When the producers of a hit TV show with a loyal and discerning fan base announce a spinoff , viewers tend to give it a little side eye. Better Call Saul is an example of a show that lived up to expectations of those of us who missed Breaking Bad – and those were some very big shoes to fill. It also acted as a prequel to the saga of Walter White/Heisenberg and Jesse Pinkman, the same way Fear the Walking Dead presents a storyline that predates The Walking Dead.
“Fear” takes place in Los Angeles, which isn’t a bad locale to offer some change of scenery and a different set of characters from the Atlanta location. It also starts out at some point before Rick Grimes woke up from a coma to a world that had already become something unrecognizable. A teenager, Nick, wakes up from a drug induced fog, in an abandoned church which now serves as a shooting gallery, calling to his friend, Gloria. He finds her, in the middle of a very bloody scene, munching on a hapless victim. Nick runs from the church and is hit by a car, then taken to a hospital.
We next see a family, split by divorce and trying to come together as only weekend parents can. Travis is the live in boyfriend of Madison – Maddy – who is Nick and Alicia’s mother. Travis also has a son of his own, Chris, who isn’t happy with any of the arrangements, which becomes clear as he reluctantly tells his dad that he’ll come over for his weekend visit. Travis is a high school teacher and Maddy is a guidance counselor at the same school.
When they get the call about Nick’s accident, they go to the hospital, where the cops tell them about Nick’s rantings. He had talked about blood and gore and viscera, but almost everyone thinks it’s just the drugs talking. That would probably be the answer under normal circumstances, but there’s also bits of news about some sort of virus which is making people kill each other and has reached at least five States. One of the high school students is way ahead of the curve, already carrying a knife to school, just in case. Travis goes to the church to see for himself and finds that it’s just as Nick described.
Nick, still in the hospital, and awaiting a psychiatric evaluation, is presented with a bed pan by a nurse who tells him that she decides when he’s to use it, just like she expects from her dog. He asks her to untie one of his restraints to make it a little easier, and when she does, he waits for her to leave and starts to undo the second restraint. The bed pan crashes to the floor, and the patient in the next bed codes. The patient is whisked away, and Nick grabs the man’s clothes and makes his way out of the hospital.
While this is all going on, Alicia and her boyfriend, Matt, are meeting on the bleachers and making plans to see each other at Venice Beach. There really isn’t much more to say about her, because, at least during this episode, all she really did was act annoyed, be annoying and exhibit teenage angst. Matt never did show up at the beach. Maybe that’s something.
Maddy and Travis are notified that Nick is gone and go in search of him. Maddy thinks that they should look for him at the church, and when they enter, the bodies are gone. Maddy sees the drug paraphernalia and breaks down. Their next stop is to see Calvin, a friend of Nick’s but he swears he hasn’t seen Nick for a while. On their way home, Travis and Maddy run into a traffic jam. Police cars and helicopters are everywhere and they hear gun shots. Travis moves over a couple of lanes and they make their way out of there.
When they get to school the next morning, They see a new report about the incident they drove past the night before. A man is seen fighting with EMTs and cops, beaten and shot, but still fighting. The only thing that stops the man is a head shot – but we knew already knew what it would take. We’re seasoned veterans. The school officials decide to close early. In the meantime, Nick has bought himself a burner phone and is meeting with Calvin at a diner. Calvin isn’t happy with the visit from Nick’s parents because, as we find out, Calvin is Nick’s supplier. After asking Nick how long it’s been since he’s had a fix, Calvin drives Nick to an isolated area, then takes a gun out of the trunk of his car. The two fight over the gun and Calvin is shot and killed.
Nick calls Travis, and when Travis arrives with Maddy, Nick tells them what’s happened. They drive to the place where the fight took place and Calvin’s car is there, but there’s no sign of Calvin. We knew that, too. As Travis starts to back out of the tunnel, he sees Calvin approaching. He and Maddy get out of the truck and approach Calvin, who’s bleeding heavily from his wound. Calvin then lunges at them and nearly bites Maddy. As they struggle, Nick takes the wheel and runs Calvin over. He’s still moving, so Nick runs him over again. As Travis, Maddy and Nick watch, Calvin looks at them and snarls.
It wasn’t a bad beginning, at all. We just need to see more walkers, or whatever they call them in California. I’m sure it will be something ominous, like kale salad.