The most interesting thing about Fear the Walking Dead is that this is a piece of Zombiecana that is actually set during the fall. None of the main characters are in a pesky old coma for the first month, the series doesn’t start 28 somethings later, it frames itself right at the heart of civilization (or as close to civilization as modern day Los Angeles gets) right as that society gets a bad case of the bitey nonsense.
This is what, initially, separates Fear the Walking Dead from the show it span off from. The Walking Dead’s focus is very much on what happens to people well after the fall. The money shots of the flagship show are a man alone on horseback entering a dead city or a lone woman with a sword and outfit that begs to be cosplayed making her way alone through a forest crawling with dead folk. The money shot of Fear the Walking Dead is a church squatting junkie escaping from the clutches of a zombie onto the busy streets of modern LA.
But there is a problem right at the heart of Fear The Walking Dead that hangs over the series. It isn’t that it doesn’t have a heart, it is just that the heart it has is an almost identical one to the show it span off of, despite the major differences in the premise.
For example, foreshadowing makes up a significant chunk of the early episodes, and the show makes good use of the fact that only the most disconnected of human viewers won’t know what is coming. The pace is slow, the milestones of the growing infestation are discovered sparingly and when they hit – they hit. Early in the series one character is introduced who clearly knows what is coming, and this is incredibly satisfying watching the rest of the characters play catch up. But this is all surface level, never truly explored, as the show quickly takes on the form of its forbear, following a group of survivors as they relocate from one cordoned off area to another. Only this time the rag-tag group already knew each other, and bring their own baggage in the form of tensions between two families linked by the same father figure.
Apart from these minor differences that would have been interesting to see develop and would have justified the shows existence as a companion to the original, the show is very much The Walking Dead. The relationships between the characters are at the forefront with occasional bursts of gore and the now obligatory “we are safe….oh no wait the people that run this place are TERRIBLE” twist. Only this time, they are just not strong enough to compete with what the show could have been. Simply put, there is no Rick, no Hershel, no Michonne…
If you enjoyed the hell out of the original show this could go one of two ways. It could wet your appetite until you get your hands on season 6 of Rick Grimes increasingly hairy-of-face adventures or it could annoy the hell out of you because it fumbles every interesting plot strand and relies on the same formula, only this time with the feeling that more interesting things are happening outside the safe zone.
3 / 5
Dir: Adam Davidson, Kari Skogland, Stefan Schwartz
Scr: Dave Erickson, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore, Jack LoGiudice, Meaghan Oppenheimer, Marco Ramirez, David Weiner
Starring: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Reuben Blades
Prd: Craig Forrest, Ron French, Bill Johnson, Avram “Butch” Kaplan
DOP: Michael McDonough
Music: Paul Haslinger
Run time: 60 mins (per ep)
Fear the Walking Dead is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now.