Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 1, 2015)
Given the enormous success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, should it come as a shock that the network created a spin-off series? Probably not, but I’m a little surprised they’d branch out in that way, at least while the original show remains on the air. Many spin-offs come when the first series ends, so the decision to create two “competing” shows seems unusual to me.
Never having seen the original, I was curious to give Fear the Walking Dead a try. This “Complete First Season” set contains all six episodes of Fear. The plot synopses come from the series’ official website.
Pilot: “A highly dysfunctional blended family is forced together when they realize a reported virus is actually the onset of the undead apocalypse.”
As the series’ opening episode, I expect a fair amount of exposition from the “Pilot”, and we get that here. However, I think the episode drags too much. It sets up the characters and situations reasonably well but dawdles more than I’d like, especially since we know where the story will lead. The program manages to create a bit of intrigue, though, so hopefully subsequent shows will prove more involving.
So Close, Yet So Far: “While Madison struggles to keep Nick from crippling withdrawal, Travis ventures out to find his son before the city of Los Angeles falls.”
Like the first episode, “Close” indulges in a fair amount of exposition, and that makes sense. The “outbreak” remains new and confusing to the characters, so the show should continue to develop those elements. Unlike “Pilot”, though, “Close” manages more action and drama, so it turns into an interesting program.
The Dog: “After they escape a riot, Travis, Liza and Chris seek refuge with the Salazars; Madison defends her home.”
With “Dog”, the series offers a nice balance of horror and plot development. It probably meshes the two sides better than its predecessors, and it moves along the series in a satisfying manner.
Not Fade Away: “Madison and Travis see different sides of the National Guard's occupation in their neighborhood; the family tries to adapt to the new world.
After a couple of more action-oriented shows, “Fade” goes with a more expository tone. That works fine, as we get a good feel for life in the quarantined zone – and a sense that something mysterious exists outside of that location. Even without the gore and horror, “Fade” thickens the plot well.
Cobalt: “The National Guard's plan for the neighborhood is revealed; Travis and Madison make a difficult decision.”
With only one more episode after this, “Cobalt” manages to heat up various plot elements. Matters become more intense both in general narrative and character-specific realms. I like the darkness that grows here and look forward to the finale.
The Good Man: “As civil unrest grows, and the dead take over, Travis and Madison try to devise ways to protect their families.”
While most of Season One remained fairly subdued, the proverbial “stuff” hits the fan with the exciting “Good Man”. It offers by far the most far-reaching zombie action and advances character elements in a positive way. “Good Man” becomes a strong end to the year.
Someday we’ll get our fill of zombies, but that we’ve not gotten there yet, and Fear the Walking Dead demonstrates that there are more interesting undead stories to tell. Although I can’t say I think this becomes a great series, it works pretty well and piques my interest to see where events go in Season Two.