I was really looking forward to seeing the opening scene of the series premier of Fear the Walking Dead because I loved the first scene of The Walking Dead so much. I’m sure you too remember the little girl dressed in pink pajamas and nightgown holding her dolly as she turns around to face a police officer. At the same moment it registers in our mind that this is not a little girl but a zombie, the policeman shoots her in the head. This terrible irony tell us that we were entering a world that was turned upside down–where our authorities will not protect little girls, but mercilessly kill them, or their signifiers, instead. That opening scene also told us that the storytellers understand the literary and dramatic tools of storytelling and it told us that they understood that zombies and the world they create means something in the world of its viewers.
I expected no less from the new series and I think they delivered. Fear the Walking Dead opens in a church, or rather a drug den in a church, or rather a building that was formerly a church. Is a building still a church if it’s being used as a drug den? There was a cross, and pews and stained glass windows in it. The users ironically partake in an ironic ceremony called a “junkies communion.” When Nick wakes up the next morning in the balcony he is disoriented and in his confusion he calls for Gloria. Gloria is a word often heard in echoing through the vaults of all churches for it calls the congregation into a deep worship of the Most High God. Nick’s vocalization is solitary and desperate, and it is not uttered to worship God, but locate a fellow junkie. Eventually, he finds her—seeing first her bottom in cute pink panties, like the little girl in pajamas in The Walking Dead, this garb is loaded with meaning for the audience, but here again, this girl ain’t what she used to be. She turns and tries to eat Nick. He flees the church in terror.
There are several interesting possibilities as to what this scene might mean:
- In the absence of true faith, there is no longer a sanctuary to protect us from degradation, violence and death.
- Society continues to move from glorifying God, or some transcendent good, to glorifying sex and/or romantic love, but because these are insufficient to provide the meaning we seek, they turn monstrous.
- Were the church functioning according to its purpose, bringing “Glory to God in the Highest” there’d be no undead. Are the writers visually restating what George Romero’s famous words “When hell is full the dead shall walk the earth”?
By using the wrecked church as the first setting of the new series, the creators of Fear the Walking Dead are clearly commenting on the loss of faith, if not in God then in some higher meaning or purpose. Given the horrific world that our protagonists are walking into, it’s pretty clear this loss is significant. Based on this opening scene, I am hopeful we will continue to experience a story that gets us to think about what undead, and the world they create, mean.