Remember the 1995 film While You Were Sleeping, starring Sandra Bullock? Well, that would make the perfect subtitle for AMC’s companion show/prequel to the immensely popular The Walking Dead, with one minor tweak – While You Were Sleeping, Rick Grimes! And with the impending premiere of Fear the Walking Dead season two coming, season one is now available, courtesy of Anchor Bay, on a Blu-ray “Special Edition.”
THE SHOW: Fear the Walking Dead is set at the outset of the mysterious zombie outbreak that will eventually consume the world and plunge humanity and the undead into a horrific and seemingly inescapable apocalypse. Robert Kirkman, writer and creator of The Walking Dead comic books is also the brain child and showrunner of this latest venture. Instead, rather than following Rick, Daryl and Maggie, this new story follows the Clark and Manawa families, and is set in Los Angeles, California.
Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) are both hardworking educators that have fallen in love with one another. The pair have moved in together, so the merging of broken homes, at least in the beginning, seems to be the primary obstacle for our protagonists. Madison is a widow, raising two teenagers. Madison’s son Nick (Frank Dillane) is a junkie and her daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a brainy, but a somewhat insipid youngster.
Travis, on the other hand, is a part-time father to his apoplectic son, Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie). For the time being, Travis only has to deal with his ex-wife Liza Ortiz (Elizabeth Rodriguez) when he attempts to set up visitation with his boy. But everything in Travis and Madison’s lives are turned topsy-turvy when the undead begin to rise.
Through the first couple of episodes, the unknown threat forces both Madison and Travis’ families to unite, along with the Salazar family. By the time the military gets involved, and the zombies are starting to take over, all the Clark. Manawa and Salazar family members find themselves stuck under one roof together.
As the world continues to deteriorate around them, Madison and Travis meet a mysterious man named Victor Strand (Colman Domingo). Strand leads our new group of survivors to safety at his mansion at the ocean, but our heroes do not escape unscathed. Lisa is bitten during the group’s escape and Travis is forced to kill his ex-wife to spare her from the undead life she will incur. After Travis shoots Lisa, Madison tries to console him in his agonizing grief. And that is where we leave our heroes at the end of season one.
What really works for the show is the caliber of the actors, particularly the way Frank Dillane portrays Nick’s dependency on drugs. Nick’s addiction eats away at him, and makes him very unpredictable at times, but the way Dillane delivers his performance creates a great deal of empathy between the lost youth and audiences. As a fan, you’ll find yourself routing for Nick, which is in large part thanks to the thespian skills of Dillane.
There is also some very nice and extremely haunting imagery in the show. In episode three, titled “The Dog,” Daniel Salazar (Reuben Blades) shoots a zombie in the face with a shotgun. The special effects and makeup here are second to none here, as the zombie’s head is turned into a puss and blood-soaked chasm of grisly goodness. This fantastic representation of gore, which would make any splatter film fan proud, is a trademark of the original Walking Dead series. And the final scene of the first season is so gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, as Travis lies in Madison’s arms. The lovers embrace, as Travis is inconsolable after he is forced to kill his ex-wife. The tranquility and beauty of the beach, and the ocean-side, along with the sheer horror and desolation of Travis, in that moment, creates this incredibly uncanny juxtaposition.
The show is engaging, but what many Walking Dead fans might feel is the continuity that exists between the TWD show and the comic books, but fails to span toward Fear the Walking Dead. One of the most enjoyable aspects about watching the show is the anticipation diehard fans have wondering which beloved storylines and characters will transcend the pages of print and make it to the small screen. When it comes to Fear the Walking Dead, there is no such comparison available. All of these stories and characters are original with no ties to the books, and so far the compelling narrative is helping the show lumber forward.
BONUS MATERIALS: The Fear the Walking Dead Blu-ray Special Edition consists of two discs. The first disc contains episodes No. 1-4 of the series, while disc two houses episodes No. 5 and No. 6, plus a number of extras; The video quality looks phenomenal in its rich 1080p HD. This high-quality resolution makes all the bloody-disgusting special effects pop off the screen. The Dolby TrueHD sound is equally effective and is particularly noticeable when those hungry walkers dig into the flesh of their human and animal victims.
The first true goodie in the basket of extra features is the pilot episode of Fear the Walking Dead, which is presented in an HD Widescreen version. This is the perfect way to experience the show like it’s a short film, with all angles revealed. It is a fun way to see all the elements that the director couldn’t include in the standard viewing experience.
One of the best bonus features is that every episode includes a commentary track of its very own. So, rather than just having a commentary for the pilot, every episode has its own behind-the-scenes look with many of the cast and crew. Here’s a breakdown of who will walk you through each episode:
Episode No. 1 and No. 2 feature Kim Dickens, Dave Erickson and Adam Davidson.
Episode No. 3 features Alycia Debnam-Carey and David Wiener.
Episode No. 4 and No. 5 feature David Wiener and David Alpert.
Episode No. 6 features Kim Dickens, Elizabeth Rodriguez and Dave Erickson.
Next, there is approximately seven minutes worth of deleted scenes, which is the real weakness of the bonus features. Most episodic television Blu-rays and DVDs have more than seven minutes of footage not seen on the show. In the addition, there’s no blooper reel, which is a real bummer.
The second-best batch of extras comes in the form of the seven featurettes on the Blu-ray. The most enjoyable is “Inside Fear the Walking Dead,” which is just over 30 minutes in length. Each episode gets some time, in which the cast and crew delve inside the show to discuss the stories and characters. However, there is no behind-the-scenes footage, which is very odd.
The remaining six featurettes range from three minutes to 11 minutes in length. “Fear: The Beginning” is the longest of these and the cast and crew explores how the zombie world is set in motion in Los Angeles. They also discuss their characters more, but again there is a lack of extra footage from the set. “Five Things You Need To Survive” is exactly what it sounds like, as cast members take a light-hearted look at what five items they couldn’t live without in a world drenched in zombies.
“Quarantined” finally shows some footage that didn’t appear on the show, while the cast and crew discuss the other bad guys in Fear the Walking Dead – the military. “Locations: LA & Vancouver” is strictly a look at the locations and “Stunts and Anarchy” does give us a peek behind-the-scenes of the show’s stunts and actions sequences. In addition to the featurettes, there is an UV digital copy of Fear the Walking Dead included with this special edition Blu-ray.
Whether or not Fear the Walking Dead will become as popular as the original series is yet to be seen, but there are limitless possibilities for Kirkman to explore. The timeline for the two shows are close enough together that you could have Rick Grimes and his group actually encounter the Clark/Manawa clan, at some point. As for the Special Edition Blu-ray itself, it hits more highs than lows, but paying the suggested retail price of $59.99 just is not justifiable. Check it out, but look for it on eBay or Amazon where you can purchase new copies for anywhere from $30 to $40.
Bottom line: this special edition is definitely a nice addition to any collector’s library.