Going Nowhere, Fast – The Return of Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead returned this week, shambling into view like the reanimated corpse of a previous television show forcefully brought back to life. Well, that’s not fair. Fear the Walking Dead is a perfectly decent drama and the first episode of this new series tried its best to be taut and lay the groundwork for what should be a claustrophobic season ahead.

Ahead of its broadcast, the episode had been previewed for journalists, bloggers, competition winners and assorted hangers-on across Europe. Last Friday it was the turn of the UK’s finest to watch, with an introduction by Executive Producer Gale Anne Hurd, the woman behind some of the best recent sci-fi including: Aliens, the first two Terminator movies and, of course, the main Walking Dead show itself.

If nothing else can be taken away from Friday night’s appearance by Hurd it’s that AMC is obviously serious about The Walking Dead’s baby brother. It should be taken as a sign of intent that AMC has, at the very least, medium-term plans for the show. The cynical among you might point to it as a more frantic attempt to drum up interest in a show that has been comparatively less successful and arguably failed to set the world alight. But certainly, trotting out as powerful and influential a person as Hurd is a move not to be taken lightly. Don’t be expecting Fear the Walking Dead to drift off into the sunset any time soon.

Hurd’s principal contribution to the evening comes in the way of a Q&A that follows the screening. It could be a more enlightening affair as too many of the questions refer to individual plot points or characters and, not unexpectedly, Hurd’s previous movie work.

What can be gleaned from the brief back and forth is that her chief interest lies in the show’s ability to deviate away from source material, ask new questions and tell stories that otherwise would not be on the cards for her and her fellow Walking Dead producers. And perhaps that provides naysayers with a gleaming ray of hope for the programme going forward. Hurd and her colleagues have at times found themselves running the gauntlet of Walking Dead fans angrily remonstrating against deviations from the comic book narrative and nit-picking perceived errors in character development. Divorced from a black and white inked bible that simultaneously inspires and restricts, Fear the Walking Dead has the ability to explore and wander as freely as the recently deceased. This is plainly the aspect of the show that appeals to Hurd when approaching a spin-off to a massively popular piece of the current cultural zeitgeist. Whether Fear the Walking Dead can capitalise on this freedom, or is content to literally tread water, will be discovered over the coming weeks.

If anything else can be taken away from the evening it’s that Gale Anne Hurd has the patience of a saint. Questions from the audience range from the awkward: “Why has she not worked with ex-husband James Cameron recently?” To the downright bizarre: “In the event of a zombie apocalypse would you be able to euthanize your own family?” Inevitably the focus of the evening then shifts away from the show to the heroic amounts of free food and drink on offer to attendees, as if the event itself had turned into a PG rated approximation of a catastrophic breakdown of law and order. Perhaps this is a good thing too, as it prevents any potential watering-down of the show’s impact on an eager audience by shining too much daylight upon the magic.

AMC’s spin-off to its frighteningly popular flagship show is an interesting prospect, even if, at the moment, it remains a strange conundrum. A concept with arguably much more room to breathe but one which has so far not escaped the staggeringly long shadow of its predecessor. Admittedly, these are still very early days. If Gale Anne Hurd’s endorsement is anything to go by, watching it attempt carve its own niche will be an endeavour not to be dismssed.

Fear the Walking Dead Mondays, 9pm on AMC