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TV Series Review

Rest in peace? On AMC, that's purely wishful thinking.

On cable's prime locale for all things zombie-apocalyptic, the dead at rest are resting in pieces. Fans of AMC's wildly successful The Walking Dead learned a long time ago that the only surefire method to dispatch a so-called walker is with a bullet to the brain, which makes the title of this prequel—Fear the Walking Dead—less a title and more an extraneous command. I mean, do you really need to be told to fear the walking dead? It seems completely unnecessary.

Which, I guess, you could also say about the show itself.

Let's Use Our Brrrraaaaaiiiinnnnns!

Fear the Walking Dead takes us back in time to a more innocent, less zombie-riddled era. Oh, sure, zombies are already out there in the greater Los Angeles area. But at first they're easy for the government to cover up (but not with dirt, because they'd just dig their way back up). Those government guys, though, clearly have no working knowledge of George A. Romero's oeuvre, treating the fledgling zombie outbreak as they might a particularly troublesome stomach flu.

Most folks have too much on their minds (jobs, school, families, lovers) to spend much time worrying about Aunt Ethel shambling over for a midnight snack. Take Madison Clark and her live-in fiancé, Travis Manawa, who have all manner of kid worries. Travis' son, Chris, doesn't want much to do with his dad. Madison's kid, Nick, doesn't want much to do with … well, life. As a heroin addict, he tries to escape it as much as possible.

Still, even Nick would rather not break free from the world of the living quite so … literally. And it is he who first gets a vivid preview of the coming apocalypse when a church full of addicts goes all zombie on him. He escapes by the skin of his one-time lover's lively decomposing corpse, and he quickly learns that it's one thing to espouse a certain groovy nihilism but quite another when that nihilism chomps down on your arm.

It's not long before the rest of society begins to understand that these moseying dead are more than just hoaxes or rumors or products of a drug-addled mind. That they're real. That life (and death) will never be the same.

Chew on This, Why Don't You

We all know where this ends up, of course. There is no chance this zombie outbreak will be safely contained. AMC spoiled the story (so to speak) in advance when The Walking Dead premiered in 2010 on Halloween. But no matter. The TV-viewing public seemingly can't get enough of these lethal limpers. The premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, in fact, set an all-time cable record for a new show debut, drawing in 10.1 million viewers.

Because the gore has been throttled back a smidge (perhaps only because nobody really knows how go all caveman-crazy on these beasties yet), AMC assigned the pilot a TV-14 rating. To which I say, really, AMC? Again? Early episodes of The Walking Dead also carried the TV-14 stamp, and we all know where that series ended up. Even if you compare current episodes to current episodes, to say Fear is better than Dead is not to say it's good. It's still pretty abysmal, actually, in terms of its gratuitous use of gore. Remember, this is a show about dead things eating us, and they're not known for their table manners. Blood and flesh and organs will certainly be a constant feature—as well as people saying really, really bad words when they stumble across a walker and/or his dinner.

I'm no zombie-hater. I think the genre can say some interesting things about life, death and the hope we can find in the midst of both. But Fear the Walking Dead is already a decayed catalyst for those sorts of discussions. It is, more, a die-hard dispensary for gratuitous onscreen slaughter.

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Episode Reviews

Fear the Walking Dead: August 23, 2015 "Pilot"
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