A young man, looking out of sorts, slowly rises from bed in a broken-down dark ex-church that now serves as a hideout for drug users and gang members. The place already looks enough like a haunted house as it is, and the clientele it entertains doesn’t help. A different character takes a trip here later on, and as she steps around a corner, a druggie suddenly rushes at her going “BOOGIDY BOOGIDY BOOGIDY!!” You almost don’t need zombies. Someone would have to be truly crazy to attempt to sleep here in the first place. Meet Nick!
The first thing Nick notices, though it takes him a while, is that everybody in the vicinity is dead. Except for one person, a female currently bent over above one of the dead bodies. Noticing Nick, she turns around to reveal she’s been eating the dude’s face, and she slowly turns around to munch on him as well, a giant knife sticking out of her chest so you know she is, in fact, undead. Nick hightails it out of there in the scene everybody saw in the trailer, only before his pants can fall completely off, he’s hit by a car.
One of the foregone conclusions of Fear The Walking Dead is that any premature attempt at warning the populace of their impending doom has to fail. It’s fitting, then, that the first guy to encounter a real, honest-to-goodness zombie is also a stumbling, slurred-voiced drug addict whom nobody believes. Not even he believes himself; Nick spends almost the entire episode assuming he was tripping.
We’re going to be talking about Nick a lot, because he was made the focus of this episode, and I’m not sure why. He spends the entire first hour lying in a hospital bed rambling incoherently. How much of that does one need? While Rick Grimes also started his journey from a hospital bed, he was interesting from the start — you had to know his deal. At the least, you could understand what Rick was saying. Not so with Nick.
Nick is connected to the blended family at the center of Fear The Walking Dead’s storyline: he’s the son of Madison, a high school guidance counselor who’s now living with Travis, a teacher from the same school. She has a daughter from a previous marriage named Alicia, and also a messed-up grown son, You-Know-Who. When they all find out Nick is in the hospital, their reaction is not of shock, but more like “Here we go again.” That Nick!
Nick recounts the events of his “dream” to Travis. “I was…..awake….then….and then….this thing….then….you see….this girl, Gloria….she was having…she was eating him…..in the face….hippopotamus….Hamburglar.”
They said the family would be average and unassuming, and except for Nick, they weren’t lying. Madison spends the episode looking for Nick, talking to Travis, and…that’s all you can really say she did. I said this once before, but the name “Madison” did not enter popular use as a girl’s name until the movie “Splash” came out in 1984. If Madison has a grown son, she’s older than 31, therefore she cannot be named Madison unless this series takes place in the not-too-distant future.
And I actually have a theory it does. There was a twentysomething man named Aiden in Alexandria, which would predate the Aiden/Jaden/Jayden Explosion of the 2000’s when every damn parent gave their baby that terrible name. If there’s an Aiden in his 20’s and a Madison in her late 30’s (at least) then the zombie apocalypse must have been around 2021 or so.
Madison’s daughter, Alicia, doesn’t like Travis, Nick, or most other things. Her, I liked. Alicia reminds me very much of Linda Cardellini in her Freaks and Geeks years (or year, as it was); so much so that she could play Lindsay Weir today and I’d wonder how Cardellini tracked down the Fountain of Youth.
Alicia has a laid-back, cool personality and she feels like she’d be fun to hang out with. I did not anticipate this. It’s very easy to make the “isolated teen” chiche annoying. People hate them so much in real life that I have no idea why they keep putting them in shows. Maybe it was this factor that kept the scriptwriters from using Alicia very much, being unaware the actress could sell it. Instead we got Crazy Nick for 90 minutes.
Nick wants out of the hospital badly. He has apparently wanted to get out of hospitals before, because the staff keeps him strapped down, even well after he’s recovered somewhat from his drug-induced stupor. When the nurse comes in with a bedpan, Nick asks for some privacy and one unstrapped arm. “Hah, nice try, pal,” the nurse implies, but she does unstrap the arm because she thought she’d be watching him. Instead the old man in the bed next to Nick flatlines and every doctor in the area rushes him to the emergency room, leaving Nick alone to escape. (Was there anyone watching who didn’t think that old man was going to die and rise as a Walker at some point? Didn’t happen.)
Meanwhile Alicia gets a scene to herself for the second and final time, relaxing behind the scaffolding of the high school bleachers with her boyfriend, who flirts with Alicia the best way he knows how — by doodling on her arm.
I was prepared to laugh at whatever he was putting here, but…this design isn’t bad.
This hair, however….did the early 90’s come back and no one told me?
Nick spends the next couple of nights on the street, searching for Calvin, the man who sells him drugs, because he’s convinced the experience he has was hallucinatory. When he finally finds him in a diner, Calvin doesn’t look happy to see Nick.
“Dude…..like…..you gave me a thing, man! What……what was in that stuff…..I should be able to trust you, man, you’re a drug dealer!”
“Hey, no worries, brah, I got your back! Speaking of your back, can we take this conversation to a dark graffiti-filled concrete cavern in an isolated part of LA so you can turn that back to me while….I do something? Bro?”
“Oh, sure man, whatever you need.”
It sure takes Nick a long time to process how much trouble he’s in. The dark tunnel doesn’t clue him in, the car parking in the isolated area doesn’t ring any warning bells…..he only becomes alarmed when he sees the gun in the dealer’s hand. Before anything can happen Nick tackles Calvin and struggles to get his gun. Nick shoots him in the chest, then after he collapses, bizarrely Nick rushes over to him, appearing to be in shock that he was harmed.
“Oh no, he’s not DEAD, is he? Who could have done this?? ….Oh right, me.”
It’s at this point when Madison and Travis catch up with Nick. Nick rushes over to them and screams in his usual freak-out manner, “CALVIN! I KILLED CALVIN! CALVIN IS DEAD! HOBBES IS GOING TO FIND ME AND EAT ME ALIIIIIVE!”
As they’re driving back through the tunnel, there’s a man stumbling toward them. It’s Calvin, who’s still moving, though this time, not on his own. The lead couple doesn’t know that as they get out of the car and approach him. Nick realizes they’re in danger, but not for the reason the audience knows. “HE’S GONNA KILL YOU, MAN!” Nick screams as he slams on the car’s gas and rams Calvin right before he can chomp Madison’s arm.
Calvin gets right back up, so Nick rams him again with the car, this time harder. Now lying in broken pieces on the asphalt, it’s impossible for Calvin to be alive, so when his head slowly turns toward everyone and he gives out a growl, they know SOMETHING strange is going on.
And we’re left hanging there. Only the pilot has aired so far, so we know little about anybody except Crazy Nick. We know almost nothing about Alicia. We should get those answers soon, I hope.