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Fear The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season [Special Edition] (Blu-ray Review)

Fear-Walking-Dead-Blu-raySimilar to the first season of AMC’s The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead got in and out pretty quickly with a 6-episode first season and a quick Blu-ray release with almost no extras. Now, again like its big brother, ‘Fear’ has been treated with a new special edition version of its first season, in anticipation of the upcoming second season. You are getting the same show, but now with more extras. So now find out what we had to say about this first season of The Walking Dead spin-off, along with what the new special features have to offer.

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Film:

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Redundant title aside, the concept for Fear the Walking Dead is a decent one. Many wondered what the plan would be for this spin-off, when it was initially announced by AMC. With the idea of having a fresh look at this zombie outbreak, not relying on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novel source material as a template, this series could have headed in different directions. While I have had some ideas that could have played out in exciting ways (think anthology series), what we got is a prequel series that explores the initial outbreak in a new location.

Set in Los Angeles, these six episodes follow a dysfunctional family headed by Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Madison (Kim Dickens). The two are joined by Madison’s children, Travis’ son and a couple of survivors (including Ruben Blades), during a time when some sort of epidemic begins to bring the dead back to life. As we are aware of The Walking Dead, we obviously know that zombies are upon our heroes, but they will have to figure things out the hard way. As the world begins to change, we watch these people attempt to survive deadly situations.

Say what you will about The Walking Dead and particularly its first and second season, but the pilot episode is pretty terrific. Shot to look as gritty as possible and using the first issue of the comic as a basic structure, that’s a great way to begin a series. The rest of that show’s first season was not as strong (despite being wildly popular), but the tone was set. Fear the Walking Dead has less luck. While a number of good people have stepped up to make this series work, a lot of it falls flat due to issues that also plague The Walking Dead along with some jarring tonal shifts.

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The best example is the show’s opening title card. Despite being a cool smash cut and brief musical cue from Atticus Ross, it almost always feels like something belonging to a different show. Fear the Walking Dead treats itself in a serious manner, which is not a bad thing, but the situations we find these characters in and how they react often lends itself to campier material, which is never taken advantage of. Instead we have a roster of sullen individuals, most of whom are defined by one thing.

To its credit, Dickens is something of the main focal point for the series and despite some poor choices, she does enough with the role to sketch out the most interesting character (save for a kid named Tobias, who only appears in the first two episodes). The rest of the cast, including greats Curtis and Blades, rarely shine if ever. If anything, this is the show where I actually wanted to see casualties, instead of being jolted by the shocks of certain deaths found in The Walking Dead.

Poor characters aside, the show is mostly well put together. As opposed to have Georgia create a real character for a setting, Fear the Walking Dead only shot its pilot episode in LA, with the rest of the series being filmed in Vancouver. Sadly this means we don’t get to explore much of a world here, despite the great idea of taking things to a new urban level. Zombie effects look as great as ever though, which is always an admirable quality.

I’m really hoping season two turns things around. The end of the first season shows a series with potential to move into new and more intriguing territory, even if it ends up being more and more like The Walking Dead, but in a different locale. I honestly wish more could have been done with exploring how this outbreak effects various parts of the world and what that really means, but making do with what this show is just has me hoping it all gets better. As it stands, Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t quite fulfill a high quality promise made to make a great spin-off, but it has its share of effective moments in an abbreviated freshman season of television.

Video:

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Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Clarity/Detail: While the pilot episode feels a bit grittier, given the actual Los Angeles setting, the presentation of the series in general is not all that interesting from an aesthetic standpoint. The accompanying Blu-ray presentation doesn’t really suffer because of this, it just has little to offer outside of a clear image. We get the details of the various sets used and nothing is ever unrecognizable, the show just falls flat in this area, aside from the bigger action-based sequences.

Depth: Plenty of characters around to properly display a level of dimensionality that works for this video presentation.

Black Levels: There are lots of darkened or nighttime segments that look about as good as you would expect. Black levels are deep and inky.

Color Reproduction: Colors are not a strong suit of the series, based on the tone, but they are never dull. You get what feels like a TV quality in the handling that again, keeps this show from having a unique look that is worth noting.

Flesh Tones: Characters fortunately look great, as the facial textures are generally quite good, especially given all the close-ups.

Noise/Artifacts: None.

 

Audio:

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Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Surround 2.0

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish

Dynamics: The show’s lossless soundtrack does everything you want for a series like this. Action sequences lacks a bit more punch than expected, but this show has a different sort of function for the time being. It’s more about building a sense of dread and we hear what we need to in a mostly appropriate way.

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel does a solid job of capturing some of the deeper moments involving soundtrack blares and explosions.

Surround Sound Presentation: Mostly center-focused, because of all the characters interacting, but enough ambient noise is present with atmospheric purpose, which helps spread the sound around.

Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is loud and clear.

 

Extras:

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The biggest aspect of this release is the inclusion of all new special features, including commentary tracks for all 6 episodes. It certainly makes this set worthwhile for those who really dug the show, but held out until now.

Features Include:

  • Pilot Episode: The Widescreen Version (HD, 1:04:24) – It’s weird how close this Blu-ray release resembles The Walking Dead. The special edition of The Walking Dead’s first season had a B&W version of the pilot to resemble the graphic novel. This special edition features the 2.35:1 version of the pilot to show the filmmakers’ original intent. Why all 6 episodes were not presented this way, I’m not sure. It doesn’t make a phenomenal difference, but it is neat to see.
  • Audio Commentaries – Each episode gets a commentary track and while a little dry at times, they mostly do enough to explore what went into putting this show together.
    • Episodes 101 & 102: Co-Creator/Executive Producer Dave Erickson, Co-Executive Producer/Director Adam Davidson and Actor Kim Dickens
    • Episode 103: Co-Executive Producer David Wiener and Actor Alycia Debnam-Carey
    • Episode 104: Executive Producer David Alpert and Co-Executive Producer David Wiener
    • Episode 105: Executive Producer David Alpert and Co-Executive Producer/Writer David Wiener
    • Episode 106: Co-Creator/Executive Producer Dave Erickson and Actors Kim Dickens and Elizabeth Rodriguez
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 6:35) – 6 separate scenes adding little moments, but nothing important.
  • Inside Fear The Walking Dead (HD) – 6 featurettes (one for every episode) lasting about 5-6 minutes that take a brief behind-scenes-look at the making of the episode, with interviews with cast and crew.
  • FEAR: The Beginning (HD, 10:13) – Interviews with the cast and crew talking about the origins and purpose of this series.
  • Five Things You Need To Survive (HD, 2:17) – A slightly more humorous bit with the cast talking about survival materials.
  • Locations: LD & Vancouver (HD, 6:56) – A look at the filming locations for the series.
  • Quarantined (HD, 6:36) – A look at the making of a key aspect of the second half of the season.
  • Stunts And Anarchy (HD, 6:59) – A look at the filming of some key action sequences involving riots and zombie breakouts.
  • The Faces Of Fear (HD, 5:15) – A closer look at the cast.
  • The Infected (HD, 4:48) – A look at the creation of the various zombies seen in the series.

 

Summary:

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Fear the Walking Dead has gotten off to something of a rocky start, but completionists will be happy with this special edition Blu-ray set. Gripes with the series aside, it looks and sounds quite good on Blu-ray and this bevy of extras does enough for fans to learn plenty about the show’s construction. Seek it out if you didn’t already get the first edition, though the new extras actually are worthwhile for any major fan.

Order Your Copy Here:

Fear-Walking-Dead-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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