‘Walking Dead’ prequel is creepily suspenseful

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Here’s the big reveal about “Fear the Walking Dead”: Those weird lurching figures are zombies!

Don’t bother screaming about spoilers — we know this juicy little nugget even before the show’s premiere. That’s because “FTWD” isn’t brand new, but a prequel to the monstrously popular “The Walking Dead.”

The two series are actually independent from each other, so you can jump in even if you’ve never seen the original one.

Set in LA rather than the Georgia backwoods, the six-episode inaugural season of “FTWD” starts off like a family drama, albeit one with close-ups of bloody, half-eaten faces.

Our heroes are a newly blended family headed by divorced English teacher Travis (Cliff Curtis) and widowed guidance counselor Madison (the perpetually stone-faced Kim Dickens).

Meaning the adults will face not just hordes of flesh-chompers, but hormonal teens. It’s hard to tell which is worse.

More important, the action takes place during the onset of the zombie apocalypse — yep, the one whose aftermath we’ve spent five seasons exploring on the mothership show. At last, we see what happened when the world went topsy-turvy and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was in a coma.

Practically speaking, this means that viewers are always a step or 10 ahead of the “FTWD” characters — to the point that the most common thing you’ll yell at the screen is: “Don’t get any closer, you idiot!”

And yet the first two episodes are creepily suspenseful — they’re great examples of how effective a slow pace and a moody atmosphere can be.

Mostly we get to know the family’s screwy dynamics in the midst of escalating bizarreness: helicopter footage of a dead guy who is attacking paramedics and cops, rumors of an unidentified flu — what a high school classmate of daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey, of “The 100”) describes as “the new real.”

The most appealing character is the clan’s problem kid, Madison’s junkie son, Nick (Frank Dillane, the series’ likely breakout star). He’s the first of our group to see the undead, and finds a fellow believer in his soon-to-be stepdad. Curtis is warmly sturdy as Travis, who’s more comfortable with the troubled Nick than with his own son, Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) — an annoyingly petulant teen who could turn into the new show’s very own Carl.

“FTWD” is off to such an auspicious start that it’s fairly easy to brush off the plot holes. Like the fact that no information appears to circulate despite this still being a world saturated with instant social-media coverage.

It doesn’t take a seer to predict the hell to come — and its accompanying gangbuster ratings.

 

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