ALREADY. I think this show will require some patience because the pacing is different from Walking Dead. The premiere was okay. Frank Dillane is worth it for me to watch until he gets killed off. :)

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    1. That's a fair point Katy! We have to remember that these characters don't know the same things about the walkers that our walking dead characters do. I'm going to hang in there. I watched the 2nd episode and it was much better than the pilot. I just wish the pilot had been better.

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  9. Thanks for saving me two hours of my life. I dropped the original Walking Dead because it was just too bleak. If it's slow also then I will be bailing now.

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    1. I'm going to give it a chance because I enjoy the walking dead series. But you're right there were several times when I just about quit the walking dead. It was just too much!

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