'Fear the Walking Dead' may scare you to death if boredom doesn't kill you first

Since AMC announced it was bringing a "Walking Dead" spin-off to television, network executives and series producers made one thing clear: “Fear the Walking Dead” was to be very different than its parent program.

Set during the time "Walking Dead" protagonist Rick Grimes spent in a coma and on the opposite side of the country, “Fear the Walking Dead” is meant to show how the epidemic that wiped out the majority of the country began. Although if Sunday night’s premiere is any indication, viewers may have answers revealed to them at a frustratingly slow pace.

Sunday’s premiere opened with an incredibly tense sequence in which Nick, a teenage junkie, discovers what viewers will recognize as a "walker" and who Nick recognizes as seemingly his girlfriend chowing down on a corpse in the basement of an abandoned church. After fleeing from the scene and into traffic, Nick is hit by a car and rushed to the hospital. This story-line played second fiddle to a more enticing one. 

Cut to suburban Los Angeles where we meet Madison, Travis and Alicia, Madison’s teenage daughter. Madison and Travis have just moved in with each other and Travis is struggling to maintain his relationship with his own son from a previous marriage. When they get the call that Nick is in the hospital, Travis finds an opportunity to prove his worth as a father figure again.

As far as performances go, the entire cast impresses in the show’s debut. Cliff Curtis is excellent as Travis as is Frank Dillane (who formerly portrayed young Tom Riddle Jr. in “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince”) as Nick. Kim Dickens turns in a solid performance as Madison and Alycia Debnam-Carey is outstanding as Alicia. 

As far as siblings go, Alicia and Nick couldn’t be more different. Alicia is in her last year of high school, gearing up to go to Berkley after she graduates. She seems smart and has a good grasp on reality — evidenced by her disgust at her mom’s eagerness to just ship her brother off to rehab in the hopes he can kick his addiction to the curb. 

Nick, on the other hand, is an incredibly troubled teen, and hints are dropped that he’s been away from home and out on the street for quite some time. Despite this, one of the most poignant moments in the episode is an interaction between the brother/sister duo that shows that the two genuinely love each other regardless of their differences and the way Nick treats his family.

Aside from this moment and the opening, other memorable scenes from the series premiere are few and far between. Sure, there was some terrifying police footage of an early "walker."  But going forward, the show has to make room for more of that and focus less on the family drama and character development. 

I get it. Exposition is part of any pilot. But on a show that is kin to one of the best action shows on television, “Fear the Walking Dead” has to do a better job of finding a balance.

I don’t want to be too harsh, as I think the show has some strong potential.  I’ll probably watch it either way due to how invested I am in its parent series, but I can only hope the writers can find a reason to make viewers care about the characters without simply putting all of their problems on full display. 

The notion of putting a family with a massive riff in it in the beginning of a post-apocalyptic society is fascinating.  I hope that as the season goes on, “Fear the Walking Dead” can live up to its potential. 

For now, Sunday’s pilot should be enough to keep fans of “The Walking Dead” interested, though due to its slow pace, I’m not sure it will win anyone over who isn’t already invested in the original series.  

Reach the reporter at seweinst@asu.edu or follow @S_Weinstein95 on Twitter.

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