Review: Fear the Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 1: Junkie Jesus and the Church of the Living Dead

Posted: August 25, 2015 in Random Thoughts
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Like many of you, I thought making a spinoff of The Walking Dead was a Terrible Idea. Why would they do that, when they could much more profitably spend their time on making Rick less of a fucking maniac?

Like many of you, I was wrong. So, so wrong.

There aren’t many zombies in the first episode. There doesn’t need to be, not right now. I might change my mind if there still aren’t at least a couple by next episode but for now…the slow burn is delicious.

Spoilers from here

Junkie Jesus

The episode starts with Nick (AKA Junkie Jesus, because of the way the shots are set up at the beginning of the episode – you’ll see what I mean when you watch it, if you haven’t already) waking up alone in an abandoned church, with the mother of all hangovers. He mooches around shouting for his girlfriend Gloria and eventually finds her noshing on one of their fellow junkies. He flees for his life and gets hit by a car.

I need a moment here to flail about the utterly gorgeous way the entire sequence is set up. We know what’s going to happen, we know almost exactly what’s coming, and yet we’re drawn in from the very first moment. Personally I’m a sucker for abandoned places, and the abandoned church/junkie commune is beautiful in a gross, why are you walking barefoot you idiot kind of way.

So Junkie Jesus gets hit by a car and taken to hospital and his concerned family arrive. His mom, Madison, is quite cool, although at some point she needs to have some defining features other than ‘Nick’s Mom’ or risk going the way of Lori.

His Straight-A sister Alicia has a lot of potential. She seems to have hidden depths of sass under her grouchy exterior. She does well in school but bunks Spanish in order to get a snuggle from her gorgeous  boyfriend, whose name I either missed, or who never had a name at all. It doesn’t matter because I’m pretty sure he’s dead by the end of the episode, because he does not seem like the kind of guy to invite a girl to the beach and then not only not show up, but ignore a string of texts from her. So, pretty sure he’s dead, which is sad, because I liked what I saw of him.

Stepfather Travis is also supernaturally supportive and nice, staying with Nick in the hospital. He doesn’t seem to be too bright though, as he goes wandering through an abandoned church where he has been told something awful happened AT NIGHT. If he had died there I would have written him off as a Darwin Award winner.

Nick manages to escape from hospital by stealing an old dead guy’s clothes (can I have an EEW from the congregation?) and goes off to find his dealer to find out what the hell was in the drugs he took. A crying jag and a cuddle on a diner bench later (fun fact, conservative parents are likely to look at you funny if they happen to come in and ask you to feed the dog and you pause on a lovely cuddle-shot) Nick is on his way to get some more drugs to clear his head, but it doesn’t work out like he expected and the episode ends with the family having experienced their first walker.

couch cuddles

While all this happens Alicia is allegedly home alone (although if I were her I might have gone looking for my boyfriend. Can we expect a newly-undead artist next episode?) and Travis’ rude son is at his mother’s place, having declined the invitation to watch over Nick’s sickbed for the weekend. I haven’t seen much of him, but what I’ve seen I didn’t like all that much.

I actually enjoyed this episode more than the first episode of TWD, simply because I’m a sucker for a slow burn, and this episode does that so well. My favourite part of the zombie apocalypse is the part before the actual apocalypse, when things are just starting but nobody has any idea yet how bad things are actually going to get, and this episode manages to capture that feeling perfectly, while having a bit of fun with an audience which, the scriptwriters know damn well, have watched five seasons of The Walking Dead and have certain expectations. For example, if your friend is hunched over on a chair, facing away from you, and doesn’t respond when  you call his name, he’s obviously undead. Or is he?

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