I’m already hooked on the new TV series--Fear the Walking Dead (the prequel to The Walking Dead)—after only two episodes. I’ve read that there will be six episodes this season; it’s already been renewed for a second season. Unlike The Walking Dead that takes place in Georgia, Fear the Walking Dead takes place in Los Angeles and depicts how the apocalyptic zombie plague got its start as a flu-like virus that spreads rapidly together with the anxiety and paranoia that accompany it. Anxiety and a sense of mounting dread pervade the show; it’s not hard to imagine similar feelings if a disease like the plague spread rapidly throughout a large city and wreaked havoc on its populace. How might we react to such a plague, that the authorities would not be able to fight effectively or adequately inform the public about? How would we protect ourselves and our families? How would we survive, and what would we prioritize?
We know what’s coming in the next few episodes, since this is a prequel; we know from The Walking Dead that it’s going to be impossible to stop the zombie apocalypse. A huge city like Los Angeles and a large high school are not the first places we might expect to be creepy in broad daylight, but in this show, they are downright creepy. You half expect a zombie to appear around every corner in the high school or in the dark passageways under the highway overpasses that abound in the city. An abandoned church also ups the ‘creep you out’ factor; not surprising since this is where the first episode begins—in an abandoned church frequented by drug addicts who squat there. When Nick (played by Frank Dillane) awakes from his drug-induced sleep, his girlfriend Gloria is no longer beside him and he goes looking for her inside the church. He hears screams and goes toward those sounds, thinking that Gloria might be in trouble. When he finds her, she is no longer the girlfriend he used to know, and what he sees shocks him into wanting to get sober. He hightails it out of the church and ends up in the hospital after getting hit by a car. When his hospital roommate dies (surely an eventual zombie, implied but not shown), he escapes the hospital amid all the commotion and gets in touch with his friend and drug dealer, Calvin, who sold him the drugs. He thinks maybe he has been given drugs laced with PCP. Russell doesn’t like what he hears, and decides to take Nick out because he is afraid he will go to the police. But in a twist of fate, Calvin ends up dead, shot by his own gun, and Nick ends up alive. In the meantime, Nick's mother and her boyfriend (Madison and Travis, played by Kim Dickens and Cliff Davis, respectively) are searching for him; they have gone to the church to see for themselves what it is he has described to them (Gloria’s murderous rampage), and when they see a large pool of blood on the floor of the church, they understand that something bad has happened there. They drive around the seedier sections of the city trying to find Nick, and eventually they do, at a tunnel entrance to a storm drain. When he tells them that he has killed Calvin, they go to the scene of the shooting, only to find that Calvin is gone. What ensues convinces them that something horrific is afoot, and that they need to take what is happening around them seriously.
The characters are believable, and behave for the most part in ways I can relate to. Trying to get one’s family members together in one location when a catastrophe strikes, being separated from those you love while doing so, trying to understand what is happening around you when you have very little time to reflect, and trying to decide whether you should provide help to others or just protect yourself and your family. These are issues that most of us can relate to. It will be interesting to see where this show takes us. I can definitely envision enough material for one season; I have a harder time understanding what the second season will focus on. But so far so good; I’m looking forward to the third episode. I’ve got to wonder though, why so many people, myself included, are watching shows with apocalyptic themes; is it an acknowledgment of the fact that we really cannot control the world around us, much as we think we can? Nature (tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis), pandemics (infectious diseases) or even certain groups within society (terrorists, gangs, etc.) do what they do whenever and wherever they want, and we have little to no control over them.