This Fear the Walking Dead article contains spoilers.
AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead returns this Sunday with an all-new season, so what better time to look back at the debut season. From riots in the streets of Los Angeles to martial law to lounging in a pool, there’s a lot to love when the apocalypse hits sunny California. We’ve picked our favorite moments from each episode, so you can check them out chronologically while you catch up or recap the season before the season 2 premiere.
Let us know what you think of this list—and share your own best moments in the comments below. Also, be sure to check back every Sunday for our weekly reviews of Fear the Walking Dead‘s new season.
Don’t forget to listen to Den of Geek’s Walking Dead podcast, No Room in Hell!
1. The opening scene with Nick and Gloria in the church. Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t waste any time giving fans of The Walking Dead what they want to see: zombies. In this case, and in these early days of the infection, no one knows what a zombie is yet. But Nick awakens from a drug-induced stupor to the bloody aftermath of a gruesome attack that’s left someone with his neck torn open. He can’t leave the church without his friend Gloria, but as it turns out, she died in the night from an overdose. When Nick finds her, Gloria is busy eating the face of a fellow addict. This is exactly the kind of gore fans of TWD have tuned in to see, and FTWD happily obliges.
2. Calvin, hobbled. This scene down by the river with Nick’s drug dealer, Calvin, is a well-staged set piece. Not only does Calvin seem to survive being shot, he survives being rammed by a pick-up truck—twice. He’s in terrible shape by this point, with flesh peeled away here, a broken bone protruding there. And yet he still keeps coming. This is an important scene because it confirms for Madison and Travis that Nick didn’t imagine what happened with Gloria back at the church. Whatever this infection is, it’s a game-changer.
“So Close, Yet So Far”
3. Madison, Tobias, and Principal Costa. This is a very tense scene in thehigh school. Stocking up on drugs and canned goods, Madison and Tobias hear the sensor alarm go off at the school’s entrance, which sends them running to the hallway. There, they grapple with a freshly turned Artie, who is school principal and Madison’s friend. Not only is she battling a zombie, she’s forced to kill her friend. What’s notable about this is how hard it is to bring Artie down. He’s as strong as any grown man might be. His skull isn’t soft, or his muscles atrophied. Tobias puts up a good fight, striking first before Artie can attack Madison, but his little steak knife is all but useless. It takes several good whacks with a fire extinguisher before Madison is able to finally bring Artie down. This is savage stuff, especially for people who have never killed before. But this attack ramps the tension up considerably by making it personal. Juxtaposing the attack with a safe haven like a school is especially effective. Soon, no place, and no one, will be safe.
4. The riots. Zombies attack in the midst of the rioting and no one notices the real horror unfolding before their eyes. For now, the real danger is other humans, whether it’s the rioters themselves or the encroaching authorities. This is the real beginning of the end, this almost immediate lawlessness. Lack of information and one-sided media coverage has a lot to do with the growing panic, and now it’s spilling into the streets as the city goes up in flames. This is also an important scene because it brings together the Manawa and Salazar families.
5. Sisters of Mercy Hospital. With Griselda injured, Travis heads for the nearest hospital. But it’s here that the true scale of the problem is revealed, as the infected are gunned down in the harsh glare of floodlights. This is the beginning of the quarantine. It’s also the start of widespread power outages, as downtown LA quickly falls into darkness. FTWD is very good at building tension, and this scene is a perfect example of the dread that’s been building over the last two episodes. The sick are everywhere, and soon, there won’t be any getting out of town.
6. Can I borrow a cup of brains? At three episodes in, FTWD finally takes the gloves off and gives us its first grisly zombie kill. This time it’s Danny Salazar who saves the day, firing a shotgun round at Peter, who has just finished killing the titular dog. It’s a little odd that Travis would try to reason with someone who just used his mouth to eviscerate a German Shepherd (seriously, why does Travis do this, especially since he knows the dead come back?), but Danny is a no-nonsense man who’s no stranger to violence, as we’ll soon learn. It’s a gruesome kill that splatters most of Peter’s head against the wall. FTWD‘s first season doesn’t have many such moments, but they really make this one count.
7. Susan. Time to consider the moral and ethical ramifications of killing the sick. Given that nobody knows what’s causing the infection or if the sick can be cured, this scene is not so far-fetched. We’ve seen this rationale before on TWD with Hershel and the Governor, who held out hope for some kind of magical cure. In this case, Travis talks Madison out of caving in their neighbor’s head with a ball-peen hammer. As we’ll see later in the season, Travis still sees the dead as human. He’s right to a point, but Danny sees their morality as weakness.
“Not Fade Away”
8. Some of this season’s better moments don’t involve zombies. One such scene is about Nick, who as we know is trying to kick a serious drug habit. Nick leads his mother to believe that he’s really kicking the habit, that’s he’s successfully weaning himself off the drugs. Of course, the opposite is true. Sure, he doesn’t need the pills because he’s been sneaking into a neighbor’s house to steal his morphine. This speaks to Nick’s clear-headedness and resourcefulness, two qualities that would help anyone survive the apocalypse. But it also speaks to the depths he’ll sink to for his next fix.
9. Travis is pressured by Moyers to take down a zombie. Well, it’s not so much peer pressure as it is Moyers looking to take Travis down a notch or two by asking him to take down an undead waitress —all Travis needs to do is pull the trigger. He can’t do it, though. To him, she’s not a monster. Instead, he sees a human with a name—Kimberly. We saw this samestrong sense of morality come in to play with Madison’s neighbor, Susan. Travis is consistently upright in this regard, a character trait that will ultimately work against him later in the season.
10. Our introduction to the mysterious, tuxedo-clad Strand, who is under quarantine. He’s putting his honey-toned voice to work on Doug Thompson, breaking him down a bit at a time. All just by talking about insurance. He ultimately reduces him to a blubbering mess. Exploits his weakness, destroys him. Colman Domingo is a commanding presence, and he is fantastic in this scene.
“The Good Man”
11. Seeing LA burn in the pre-title scene. For all intents, TWD is set in the post-apocalypse. Rick wakes up from a two-month coma to find the world in ruins around him. Even with its small two-week time jump in “Not Fade Away,” FTWD is still set squarely at the outset of the outbreak. So it’s interesting to see the flames consuming parts of LA, as thick plumes rise into the night sky. Even better is the moody music playing as the camera slowly pans over the city’s devastation. One of FTWD‘s strengths is its knack for creating atmosphere. Dread and paranoia permeate the show, and here, juxtaposing the fall of society against a song like this almost makes the fall of mankind seem dreamlike. Of course, this is no dream, and we’re reminded of this as the camera slowly closes in on the arena, the infected banging and clamoring behind doors that won’t stay locked for long. Which leads to the next moment on the list: the dead invade the base.
12. Danny becomes the Pied Piper of LA. Not only does he free the infected from the arena, he leads them to the military base to create a distraction. This is the first time we’re seeing an actual zombie horde on the show, and it’s massive. Considering this is the finale, FTWD needs to finally deliver what fans of TWD have come to see. Thankfully, FTWD commits in a big way. It’s always worth arguing that Danny Salazar directly contributed to the spread of the outbreak by freeing the infected. He didn’t cause the apocalypse per se, but he did his fellow survivors no favors by allowing the dead to roam free.
13. Nick and Strand’s last stand. Locked doors, advancing dead, no more bullets. Madison and Travis show up on the other side of the door but they can’t open the doors either. It’s in this moment that Nick makes peace with himself and quietly and calmly urges his mother to leave him behind. It’s not dramatic, it’s poignant. Nick has caused his mother enough pain, and now it’s time to let him go. A lot of this scene’s power comes from the possibility that Nick could die, and for a minute or two, I really thought he might.
14. Travis pummels Andy. It’s logical that violence is part of the territory for a zombie show. Sometimes the violence is gratuitous, sometimes not. We know that in order to survive an apocalypse, one cannot be weak. But we’ve also seen characters take a brave stance by actively avoiding aggression. TWD‘s Tyreese and Morgan are two such examples that spring to mind. On FTWD, their analog is obviously Travis, who we know as the non-violent type. We saw this when he stopped Madison from killing Susan, we saw it again when he wouldn’t shoot the undead waitress, and again when he let Ofelia’s boyfriend escape. This is a mistake that will come back to haunt them when Andy returns with a gun and shoots Ofelia. This triggers something in Travis, who basically beats Andy to a bloody pulp. This is the fall of civilization, told through the eyes and the fists of one man—the last good man.
Which brings us to:
15. Travis kills Liza. Survival always comes at a steep price in a show like this, so it’s no surprise to find out that Liza has been bitten. She knows firsthand that the infection itself will kill her, that she will become one of the infected. This is the last thing she wants. Travis shoots her in the head, essentially saving her from unloving death. But this act of mercy is what finally breaks him. Yes, it’s unsettling that another character had to die for Travis to complete this season’s character arc, but it also tells viewers who this show’s emotional center is. The season began with Nick, but it ends with Travis, mourning Liza as the surf breaks over him.
– The soldier who’s been bitten and is denied from entering the evac chopper. He knows he’s infected and immediately takes his life by beheading himself with the chopper’s tail rotor. Quick and effective—and very bloody. (“The Good Man”)
– This is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment with Nick, who is hanging out the passenger window as they drive along the river, the wind in his hair. Nick very much reminded me of Heath Ledger’s Joker in The Dark Knight. Both characters are free spirits in a way, living for and in the moment. I’m not saying Nick is a psychopath, but he can see the folly in everyone’s lives. (“The Good Man”)