Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete First Season Special Edition Blu-ray Review
Written by Robert Gold
Blu-ray released by Anchor Bay Entertainment
Directed by various
Written by Robert Kirkman and various
2015, 291 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on March 22nd, 2016
Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa
Kim Dickens as Madison Clark
Alycia Debman-Carey as Alicia Clark
Frank Dilane as Nick Clark
Elizabeth Rodriguez as Liza Ortiz
Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris Manawa
Rubén Blades as Daniel Salazar
Mercedes Mason as Ofelia Salazar
Colman Domingo as Strand
Six years ago, writer/ director Frank Darabont (The Mist) adapted Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead for television with a six-episode story arc that set the stage for one of the most-watched programs currently running. The show’s popularity endures (without Darabant) and has spawned a companion piece saddled with the uninspired title Fear the Walking Dead. This show follows the condensed season template of the original, but does not ride the crest of creative storytelling as successfully.
The city of Los Angeles is enduring a heat wave, a crazy flu-like illness and an increasing number of incidents involving police brutality. What makes the latest cycle of this familiar scenario unique, at least according to Nick, is a bizarre wave of cannibalism and the re-animation of the recently deceased. Nick’s mom Madison and her schoolteacher boyfriend Travis want to believe her son, but he is a junkie, and both police and doctors suggest he has suffered either a psychotic break or at the very least an intense drug hallucination. Within the week, Travis becomes the unofficial mayor of his neighborhood’s safe zone, a job that finds him serving as liaison between civilian and military personnel during the start of the zombie apocalypse. It is hard to believe that this time just last week he was a high school English teacher whose most difficult responsibility was keeping his fractured family intact.
Following a series of violent outbursts and street riots, the National Guard quarantines neighborhoods and sets a mandatory curfew. Our heroes, now joined by members of the Salazar family, all reside in Madison’s suburban house and stress levels are rising. There is no doubt that the dead are in fact returning to life, but this is not an easy revelation to simply accept, especially when it comes to returning them to their graves. Travis plans a family exodus to the desert until things calm down, but their plans are disrupted as the growing tensions spill over and the military faces a growing revolt from both the living and the dead. The situation quickly spirals out of control and by the end of the week chaos is becoming the new normal.
Hey Walking Dead fans, do you remember when things were fresh, new and exciting? Wasn’t it fun a few seasons ago before everything became dirty and morose? Don’t you wish you could go back to a time when the apocalypse was still just a looming threat? Sure, we all do, and Fear the Walking Dead is an attempt to bring back the days when life was at least a little bit normal. Somehow in just six episodes the show manages both to get a lot of things right and to undermine all good faith efforts, sometimes within the confines of a single episode. The writers seem more interested in teasing audiences with the idea that anyone may be expendable without properly developing the characters first. This is an obvious and easy way out of a corner that occasionally works six seasons deep on The Walking Dead, but fails to connect here if viewers know that new faces are already being placed into the rotation for the next big adventure.
Fear the Walking Dead returns for a second season (starting April 10th), and will hopefully include a goal that is less mundane than basic survival from one week to the next. This spin-off is not as bad or as lazy as the title would suggest, but unless the creative team figures out why we need to split our attention between two shoddy zombie shows, perhaps they can focus all their efforts on making one really good program.
Video and Audio:
The show is presented in the original 1.78:1 aspect ratio and while technically there isn’t anything wrong with the transfer, there is nothing exceptional either. The colors and skin tones are all natural and occasionally vibrant, but the whole thing feels uninspired, like you’re watching a mediocre soap opera.
The default Dolby TrueHD 5.1 track offers a slightly better experience with all speakers getting a basic workout. Music and effects tracks are well balanced and do not step on dialogue levels, but the action scenes are not much more engaging than the atmospheric build up.
English and Spanish subtitles are provided for anyone in need.
Fear the Walking Dead: The Complete First Season was previously released as a no-frills edition a few months ago, and in a greedy move that will surprise no one, returns as a stacked special edition just in time for season two. There is nothing to suggest these supplements were recently discovered or newly completed in response to popular demand, and as a result bears the stink of a deliberate double-dip cash-grab that collectors of physical media have come to regard with disdain.
There are quite a few goodies included here, starting with an audio commentary on all six episodes, each featuring various members of the relevant cast and crew. Specific titles are: “Pilot”, “So Close, Yet So Far”, “The Dog”, “Not Fade Away”, “Cobalt” and “The Good Man”.
In the “Pilot” commentary, we learn the episode was shot in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio and reframed in a TV friendly 1.78:1 for broadcast. Viewers with an understanding for how film composition works will be happy to note that the episode is included with the intended widescreen presentation as a special feature.
A collection of deleted scenes (7 minutes) offer some additional content, albeit without context. These excised moments are not properly titled or catalogued as to how they fit in with the story, but I guess it is nice to have the option of seeing random glimpses into the characters’ lives.
Inside Fear the Walking Dead is a six-part look at the making of the season with a collection of cast and crew interviews mixed with behind-the-scenes footage. The featurettes are episode specific with an average running time of five minutes each for a grand total clocking in around a half hour.
FEAR the Beginning (10 minutes) is a basic pitch video that sells audiences on the possibilities this new show brings to a world they are already more than familiar with.
Some of the show’s central cast members answer the question of what they would want with them in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse in the fluffy featurette Five Things You Need to Survive (2 minutes).
Locations: L.A. & Vancouver (7 minutes) is a short piece that examines the challenges of filming a show in Canada that requires numerous exterior Los Angeles environments.
What do you think would be the military response to a zombie uprising? Quarantined (7 minutes) examines the role of the military when confronting the downfall of society.
Some of the action sequences are studied in the segment Stunts and Anarchy (7 minutes), offering viewers a look at how the stunt team worked to introduce an element of danger to the series.
I complained earlier that the central characters remain interchangeable until the writers decide whom to follow. The Faces of Fear (5 minutes) offers a look at the contenders for who will move on to season 2 and who will be dog food.
Saving the best for last, The Infected (5 minutes) takes an all-too-brief look at the make-up effects that are the reason people watch a show like this in the first place. This final featurette is a bit insulting in its lack of substance.
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