Boiling Frogs

They say that if you want to kill a frog, you put it in a pot of cold water and slowly bring the heat up to a boil.  The danger is gradual and the frog doesn’t notice it’s dying.

Last night, AMC gave us the pilot episode of Fear The Walking Dead.  Because I’m on the Left Coast, I saw the reviews before the episode, and felt a little nervous sitting down to it.  A slow pacing was the greatest criticism, that it didn’t jump into the crisis as fast as the pilot episode of The Walking Dead had done back in 2010.  This is true.  In the entire hour, we see only four zombies, two of them up close and one of that pair really up close at the end of the episode.

However, we need to take a step back and look at what the series is trying to achieve in a broader sense.  We’re seeing the early days of the apocalypse, and if every episode can be summed up in one line, last night’s pilot is: “We have a problem.”  Fear The Walking Dead will, I believe have more in common with the Max Brooks novel World War Z than Robert Kirkman’s comic books, especially the early parts of Brooks’s novel where the crisis unfolds slowly.

This gives us a good dose of reality.  I remember the start of the Swine Flu Pandemic in 2009 with a few news reports here and there coming out of Mexico.  It didn’t seem like anything to worry about at first.  But then more people died, things got tense, and for a while, people worried whether or not it would be the next Spanish Flu.  Ultimately, 200,000 died from it.  Relatively small compared to 1918, but still a large number.

History lesson aside, I think audiences need to be patient with the show.  I don’t mean, “Oh, let’s wait for them to find their footing.”  I mean we know there’s at least one season lined up.  Let’s see what the writers can pull out of the bag.  I will concede the show has an uphill battle ahead.  As one reviewer put itFear The Walking Dead “can’t rely on the huge popularity of its big brother to keep it afloat.  It has to prove that it’s a show worth watching on its own merits.”  But we still shouldn’t discard it simply because of slow pacing.  Let’s not forget the first season of Guillermo del Toro’s The Strain.  Sure, it had more vampires than AMC gave us zombies last night, but society stayed in denial, and things spiraled out of control by the end of the season.

I’m thinking of the Fear The Walking Dead trailer here: scenes of people rioting, of police shooting zombies in the streets mingled in among the crowds of innocent people looking for safety.  Complete and utter chaos.  I’ve said it before.  I’ll say it again.  This isn’t a show about finding answers.  It’s about the shit hitting the fan, and the chefs boiling their frogs.

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