The good news is, Fear the Walking Dead is going to get much better in the coming weeks. The bad news is, the pilot episode was not great, and certainly not nearly the pilot that The Walking Dead was.
Yes, it’s true that a show like this is bound to start off slow, and we should cut it some slack. There has to be world building and character building before you can pay anything off, and, had Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman advanced us into the middle of the chaos as Los Angeles began to fall to zombies, it’d have been no different from The Walking Dead.
But you also can’t simply dismiss a weak pilot episode by saying that it was all necessary table-setting, because that’s true of most pilots, and great pilots — The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, etc. — are able to introduce characters, present the premise and hook us, and all of those shows had less than the 90-minute pilot of Fear the Walking Dead. The table-setting needs to be engaging, too.
There were two major problems with the Fear the Walking Dead pilot, and both are problems that may plague the entire first season of Fear the Walking Dead.
First, while it is important to establish characters and provide them with backstories, especially with a premise like this, it’s also important to develop interesting characters. We know that Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Madison (Kim Dickens) are in a relationship, and that they care for each other. We also know that Madison has a brilliant daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and a drug-addicted son, Nick (Frank Dillane). Travis also has an ex-wife, Lisa (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and a son who resents him, Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie).