It’s here! It’s here! It’s here and it’s Fear!
Sorry. That sounded better in my head.
I love this poster, guys, and in general I feel like AMC handled the early run-up to this entirely unnecessary program pretty well. You know the premise, yes? Zombies. Only in Los Angeles, and nobody knows there are zombies yet.
Got it? Okay good let’s roll.
We begin with Johnny Depp, waking up in an abandoned, nasty old church.
Okay, seriously. I joked in my previous post that this guy was Johnny Depp, and that was before I saw this comparison. Holy crap. In a second he’s going to stand up and sort of shuffle down the hallway, and his stumbly gait is probably supposed to remind me of a zombie but instead reminds me of nothing so much as Captain Jack Sparrow doing his best impression of Jim Morrison.
He is wearing… hell, I have no idea what he’s wearing. And I’ve mocked the shirt already. The important thing is he’s coming off a heroin high. And he’s looking for “Gloria,” who doesn’t seem to be around. He descends a stairway, still calling for Gloria, and right around then is the scream. And then he starts finding blood. And a body.
Here’s the thing about Johnny: I wanted very badly to hate this character, and he is by far my favorite character on the show. Why? Survival instinct. He finds the body and then immediately grabs a weapon. And then he sees this:
Because in LA, even the zombies have nice asses.
Zombie? Yeah. Sorry, Gloria. She’s a zombie now.
Note the body behind her.
DEAD BLACK GUY COUNT: 1/1. Because this is still Walking Dead.
Johnny runs like hell, emphasizing once again that he actually has a survival instinct, except he decides to run into the middle of the street and immediately gets T-boned by a car. Whoops. The impact should crush the shit out of his hips, but it doesn’t because TV.
You hear the guy who hit him saying “I didn’t even see him!” as the camera pans over a very crowded city and you hear the first ambulance of the show. Opening sequence, which is all of ten seconds long.
We meet Mom, who is hollering at Mischa to get out of the shower. Mischa is revealed to be a high-school-age teenage girl, and she’s wrapped in a towel. Meanwhile Dude Guy, the male lead of the series, is somehow doing plumbing already despite the fact that apparently it’s supposed to be early in the morning and no one has left for work yet and Mischa is still in the shower. Dude Guy (I don’t remember anyone’s name yet) is apparently a hard worker.
The phone rings. They have a land line for some reason. Possibly so they can get phone calls when their druggie son gets hit by a car. What year is it, anyway?
Nick (Right! Nick! I’m gonna keep calling him Captain Jack) is in the hospital being interviewed by cops. The cop says “You were raving about flesh… and blood… and viscera.”
Right after I think no he wasn’t, that’s ridiculous, Captain Jack deadpans “I don’t know what viscera is,” which makes me love him. Mom arrives and throws the cops out. Nick and Mom battle verbally for a few minutes.
He’s in the room with a really old man, by the way. GEE I WONDER IF SOMETHING WILL HAPPEN TO HIM.
This seems like a good place for a cast photo, as Nick attempts to make his family leave him alone forever and half of them clearly aren’t too troubled by the idea.
Dude Guy’s phone rings; it’s his… ex-wife? Baby mama? Who knows; she wants him to take Christopher, who is presumably their son, but Christopher doesn’t want to go, because so far everyone hates everyone on this show. It’s unclear where Christopher lives; hopefully it’s outside the city. Christopher doesn’t appear in the cast photo so one assumes he’ll be eaten soon.
Dude Guy stares over the LA skyline, as sirens echo in the background.
Dude Guy and Mom have a brief conversation about how someone will take Dude Guy’s classes and Mom has to go to work because something something college. Wait, they’re teachers? What the hell time is it? Does school in LA not start until noon or something, or do these people just get up insanely early in the morning? DG stays with Edward Needlehands while Mom and Mischa have a deeply depressing conversation on their way to school because they hate each other. Blah blah blah rehab.
They’re at school, going through metal detectors, and it’s very clearly before classes have started so I have no idea what’s going on. Barack Obama is the principal, and as he and Mom are talking about how the flu is going around, a pimply 43-year-old sets off the metal detectors. No one moves or reacts except for the principal. You have security. I can see them. Why aren’t they doing anything? Mom, who is apparently the guidance counselor, rummages through Pimples’ pockets in what is pretty clearly an illegal search and then hauls him off to her office for a chat for no clear reason.
Dude is carrying a knife, which she found in his pocket and then left there. The blade is for “whittling,” he says in a completely teenaged lying-about-how-no-one-is-bothering-me tone that convinces no one. She works him over for a minute and he starts babbling about “safety in numbers” and how the end of the world is coming. “No one is going to college. No one’s doing anything they think they are,” he says.
“They say it’s not connected. They say that, but I don’t believe them. They say it’s in five states. They don’t know if it’s a virus, or a microbe or what, but it’s spreading. People are killing!”
“You need to spend less time online,” she says, and unconvincingly tells him the authorities would tell them if something was going on– but without asking for any details. This is a weird conversation in a lot of ways, and I’m not sure how much anyone is supposed to know about anything. Meanwhile, though, we’re establishing something interesting: that the apocalypse was preceded by a widespread and apparently low-grade flu.
Mischa meets her boyfriend. He’s black! And alive! So was Principal Obama! Kissy kissy painty painty blah blah blah.
DEAD BLACK GUY COUNT: 1/3. A great ratio, for this show.
Back to the hospital, and holy hell this is a thousand words already, and Nick (okay, this is interesting, and a sign of how much I like this character, he’s making me not make fun of him anymore) is trying to process what he saw at the church. He’s opening up to Dude Guy whose name I can’t still remember. He makes a half-assed attempt to get out of his restraints, an attempt Notorious DG wants nothing to do with. He talks about Gloria for a bit and sorta freaks out. It’s the first bit of actual good acting we’ve seen so far.
The interesting thing: he doesn’t believe his own story. He’s freaking out because he saw something insane and he doesn’t believe he saw it.
“She was eating them,” he tells Dude Guy. Dude Guy’s a bit skeptical, to say the least.
“It either came out of the powder, or it came out of my mind. And if it came out of my mind, Travis– Travis! That’s his name!– if it came out of my mind, then I’m insane. And I don’t wanna be insane.”
Speaking of insane, Travis waits until nighttime and then heads over to the church, because he’s an idiot. Luckily he’s not killed, although he encounters one terrified waiting-to-be-killed junkie and finds a whole damn lot of blood but no bodies and no weirdest-boner zombies either. While he’s doing that, Mom’s with Nick in the hospital and Mischa’s off being the lowest-paid actor in the family.
Commercials, and tomorrow:
“You’ve got an hour until first bell,” Travis says as he wakes her up. How the crap are you out of the house and dressed then? Do I actually need to do research to find out when the hell school starts? This is madness. It’s a show about the living dead and the most ridiculous thing about it is the sleep schedules of the teacher main characters. Mischa doesn’t even look tired.
Mom and Travis leave, and Mischa actually feeds her brother, treating him like a human. Ah, youth. So inconstant. They have a conversation about how Nick is crazy, but I think Mischa means something very different than he does when they use that word. Outside the hospital, Mom and Travis– geez, is anyone gonna ever say her name?– are leaving, and Mischa catches up with them and berates them for being late. Dude, they forgot about you. Travis makes noises about wanting to help with Nick an Mom reminds him that he can’t use Nick to fix things with his actual son. It’s kinda mean, for what has got to be 6:30 in the damn morning.
And then Travis is back in the hospital room for some reason talking to Nick again. Do these people not have schedules at all? Blah blah blah heroincakes.
Did I mention the pilot is an hour and a half long? We’re at the halfway point so let’s take a music break.
Much better. Mischa and her boyfriend are having a moment. It’s cute, but I have no idea where they are and it looks moderately illegal. Is that the Hollywood sign they’re sitting behind?
He draws on her arm with Sharpie, and it gets a long enough closeup that I feel like it might be important. I like these two; too bad he’s destined to die.
They make plans to meet at the beach and have some of The Sex. I mean, they don’t say that, but that’s what they’re saying. You clearly have no responsibilities and nowhere to go; why not go do it now?
Sirens in the background again. They’re not at the Hollywood sign; they’re on top of a building. Have they gotten onto the roof of the school somehow? What the hell is going on in this school?
Blah blah teaching. Mom walks past a kid sitting on the floor in the hallway doing nothing, we get half a second of her starting to talk to him, and then in the next scene she’s walking away and the kid’s still there, so… okay. Travis is talking about Man vs. Nature and Jack London and How Not to Die, and wtvr I see what you did there.
Mom walks in on Principal Obama, who they want us to think is dead and sitting in a chair; turns out he’s just spying creepily on his teachers. It’s actually pretty effective for what is very obviously a fakeout. He’s evaluating his staff. It’s a funnier joke than it should be.
“Nature always wins,” Travis says.
Back to the hospital, where Nick convinces a nurse to undo a restraint so that he can piss and the old man next to him codes. A thing happens that is either very smart or very dumb; one of the doctors yells “Okay! This man needs to be downstairs!” as he’s dying and they wheel him out of the room. I’ll explain why in a bit. Meanwhile, Nick has freed himself and steals the old man’s clothes and flees the hospital. He’s Depping all over the place again.
Skip ahead to Mom and Travis yelling at the nurse, who is more than a little agitated and tells them to call the police. Mom says she wants to go to the church. Commercials.
When we come back, they’re looking at a pool of blood on the floor and trying to talk each other out of what is obviously a big problem. They go upstairs to where he was found and…
Wait, is the daughter’s name Alicia, not Mischa? Shit. I’m gonna call her Mischa for the rest of the recap anyway.
…he’s got a book up there, is the point. With a needle and some tinfoil in it. Maddie! Mom’s name is Maddie!
The Hunt for Nick begins. Did they leave school? Is it nighttime? Hard to tell. As they leave the church, you can hear helicopters overhead and sirens.
“Let’s try Calvin’s,” she says. Calvin is busily vacuuming out a car. He’s black! And alive!
DEAD BLACK GUY COUNT: 1/4. Positively healthy!
They interrogate Calvin, who is incredibly polite and nicely dressed and hardworking and calls them Mr. and Mrs, and he offers to make some calls and help to find Nick for them. He’s such a nice articulate boy! But he doesn’t know where Nick is.
Nick’s sleeping under a bridge and calling people on a cell phone that I’m not sure how he managed to find. Meanwhile, Mischa’s at the beach and trying to find her boyfriend, who isn’t showing. “You better be dead!” she texts him. He’s totally dead.
DEAD BLACK GUY COUNT: 2/4. That was fun while it lasted.
It’s nighttime now, and Maddie is musing about how maybe she doesn’t want Nick to come home after all, blah blah blah familycakes. More sirens! A cop car zooms past! Helicopters! A traffic jam! I wonder what all that’s about? I’m sure it’s fine.
They drive off the onramp after the gunshots start. That’s probably not good. Commercials.
The next morning, Principal Obama, who is still alive, is joking with cops about flu shots and expressing surprise that there are only five kids on the bus. The teachers are all huddled around a TV, watching what looks like a crash victim try and eat some EMTs. The cops shoot the hell out of him. He gets up.
(Have I mentioned the score yet? I don’t know who is scoring this show, but the score is amazing.)
Nick’s still wandering around and trying to get ahold of someone. Maddie wanders around outside and now all you can hear is helicopters and sirens. Back to Mischa, who is sitting in class with three of her friends blatantly texting and watching videos— not even being subtle about it– because this is not actually a school. Charmingly, she types “Where R U??” and her phone autocorrects it to the correct spelling, which makes me like her, because most kids would have fixed that by now. The teacher makes a half-assed attempt to take her phone and then school is abruptly cancelled.
Let’s talk about that for a minute. Up above we had the weird “take him downstairs!” moment. Now we have a huge urban school district cancelling school for the afternoon, which is a logistical nightmare. This is not actually a thing that can happen, guys. Every school in LA just stopping for the afternoon? Really?
Either the writers are being weirdly sloppy or this is a sign that the Powers that Be have an inkling of what is happening and are still trying to keep it quiet. The hospital in particular– are they already quarantining dying patients? Hospitals would be the first to know if something bad is happening with dead people. How long has this been happening? What’s the deal with the flu epidemic? It’s interesting, and I hope it’s actually interesting and not just my geek brain fanwanking sloppy writers.
This phone video of the dude getting shot and standing up is really clear, by the way. Maddie tells Mischa she wants her home, because… why, exactly? It’s not clear, because she doesn’t know anything, and this abrupt cancellation of school should be really alarming to everyone. Honestly? Cops shoot people in LA all the goddamn time, and more people should be confused by the panic.
Brief shot of Zits McGee, who you would think would have chosen to stay home. Commercials.
Nick meets Calvin at a diner. Calvin was dressed in a button-down before; now he’s in full gangster drug dealer mode. His diction’s even changed. Wait. Are you kidding me? He’s Clark Kent Drug Dealer? Come the hell on.
BLACK GUYS WHO ARE DRUG ADDICTS OR DRUG DEALERS: 2/4. SIGH.
Cal’s really unhappy that the parents of his lifelong friend, who apparently he has hooked on drugs, have shown up at his folks’ place looking for their son. This is kinda irrational; he’s presumably known these people for a while, yes?
Nick asks Cal what his drugs were laced with. Cal angrily denies it. Nick is seriously falling apart in this scene; he can’t deal with what he saw. You get a quick hint of the Calvin who Nick used to be friends with as he tries to bring him down. Nick literally sobs in the guy’s arms. It’s almost touching, until you get a look at Calvin’s eyes as they leave the diner. Calvin promises to take care of him. They get into a car and drive into a… calvert? Is that the word? I don’t do LA. Those things from Terminator 2 with the motorcycles.
This won’t be good. Calvin tells Nick to sit tight and then heads directly for the trunk, and Nick, who again displays startlingly acute survival instincts for a heroin addict, looks for the gun that of course he just got right away, and then… attacks him immediately. The gun goes off. Calvin’s dead. Never fight a junkie, Calvin.
DEAD BLACK GUY COUNT: 3/4.
Again, this kid’s the best actor on the show. He just killed his only friend, and he freaks the hell out and runs away. The scene is awesome. Commercials.
When we come back, Travis is pulling into wherever Nick is, Maddie in tow. A hilarious editing miss occurs, as Nick is merrily freaking out about how Travis wasn’t supposed to bring Maddie with him, and he calls Travis Nick, which is his name. Oops. He quickly confesses to having killed Calvin, and dude is just completely falling apart as he does it. He thinks he’s lost his mind.
“Where’s Calvin?” Maddie screeches, completely ignoring the part where Nick says that Calvin had sold him the heroin and how he just wanted to know what was in it.
Naturally, when they go to look for him, Calvin’s body is nowhere to be found. Nick loses it a little bit more.
(Sidenote: early on in TWD, walkers were taking much longer to turn than this. Sloppy?)
By “Nick loses it a little bit more,” by the way, I mean “Nick completely loses his shit.” He’s out of his mind, terrified, collapsing to the ground at one point. I imagine the weight of the entire show on your shoulders is rather intimidating.
Travis tries to back out of what for the sake of argument I’ll call a culvert. And… uh-oh. Calvin’s behind them. He’s zombie-walking. How he got past them I don’t know. Nick realizes immediately what’s going on. Calvin goes for a bite that really should have landed, and Nick runs him the hell down with Travis’ truck.
Because Nick is the only one with survival instincts.
Calvin gets back up. Now everyone knows something’s up.
And Nick runs him down again, killing his best friend for like the third time in fifteen minutes, which is a thing not many people get to say that they have done.
Here’s how the episode ends:
Is it next Sunday yet? Because holy hell.