Like most people who will be watching AMC’s new series when it premieres on August 23, I am a huge fan of The Walking Dead. The escalating tension in every episode, the gruesome deaths, the struggle to survive and the desperate attempts to find peace and hold on to civilization–this stuff makes for great TV. And with characters like Michonne, Carol, Maggie and Sasha, the badass girl power element is in no short supply. The question is, can the female factor hold up when this world gets knocked back to regular every day jobs, families and routines?
Fear the Walking Dead hits rewind on the undead apocalypse, taking us back to the beginning, where life is a bit more familiar. Before there Frank Grimes woke up in a hospital bed in Atlanta, Madison Clarke (Kim Dickens) was giving high school students “real talk” about bullying and trying to check her son into rehab. The episode begins with her son, Nick (Frank Dilane), waking up in a drugged-out haze. Searching for his friend, Gloria, it soon becomes clear that things aren’t quite right. When he follows a trail of blood to find her feeding on a dead body, he runs into the street and gets hit by a car, left to wonder whether what he saw was a product of his drug problem, a sign of insanity, or worse, the beginning of a new reality.
As a new cast of characters is established, the dynamic of the show begins to emerge, with single mother Madison and her two teenagers, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) the college-bound high school student, and Nick, the loose cannon drug addict, becoming the show’s centre. There’s also Travis (Cliff Curtis), the man in Madison’s life who just moved in and has his own separated family drama to deal with. Right from the start, it’s clear that Madison calls the shots, directing her household and prioritizing her career, accepting Travis’s offer to watch over Nick when he lands in the hospital so she can go to work. Shutting down her lover’s mushy declarations of support and understanding, she makes it clear that she’s not the kind of woman who will melt for any man, but she’ll let him help when its convenient.
Where Frank Grimes takes on the role of reluctant, but capable leader (at least at first) in The Walking Dead, I get the sense that Madison would have zero issues taking charge of her family as the world begins to crumble around her.
Throughout the episode, Madison continues to assert her strength, shutting down Travis’s feeble suggestions that she “wait in the truck” and marching her way into every sketchy situation she encounters, determined to figure out the best way to help her son. She’s playing the Fierce Mother card, and it’s working for her.
Where Frank Grimes takes on the role of reluctant, but capable leader (at least at first) in The Walking Dead, I get the sense that Madison would have zero issues taking charge of her family as the world begins to crumble around her. From just one episode, it’s clear that she’s got the people skills, the intelligence and the attitude to lead them through disastrous circumstances and come out on the other side, and do it while juggling a tension with her teenage daughter, a romantic relationship that’s still in it’s early stages, and a son who’s hanging on to his sanity by a thread.
I’ll admit I was a little surprised by how fast the new series seems to be gaining momentum. For a show about the beginning of the end, there already seem to be an awful lot of dead people walking around, with little explanation about how or where the problem started. I was hoping to get some context, or at least see a gradual build towards the disastrous world of Frank and his motley crew. At this rate, it feels like Madison and her fam could be crossing paths with Michonne and her sword in no time at all.
But who knows? Maybe there’s more to the story of how the world gets from here to there. Whatever happens, I’m interested to see how Madison and her “I’m a badass mom so don’t mess with my kids” approach will handle what comes next.
Images via AMC.
Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.