May 1, 2020
Fear the Walking Dead: Bore the Living
The first thing we see is the face of a beautiful young woman… oops, make that a young man.
He’s asleep in a crack den… oops, church. No, wait, it’s both.
We’re in an abandoned, graffiti-covered House of God. OOOO, how edgy! But don’t get your hopes up that it’s a metaphor. Themes of abandoning God or alienation from the divine are waaaaay beyond our depths tonight. In fact, by the time the closing credits roll, the most we’ll be able to say about our heroes’ spiritual side is that they’re probably not Amish.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. This is a 90-minute pilot episode. We’ve got lots of time to bitch about how flimsy the characters are. (Plot, too.)
For now, let’s just explore the church with our pretty young heroin addict, who is calling out for someone named Gloria. Gosh, I wonder what could have happened to her. Say, is that a corpse?
Yes, but it’s some dude, not Gloria. Our heroin-addicted hero is surprised and horrified, but we aren’t. They do we’re five seasons deep into zombie madness, right? This is tame even by The Vampire Diaries standards.
Hey, there’s Gloria. She’s chowing down on some other corpse. This may be a big reveal to addict-guy, but we the audience already knew this was a zombie show even if we’ve never seen a single episode of the original series. There’s zero fear or horror in it for us.
Still, that’s all we get before addict-guy flees into the street. Some sort of obnoxious musical sting is blaring at us, as if someone were playing the Psycho theme on an electric guitar with a weird foot pedal attachment. He stands there in shock for several seconds before an apparently blind driver plows into him. Suddenly, six million bystanders come running up to check on him. The camera pans up to reveal we’re in the middle of… Los Angeles! We guess that was supposed to be a surprise or something.
Cut to suburbia. A dad—who we’ll later learn is named Travis—is trying to fix the kitchen sink while mom—Madison—scoffs. But he succeeds because this isn’t a sitcom and gets rewarded with a make-out session. Then the phone rings. Everyone stops and stares at the phone to let us know this is a dramatic occurrence. The teenage daughter even runs in wearing only a towel to join in the phone-staring. It’s the call they’ve all been waiting for. They’re all going to be on The Amazing Race! No, it’s just the hospital letting them know their missing druggy son has been hit by a car.
At the hospital, druggie guy—Nick—is blowing off questions from the cops. At this point, the police don’t care so much about the flesh-eating dead woman, whom they assume was just a figment of Nick’s bad trip, and want to know who Nick’s dealer is. Mom comes storming in and brashly orders the cops to “get out,” exactly like no one does in real life. The cops can tell they’re dealing with a real badass here, so they promptly slink away from momma bear. Frankly, zombies are more believable, but whatever, let’s not slow the nothing-burger scene down.
Dad takes this opportunity to call his ex-wife and other son, cluing us into the fact that he’s stepdad to druggy boy and towel girl. Other Son is about 15 and therefore a total dick. He throws a little temper tantrum and says he doesn’t wanna go see his stupid, lame father this weekend, and Dad has other shit to deal with so he says fine and hangs up. This subplot exists only to establish that these characters exist, so mission accomplished.
Dad volunteers to stay with Nick at the hospital all day so Mom can go to work. She’s a teacher at the same high school that towel girl attends, so off they go. You know who sucks? Teenagers. On the ride to school, towel girl could not be any more bitchy or unlikeable. If she and Other Son meet, fall in love, get killed by zombies, and get beheaded by Daryl by the end of episode 2, the show would be much improved.
At school, Mom introduces the audience to the principal, then happens to be standing nearby when some dorky student sets off the metal detector. She covers for him (he’s white, after all) and then pulls him into an empty room to find out what’s up. Dork-boy is carrying a serious knife because he’s paranoid about some secret threat out there in the world. Is this supposed to be ominous? Because it’s just tedious. WE THE AUDIENCE KNOW ABOUT THE ZOMBIES.
Towel girl—Alicia—skips class because that’s crazy easy to do on TV. She finds her boyfriend painting a mural as part of a senior project, and he feels the need to tell her that she’s super smart and going to Berkeley next year on a full bitchiness scholarship, because she probably didn’t already know that. He, on the other hand, is a bad boy who’d rather be “tagging” the school walls than painting them. The trite “smart girl-bad boy” dynamic is as lame as the expository dialogue, but what’s really painful is the black teen immediately being painted as a petty criminal/vandal. Seriously, show?
Back at the hospital, Dad refuses to untie Nick’s arms from his hospital bed. He’s restrained because he came in raving about a cannibal corpse. Now he’s not so sure what he saw. Could have been the drugs. Could be he’s going crazy. He describes everything he remembers to Travis, which is helpful to viewers who tuned in late but a waste of time for the rest of us, ending with, “She was eating them! She was eating them!” Yeah. We saw it. It wasn’t shocking then, either. WE THE AUDIENCE KNOW ABOUT THE ZOMBIES.
Dad decides to search the abandoned church for signs of zombies, but he decides to wait until the middle of the night to do it because the show operates by horror movie rules, after all. Holding a flashlight, he climbs through a giant window that’s right behind a toilet—and who the hell was the architect of this church? R. Kelly?
For what feels like 15 minutes of screen time, Dad searches the church. Just when the audience is finally asleep, something jumps at him! It’s a cat! Okay, it was a junkie, same diff. Lame. The junkie shrieks, “Don’t kill me! Don’t kill me!” and wanders away. Are we supposed to believe he was hiding behind that door since 6:00 in the morning?
Finally, Dad sees some blood. This prompts him to scream, “HEY! ANYBODY THERE?!” You know, like you do when you’re in an abandoned building filled with heroin addicts in the middle of the night and you come across evidence that someone’s been slaughtering people. Hearing no answer, he heads down to the sanctuary where Gloria was eating that guy, but both Gloria and her victim have long since wondered off. However, zombies are not known for their cleanliness, so Dad manages to slip and bust his ass in a giant puddle of blood and guts.
The next morning, Dad heads the hospital, presumably after a good shower, to wake up his wife in time for work. Did he notify the police about the entrails in the church? Nah. Dad and Mom step out of the hospital room, leaving Alicia alone with her brother. When did Alicia get there? Hell if we know. She’s dressed and ready for school, unlike Mom, but didn’t come with Dad. Anyway, she spoon-feeds Nick some Jell-O, and he promises to never, ever do drugs again. D.A.R.E. to be drug-free!
Out in the hallway, Dad tells Mom about the viscera at the church, and Mom accuses Dad of trying to use Nick to repair his relationship with Chris. There seems to be some Nick-Chris connection that we’re not being filled in on. Or maybe Chris is just a big fan of gore puddles.
Later, Dad is alone in the hospital room with Nick, who again promises to give up the horse for good, but with a cynical twist this time, saying he always means it when he says it.
Alicia is at school, but still not in class. She tells her boyfriend she can’t wait to move away to Berkeley, because that’s the only factoid the writers have come up with about her character so far. He says they should meet at the beach that night and watch the sunset, like teens do, then go back to his place because his parents won’t be there.
Dad is teaching an English class—wait, wasn’t he just with Nick?—and waxing poetic about how in the battle of man vs. nature, “Nature always wins.” Out in the hall, Mom walks up behind the utterly still principal while the music scream “HE’S A ZOMBIE, RUN!!!” But having a zombie loose in the school would be far too interesting for the pilot episode, so he’s not, and there’s no reason any of this couldn’t end up on the cutting room floor.
At the hospital, a nurse agrees to untie one of Nick’s hands so he can use the bedpan, then gives him a moment alone. He immediately uses his free hand to untie the other and starts to sneak away—until the old guy sharing the hospital room with him suddenly flatlines. Is it time for our second zombie?!
Nah, the hospital staff comes in, tries in vain to save the guy, then wheels him off. We never hear anything about him again. The coast is now clear, and Nick spends the next 15 minutes of screen time slowly sneaking out of the hospital without incident.
Mom and Dad demand answers, but the hospital staff could not give less of a shit about their patient’s disappearance. Apparently they don’t cower as quickly before angry momma bears as L.A.P.D. Mom demands her hubby take her to the church in case Nick went there looking for answers.
We spend more screen time wandering around the abandoned church. Good thing it never gets old. Eventually they look at the blood and guts splatter and decide they can’t make heads or tails of it. “There’s no bodies. They couldn’t just get up and walk away,” says Dad. He stops just short of looking into the camera and winking. Yeah, that’s what passes for clever dialogue around here.
We’re not done searching the church yet. Upstairs, Mom finds a pile of blankets on an old mattress and says, “This is where he slept.” Tears begin to fall, and scene.
Next up, Mom and Dad head over to Calvin’s house. He’s a preppy-looking African-American man around Nick’s age. “Have you seen Nick?” asks Mom.
“No,” says Calvin.
“Well, it’s still nice to introduce a clean-cut, non-criminal black character since we completely blew that opportunity with my daughter’s boyfriend,” says Mom.
“You’re in for a major disappointment,” says Calvin.
Somewhere under a bridge, Nick calls someone on his cell phone and leaves a voice mail.
Meanwhile, Alicia is being stood up by her boyfriend at the beach.
Now it’s dark. Mom and Dad are driving around, although not anywhere in particular, because all they’re talking about is how they don’t know where else to look. They run into some standstill traffic. There’s a police helicopter overhead, and a TV helicopter, too. “For your own safety, please remain in your vehicles,” blares a police speaker—and Mom and Dad immediately pop out of their pick-up truck. If the show had any sense of humor, this might have qualified as funny.
Gunshots ring out, and Mom and Dad jump back in the truck. Suddenly, although they haven’t moved, they’re able to gun it for an exit ramp and go home.
The next morning, only a handful of kids are showing up at school. All the parents are too freaked out about the news footage from the helicopter showing a dead car crash victim suddenly bite a paramedic, then start rambling around even after police unload a million bullets into him. Even the students who do show up are ignoring their teachers and watching the footage on their phones over and over again. Alicia doesn’t think it’s real. “This here’s the new real,” says Alicia’s friend, before stealing a glance right at the camera and adding, “Huh? Huh?!”
Also, Alicia’s boyfriend is still MIA. So if you guessed the black guy dies first, step up and collect your prize.
The school board decides to cancel the rest of the school day, and we spend 10 minutes watching students and teachers leave the building with concerned and befuddled looks on their faces, much like the audience.
Elsewhere, Nick walks into a diner and finds Calvin. Nick wants to know what Calvin sold Gloria to make her go all psycho cannibal. Calvin wants to know what Nick told his parents about him. Neither gets an answer they believe, but Calvin relents and offers Nick some free dope.
Off they go in Calvin’s car. They stop in an isolated concrete channel under some bridges. Nick never gets suspicious until he sees the gun in Calvin’s hand. They struggle, the gun goes off, Calvin falls dead.
Yep, the two black guys get killed first and second. And they were both criminals.
And yet, still no zombie. They’re going to draw this shit out forever.
Nick freaks out for a bit, then leaves to call Mom and Dad. They show up and go check on Calvin. Only, get this, his body’s not there! What, that didn’t blow your mind? Anyway, everybody gets in the truck, and they start to drive away. Hey, there’s Calvin, shambling right towards them. Mom and Dad get out of the car, and Calvin attacks them. It’s Nick to the rescue! He runs Calvin down with the truck. Twice.
Calvin’s body is too damaged to stand, but he turns what’s left of his face toward Mom and Dad.
“What the hell is happening?” asks Mom.
“I have no idea,” says Dad.
“WE DO,” shouts the incredibly bored audience.