Over the past several months, “The Walking Dead” spin-off “Fear the Walking Dead” has been shrouded in secrecy. We knew that it takes place in Los Angeles at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, and we knew that it stars the criminally underrated Kim Dickins (“Deadwood”/“Gone Girl”/etc.) -- but until tonight (July 10), even we at MTV news had no clue what to expect from AMC’s risky new series.
However, thanks to the folks at Tumblr (and the gift to the universe that is San Diego Comic-Con), we can now happily report that we've seen the first ever installment of "FtWD" -- and while we can't tell you everything we witnessed when the world fell apart, we can reveal just a few secrets about the fun (and very tonally different) new series that'll enter our lives on August 23rd:
Its Walker scenes are scary for an entirely different reason.AMC
Well, no one actually calls them Walkers on the show, but that's what they'll always be in our hearts, so. Moving on.
On the OG "The Walking Dead," Walker scenes are terrifying because A, we love our characters, B, the zombies themselves are grotesque, and C, they tend to surround people really, really quickly. On "FtWD," it's different -- it's easier to identify with (and scream for) the couple of humans we see encountering them, because said humans are much more like us than a Daryl Dixon or a Michonne, who are seasoned killing machines at this point.
The characters we meet are total newbies to the zombie apocalypse situation, which kind of makes them seem like adorable little baby lambs sent out to the slaughter. I mean, God, even the Alexandrians -- even Sophia -- knew more about killing Walkers than these guys do! It's all very tense, and each Walker scene in the premiere felt like a mini-horror movie.
Its Walkers also look just like you and me.AMC/YouTube
... Except with redder eyes, and maybe a fair amount of blood on their face from all of the human flesh they've just begun consuming.
It's going to be a blast watching Greg Nicotero rise to the challenge of creating a new breed of Walkers for this show -- basically, since these guys are years behind the Grimes Gang, the Walkers they're dealing with look more like slightly ill human beings than decomposing skeletons with tragically unwashed hair. It'll certainly be tough to match the grotesqueness of the Well Walker, but the season premiere has a couple of memorable makeup moments that make it clear that Nicotero will, once again, terrify us all with his ghastly creations.
You'll come for the Walkers, but stay for the characters.AMC
Since we've already spent years exploring the aftermath of this zombie apocalypse, showrunner Dave Erickson (along with Robert Kirkman, Gale Anne Hurd, Nicotero, and other "TWD" staples) knew they'd have to create a likable group of characters if they wanted Rick, Daryl, and Michonne enthusiasts to keep tuning in. And while none of these people wield a katana or even a pocket knife -- well, except for that one guy -- they're all pretty engaging after the first go-round.
The action centers around Dickins, who plays a high school guidance counselor named Madison, and her broken as hell family. Her heroin addicted son (played by Frank Dillane -- real-life son of Stannis Baratheon) drives most of the action in the premiere, and while many of his actions are hard for us to understand, we sympathize with him like crazy when he stumbles across the Walker action before anybody else... but his heartbreaking addiction causes him to doubt what he saw.
Madison's new live-in boyfriend, her colleague Travis (Cliff Curtis), is similarly likable due to both his treatment of his (doomed) students and his (hopefully not-so-doomed) step-children, and "Orange is the New Black" star Elizabeth Rodriguez -- who plays Travis' ex-wife -- is always engaging, even though she says like three lines throughout the entire episode. We still have no idea how these people will behave once they're tested with the literal end of the world, but it's crucial that we like them enough after episode one to keep on tuning in... which is why I'm pleased to report that we (well, I) definitely do.
At the end of the day, "Fear the Walking Dead" is basically a family drama mixed with a nightmare fuel horror movie -- though, unfortunately, there's no freaking way that the family unit will still be totally intact once the Walker action picks up. Because, as we know all too well by now, it most definitely will.