Ever since it was introduced, The Walking Dead’s popularity has soared through the roof. Another Zombie apocalypse styled story, the franchise has a comic book, TV series, video game, and now, with Fear the Walking Dead, a spin-off TV series. With the main show still airing and already in place however, it begs the question, does this show add anything new and substantially different?
The short answer is yes: there’s enough to differentiate this spin-off series from the adventures of Rick Grimes and company in Atlanta. Fear the Walking Dead takes place on the other side of the United States and features completely new and different characters to root for (and eventually weep tears for). The most significant difference however, is the fact that it takes place in the early days of the apocalypse; we get to see a normal functioning society descend into chaos and disorder. This was a time period skipped over in the original series as it went straight into the action.
The premise alone does make this show intriguing and engaging to watch. Who doesn’t want to see the big and bustling metropolis of Los Angeles descend into chaos? As the show goes forward, we see the first zombies make their presence felt. It’s a slow burn from a seemingly normal day to a society where law and order breaks down altogether. The show is wracked with tension and suspense as events happen one after another and things escalate to new heights. There are several effective moments which detail the fall of a city, from cops taking down a zombie on a freeway, to a SWAT team surrounding a hospital.
The main characters of the show are part of a large and dysfunctional family group. For the most part, everyone is written like real and believable characters. However, a couple of them are teenagers, and with this, we get the cliche and annoying problems that come with them. One of the characters, Nick Clark, is a heroin addict who finds himself suffering from withdrawal symptoms and is constantly trying to get a fix, scavenging through people’s medicine cabinets. Another character, Christopher, is the typical rebellious teenager: difficult at times and resentful of his father’s divorce.
The dysfunctional family unit meant that there was also some unwanted drama between ex-wives and difficulty with cooperation in general. However, eventually, everyone is able to band together and work against the craziness around them. Not everyone makes it to the end, obviously, but characters are able to shed some of their annoying quirks as things go on.
However, before people start working together, a giant ditch of dumb decision takes place. As is usually common with the survival horror genre, characters act like boneheads at times and as viewers, this is especially frustrating to watch. For example, near the beginning, some characters with more experience refuse to have stark and serious conversations about what’s been going on. The whole ‘in the dark’ aspect acts like an unnerving security blanket in season one, where people don’t know things and have information kept from them which leads to an infuriating block of central characters.
I don’t want to sound too negative but the dumb decisions and choices are a semi-regular occurrence, and these are what ultimately hampers the show from becoming much greater than what it currently is. Occasionally there’s some good stuff done by the characters here and there and when they deal with the fallout of their actions, it can be refreshing to watch.
Amidst these bad choices, there is a great deal of good stuff that comes out which makes everything worth it. Some of the characters are compelling and have interesting back stories that reveal what makes them tick. Two which stand out the most are Colman Domingo as Victor Strand, a shady ex-businessman who is basically this show’s Carol (main series badass) and Rubén Blades as Daniel Salazar, a Salvadoran refugee who would protect his family at any cost.
The setting also changes as the characters move around, each with its own style and charm. Along the way, new characters show up that we get to meet (and watch die). In addition, the story moves in interesting and unique directions which grab your attention and make you want to see how things go along. For example, there’s an escape on a yacht! How that happens and where it leads to is something that leaves you wanting more.
Fear the Walking Dead may have seemed like an unnecessary spin-off at first, but it has grown to become its own unique thing. While some choices and plot elements can be frustrating to watch, there is ultimately more good done than bad. With the second season currently airing and the show having been renewed for a third, it is definitely interesting to see how these particular group of survivors will fare in the zombie apocalypse.
Fear the Walking Dead is available on Amazon Prime and Hulu