Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman
Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey
What did the world look like as it was transforming into the horrifying apocalypse depicted in The Walking Dead? Set in Los Angeles, this spin-off follows new characters as they face the beginning of the end of the world.
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
English Dolby TrueHD 5.1
French Dolby Surround 2.0
Runtime: 291 min.
Release Date: 3/22/2016
• Audio Commentaries for All Six Episodes
& bull; “Pilot” Episode Widescreen Edition
• Six Deleted Scenes
• Six “Inside Fear the Walking Dead” Featurettes
• “The Beginning” Featurette
• “Five Things You Need to Survive” Featurette
• “Locations: LA and Vancouver” Featurette
• “Quarantined” Featurette
• “Stunts and Anarchy” Featurette
• “The Faces of Fear” Featurette
• “The Infected” Featurette
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Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete First Season - Special Edition [Blu-Ray] (2015)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 20, 2016)
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.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus C+
Fear the Walking Dead appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The shows offered good visuals.
Overall definition appeared positive. A little softness infected some wider elements, but not to a substantial or persistent degree, so the majority of the series came across as accurate and concise. I noticed no jaggies or shimmering, and I witnessed no edge haloes. Source flaws created no distractions.
In terms of palette, Fear went with a pretty standard orange and teal. Those hues came across well enough given their limitations. Blacks looked dark and tight, while low-light shots offered nice delineation. Fear became an appealing presentation.
As for the series’ Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack, it worked reasonably well. The soundscape opened up the material in a decent manner, though the mix never became terribly involving. Still, various elements fleshed out the spectrum, and a few – such as aircraft and other vehicles – featured the surrounds in a pleasing way.
Audio quality satisfied. Speech was distinctive and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music appeared lively and full, while effects showed nice clarity and accuracy. The track wasn’t as good as one would get from a theatrical release, but for a TV series, it seemed positive.
I thought this “Special Edition” offered picture and audio identical to those of the initial Blu-ray release of Fear. However, that package lacked many extras, so this “Special Edition” rectifies that situation.
We open with audio commentaries for all six episodes. In general, these look at cast/performances, story and characters areas, comparisons with The Walking Dead, music and cinematography, locations and effects.
“Pilot” and “So Close, Yet So Far”: co-creator/executive producer Dave Erickson, co-executive producer/director Adam Davidson and actor Kim Dickens. These two commentaries seem consistently dull. Despite a smattering of useful details, we mostly get insubstantial thoughts and dead air.
“The Dog”: co-executive producer David Wiener and actor Alycia Debnam-Carey. While not packed with insights, the Wiener/Debnam-Carey commentary improves over the Erickson/Davidson/Dickens tracks. Debnam-Carey and Wiener interact well and provide a peppy piece. They throw in enough useful info to make the chat worth a listen.
“Not Fade Away” and “Cobalt”: Wiener and executive producer David Alpert. Don’t expect a lot of concrete info here, as Wiener and Alpert often praise the show or joke around. They do manage occasional fscts about the show but they don’t tell us a ton.
“The Good Man”: Erickson, Dickens and actor Elizabeth Rodriguez. While not a great track, this one bounces back after the mediocre prior discussions. It sputters at times but still gives us a decent array of notes.
During the commentary for the “Pilot”, we hear about a Widescreen Version of that episode. That appears here, as we get the “Pilot” presented in a 2.35:1 ratio, which represents the original photography. No other differences exist between the two, but the 2.35:1 version clearly offers more picture information. It’s unclear why the filmmakers shot the “Pilot” this way and why it aired 1.78:1, but it’s interesting to see it with the intended ratio.
Six Deleted Scenes run a total of six minutes, 35 seconds. That’s not much content for a season that fills about five hours, and the clips don’t give us much. We find a few minor character beats but nothing substantial.
Under Inside Fear the Walking Dead, we find six episode-specific featurettes. All together, these fill a total of 31 minutes, 11 seconds of information from Erickson, Davidson, Dickens, Debnam-Carey, Rodriguez, Alpert, executive producers Greg Nicotero and Gale Anne Hurd, and actors Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Lorenzo James Henrie, Mercedes Mason and Ruben Blades.
We get episode notes that mostly relate to characters and story. Essentially this means the participants just describe the programs. As such, don’t expect much – if any – insight in these forgettable clips.
Seven more featurettes round out the disc. We get Fear: The Beginning (10:13), Five Things You Need to Survive (2:17), Locations: LA and Vancouver (6:56), Quarantined (6:36), Stunts and Anarchy (6:59), The Faces of Fear (5:15) and The Infected (4:48). During these, we find notes from Dickens, Mason, Debnam-Carey, Blades, Davidson, Erickson, Hurd, Curtis, Alpert, Henrie, Rodriguez, Nicotero, Dillane, stunt coordinators Gaston Marrison and Keith Campbell, visual effects supervisor Gregory Lemkin, special effects coordinator Bill Ryan, special effects technician Garrett Bullock, weapons advisor Thomas Potter, 1st AD Morgan Beggs, makeup artist Andy Schoneberg and actor Noah Beggs.
These cover story/character areas, sets and locations, makeup, stunts and effects. Like prior featurettes, these tend to be superficial. “Infected” and “Anarchy” include some good technical notes, but most of the other largely just talk about story and character issues we already know.
Even though the zombie genre threatens over-saturation, Fear the Walking Dead manages to give us an interesting take. With only six episodes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome, and we get a good character-based view of the undead apocalypse. The Blu-ray provides positive picture and audio as well as a decent but somewhat superficial set of supplements. Fans who don’t own the barebones S1 release will want to get this one, but I don’t think the added bonus materials make the SE worth a double-dip for those who already possess the original Blu-ray package.
To rate this film visit the original review of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD