We’ve seen what happens to ill-fated spinoffs of popular shows, all too often.
Battlestar Galactica (2004 – 09) became a cult classic, using robots and space battles to discuss politics, race, religion and even the very nature of existence. Its spinoff Caprica (2009) only lasted one season.
Judging by the first episode, Fear The Walking Dead is well on track to avoid such an ignominous fate. In fact, I’d even say it has the potential to surpass The Walking Dead.
Unlike the beginning of TWD, where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) wakes up to the nightmare of a world overrun by zombies, the apocalypse in FTWD is only just beginning.
Divorced dad Travis (famed character actor Cliff Curtis) and school counsellor Madison (Kim Dickens, last seen in Gone Girl and House of Cards) are a middle-aged couple in Los Angeles, just trying to bring their two families together.
Kim’s daughter Alicia (Australian newcomer Alycia Debnam-Carey) is doing well in school, but son Nick (Frank Dillane – son of Stannis!) is a junkie who can’t kick the habit. Then one day, he has a hallucination about a wild-eyed woman – his friend – eating the flesh of another man.
Everyone tells him it’s the drugs talking – but Nick just can’t shake the feeling that what he saw was real.
And so it unfolds, with the undead coming closer and closer, even while people are getting on with their daily lives – going to school, shopping for groceries, fixing their cars et al.
Here, a student brings a knife to school because he’s convinced awful things are about to happen (“Nobody’s going to college. Nobody’s doing anything they think they’re are anymore.”) There, a YouTube clip shows police taking down a man who won’t go down, despite being shot multiple times.
It all unfolds against the gritty backdrop of a Los Angeles that is far from the glamour of Hollywood. Here, working class families are struggling to get by, and high school students sell drugs in order to stay in school.
It’s also an interesting plot device – in a time before people understand just what the zombie virus is, they try to help the walkers, rather than executing them.
If there is any complaint, it may be that the pace may be just a wee bit too slow (especially for a 90-minute episode), but it looks like the pace may be speeded up soon.
The first episode also keeps the zombie scenes to a minimum, which really helps with the tension that’s building up drip by drip.
But it does end with a confrontation between Nick and his drug dealer Calvin (Keith Powers) that destroys once and for all any notion that the undead will go away.
The walkers are coming, y’all. Are you ready?
Check out the encore telecast of Fear The Walking Dead episode 1 at 10pm tonight on AMC Singtel TV channel 322.