In showed considerable restraint in recap of Fear the Walking Dead recap over on Uproxx this morning, because I know that it’s going to get better (it has to, because it can’t get much worse). Here, I feel no such obligation to hold back: The Fear the Walking Dead pilot was terrifically boring. It took the first 10 minutes of any generic zombie film and expanded it into a 90-minute episode, and there’s a reason that most zombie films are quick to get into the action.
The bigger problem, however, were the characters. They’re not interesting or engaging yet, and while it’s easy to say, “It’s only one episode! Give it some time!” you also have to acknowledge that The Walking Dead managed to completely get us invested in Rick and Morgan in the pilot, and that thousands of movies manage to develop engaging, interesting characters in less time than The Walking Dead had. Remember that five-minute short film, “One-Minute Time Machine”? Those characters were more developed and engaging in five minutes than anyone in Fear the Walking Dead.
The Fear characters are one note, so far, and that note is not very compelling. Here’s a ranking, worst to first, of the Fear the Walking Dead characters so far.
Chris Manawa (Lorenzo James Henrie) — Travis’ kid, who didn’t want to spend the weekend with his father, wasn’t given much time with which to create a lasting impression, but the impression he left was: Obnoxious, self-entitled brat.
Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) — We spent more time with Nick than any other character on Fear the Walking Dead last night, and he still managed to be the most annoying suburban junkie stereotype. Maybe it’s a good idea to initiate the zombie paranoia by confusing it with a heroin addicts delusions, but it’d be a lot more helpful if the junkie were someone we had any interest in rooting for.
Lisa Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez) — Travis’ ex-wife didn’t have much screentime, either, but at least she wasn’t a total ex-wife stereotype, and the character has the benefit of being played by someone we know — and sometimes like — from Orange is the New Black.
Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) — I think Kim Dickens is amazing. So far, her character is not. First off, her name is Madison. Second, despite the fact that she’s likely going to end up as one of the smarter characters on the series, her willful obliviousness is annoying. Did we really need to revisit that church a third time so that she could confirm what her son and Travis already told her. “Something bad happened here.” NO SHIT, LADY. Travis already told you that! “If there’s a problem, we’re going to know about it. The authorities would tell us.” Oh, come on, Madison. You’re a guidance counselor. Don’t be so naive.
Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey) — There’s not much to Alicia’s character yet, either, except that she’s the smart one in the family, but she hasn’t yet done anything outright dumb, and she’s smart enough not to believe her brother when he says he’s going to clean his life up. Also, she’s dating Matt, played by Maestro Harrell from Suburgatory, so even though he probably won’t survive another episode, she gets the edge over her mother for having good taste in boyfriends.
Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) — That Travis is the most interesting major character so far doesn’t say much for the pilot episode of Fear the Walking Dead, but at least he’s half a step ahead of Madison. He’s trying to be a decent step-father (why Nick and Chris resent him is beyond me); he independently investigated Nick’s delusions; he was smart enough to get the hell away from the developing scene on the freeway rather than stand around and mindlessly gawk like everyone else; and he realized that Cal was a zombie a split-second before Madison did, which was enough to save her from being infected. Unfortunately, his character is also stoic and unmoving.
Tobias (Lincoln A. Castellanos) — He only had one scene, and yet, in that one scene Tobias came off as the most interesting, engaging character on the show, and it’s not just because he’s the only one who understands what’s coming. I actually felt for that kid. It’s too damn bad that he’s probably going to be zombie meat soon, because the show could really use that guy — a zombie geek who can explain to the others simple Zombie 101 rules, like: If you see a guy who has been shot shuffling toward you, RUN. Don’t try to hug the zombie.