Fear the Walking Dead opens with an upside down close-up of Nick (Frank Dillane), hinting at the upside down world he just woke up in. Nick, wearing a woman’s sweater, wanders around barefoot with a Jack Sparrow-esque movement. We follow him around a sepia toned church-converted drug den as he searches for Gloria, who he presumably slept with the night before. He hears a noise and investigates.
Nick eventually comes across a blood-covered stair bannister and soon after, a dead man on the floor with his neck ripped out. Nick jets behind a wall and struggles to make sense of what he just witnessed. He coyly checks again. The dead man remains on the floor. Maybe Nick’s not hallucinating. He grabs an iron rod for safety and presses on.
Nick finally finds Gloria. Relieved, Nick rushes up to her urging they have to “leave now.” Gloria jerks her head around, blood and flesh dripping from her mouth with a half-eaten man behind her. She stands to face Nick, cloudy-eyed, drenched in blood with a knife lodged into her chest. “No, no, no,” Nick exclaims as he stumbles out of the church. He hurriedly climbs through a window, sprints down an alley and through a fence. He finally makes it out of the alley, bent over trying to catch his breath. A motorcycle whizzes past inches from his face; he’s on a public street. Nick is immediately struck by a car and hits the windshield. He rolls off the car and people nearby rush to help him.
Nick is a heroin-addicted teen that strayed from the path his mother Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) tried to set for him. Often missing from the family, he is a constant disappointment to everyone. Despite his troubles, life is relatively normal for Nick’s family, who we see going through a typical morning routine. Madison is urging her teenage daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) to get ready for school. Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) Kim’s fiancée that recently moved in is bragging to Madison about fixing a leak. They receive a call from a hospital. It’s about Nick.
Police are questioning Nick in his hospital bed about his injuries and if he could help them bust drug dealers. Madison bursts in and kicks the cops out. Madison suggests Nick should return to rehab, which Nick protests, Travis insists, and both Nick and Alicia attack Travis for getting involved.
Alicia is your average sarcastic teenager. She’s Berkeley-bound and has a jock boyfriend, Matt. Matt seems to be the only one with which she shows any affection towards. She’s cold to her soon-to-be stepfather Travis and can’t wait to go to college in a year to get out. Nick’s drug problems have obviously caused a rift between Alicia and him.
It’s here where we meet Travis’s other family. He briefly steps outside to call Liz (Orange is the New Black’s Elisabeth Rodriguez), his estranged wife. He also gets the pleasure of speaking to his son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) who hates him. Travis reminds him about dad’s weekend and he should get along with his new family, but Chris is not having it. “Nick is NOT my brother,” Chris protests. Travis, having also given up on this relationship, informs Liz dad’s weekend is off and to “keep him.” Geez, and you thought the hospital scene was tense.
Madison works as a guidance counselor at the same high school Cliff teaches at. One of the students she counsels is Tobias, a bullied teen who in this episode is stopped by school security for carrying a knife. When questioned about the knife Madison warns he could be jeopardizing his future of going to college. “No one’s going to college. No one’s doing anything they think they are.” Madison asks what he’s talking about and Tobias mentions a virus spreading in five other states. Of course, we know Tobias is right. It’s about as clear as a picture we’ll probably get about the virus origins.
Nick believes he’s losing it. He even tells Travis, “I really don’t want to be insane.” It’s almost perfect that the first infected sighting happened to Nick, because no one would believe him. His reputation as a heroin addict nullifies any testimony he offers. So that helps the story develop and lets us meet each character.
Travis breaks into the church to investigate. After coming across a junkie, he stumbles into a pile of blood and intestines. The next morning, Travis and Alicia walk into the hospital room to discover Madison cuddling Nick in his bed. When Travis and Madison leave for work, Nick laments to Alicia about being a disappointment and how he promises to change. Travis tells Madison about his discovery. “Travis, you cannot enable him.” Madison appreciates Travis caring, leaves for work. Travis goes back inside hospital room, apologizes to Nick. Nick promises he “means it” when he says he’ll quit doing heroin.
Nick escapes the hospital after convincing the nurse to untie one of his hands after the old man next to him started (turning). After he leaves, Madison and Travis show up panicked at the hospital. The nurse says, “I’m sorry, he’s gone.” They head out to search for him at the church and Madison blames herself for the mess. “It’s in the genes,” she explains. Madison breaks down in tears when they find a heroin needle in the bed Nick was sleeping in. They then travel to see Nick’s drug dealer Calvin, who claims he hasn’t seen Nick. Meanwhile, Nick has found shelter under a bridge and Alicia is at Venice Beach, waiting for Matt.
That night, Travis and Madison get stuck in highway traffic and hear helicopters, police sirens, and gunshots. Travis finds a way out of traffic when it seems too dangerous. The next morning, people gather around a leaked police video of the highway scene from the night before. A man was cornered by police, shot, and got up again. One of the staffers mentions an air-born toxin/virus. Alicia and her friends also watch the video, but claims it’s not real. Incoming school buses are mostly empty because everyone in the city is scared. This prompts the school to close early. As Madison files out, she catches Tobias’s eye on the bus for an “I told you so” look.
Calvin meets Nick at a diner to explain he can’t have Nick’s parents snooping around his drug business. Nick brushes it off and tells him the story about Gloria. Calvin clearly sees Nick as unpredictable, and with the cops involved hatches a plan. He takes Nick to an abandoned part of the city by the LA river to presumably kill him. When Nick spots the gun on him, he tackles Calvin and accidentally shoots him.
When Travis and Madison show up, Nick confesses to accidentally killing Calvin. Travis reasons, “It’s self defense.” They return to the crime scene but Calvin is missing. Madison and Travis think Nick has truly lost it. As they begin driving away, they spot Calvin walking towards them. When Madison and Travis investigate Calvin tries attacking them. Nick floors it into Calvin, he gets up, and then Nick hits him head on sending Calvin a few yards back. Calvin’s slowly stands up, but this time noticeably missing his lower jaw. “What the hell is happening?” Madison ponders. “I have no idea,” Travis admits.
What do YOU think of the first episode of Fear? Who are your favorite characters so far and who do you think will/won’t make it??