We’re totally excited about AMC’s companion show to The Walking Dead: new characters, a new setting, and a story that takes place “during Rick’s coma,” according to the AMC exec who introduced the Comic-Con screening of the Fear the Walking Dead. Here are our spoiler-free first impressions!

The timing of the show is important, for obvious reasons. Unlike the eerie opening of The Walking Dead, which sees wounded cop Rick Grimes waking in a hospital and realizing everything familiar has been wiped out, Fear begins on just another day in Los Angeles. None of the characters know what they’re in for, but the audience does, and we’re given all manner of clues of impending doom. When Madison, the high-school guidance counselor played by Kim Dickens, confiscates a knife from a nervous student, she thinks he’s carrying it because he’s been bullied—a logical conclusion. But the zombie-aware viewer knows exactly what the kid, who mutters about “reports in five states” and “it’s spreading,” is afraid of.

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Of course, we get some flesh-ripping quite early in the episode (not a spoiler, since it’s in the newest trailer, released at Comic-Con and pasted below). It’s a hell of a thing, Madison’s troubled son Nick (Frank Dillane) discovers, to be one of the first people to witness a zombie attack, only to have everyone write off your warnings as the ravings of a drug addict. And for awhile, Nick’s worried that they’re right, and that he’s actually losing his mind. Nick’s clearly been an extreme source of tension for some time, to the annoyance of his sister, high-schooler Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and the genuine concern of Madison’s boyfriend, Travis (Cliff Curtis), who has an ex-wife and surly teen son of his own. The theme of family is going to be a big one in Dead, and it’s presented in a realistically complicated light. Everybody’s busy, everybody’s doing their own thing, but everybody drops everything to help out when a crisis flares.

Of course, the pilot doesn’t have every character from the show in it; you’ll have to hold on until a later episode to see what role Rubén Blades will play in all this (though he’s in the trailer, and offers some insight here.) What you do get is the sense that something huge, sprawling, and nightmarish is on the horizon, and it’s starting from this pinpoint place of one otherwise unremarkable family. Most of the first two minutes of the trailer are from the pilot; the final minute suggests this show isn’t going to wait too long before it gets insane and (what looks to be) very scary. And sure, we’ve seen the zombie apocalypse imagined onscreen many, many times before. But in Dead, we’re experiencing it alongside characters that’ve had time to develop; we actually like them, for the most part, and we’ve seen them battling everyday chaos. This only makes us more eager to see how they’ll react to mobs of hungry undead ... and whether or not they’ll be able to survive.

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