The Walking Dead as both a TV series and a comic book series has always relied on one main strength: its dynamic characters. The zombies are nice and the world around said characters is interesting, sure, but neither of these things keeps me coming back each season/ month. It’s my connection to Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Carol, Andrea, and so on that has me drooling for as much The Walking Dead content as I can get.
While its impossible to judge an entire series based on just two episodes, I think Fear the Walking Dead will nestle itself into AMC’s prolific series list nicely, provided you attached a couple caveats to it.
Before you jump into Fear the Walking Dead, you have to remember one VERY important thing – this series has nothing to do with The Walking Dead we’ve come to know and love, other than the universal setting. There will (hopefully) never be a reference to Rick’s group or anything else in The Walking Dead universe because the story we’ve already know has not happened yet it Fear. There are no cannibalistic groups or crazy dictators ruling over communities or even traveling groups of marauders stealing other groups’ supplies. For the most part (at least after the first two episodes) society is still intact. Humanity is still the dominant species on Earth.
I go into the series thinking about these things. This isn’t The Walking Dead story I want, but it’s a damn good modern zombie show featuring highly flawed, real characters. The dysfunctional family we follow includes of a single mother, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), her boyfriend, Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), who she recently moved in with, Madison’s on-the-rise teenaged daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and her junkie, college-aged son, Nick (Frank Dillane) who actually finds the first zombie we see in a drug den. I’m actually a fan of Nick and Alicia right now because they don’t fall into the stereotype role of angst-filled, whiny teens. They’re
meaningful characters with meaningful dialogue that aren’t simply about parties, sex, and hating school. I really felt Nick’s emotion in the scene when he’s crying in the arms of his drug dealer, trying to figure out what’s going through his messed-up head. Nick is a good kid, just caught up with the wrong people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not 100 percent on board with his in this series just yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing how he deals with his drug addiction and possible withdrawal symptoms in a harsh, zombie-filled Los Angeles.
Episode one was without a doubt a slow burn. The pilot concerns itself primarily with establishing characters, family dynamics, and the world that’s about to fall apart. We see only glimpses of zombie activity throughout the episode, culminating with a heartfelt family killing of zombie Calvin (Nick’s drug dealer).
Madison is a guidance counselor, Travis is an English teacher; both very ordinary people. That’s the greatness about The Walking Dead and something we often forget about our heroes – Rick, Michonne, Glenn, etc. were all boring people before the zombie outbreak. They were thrust into the badass roles we know them as today because the world forced them into it. That thought give me hope for Travis and Madison. I can’t see them as anything more than concerned parents presently, but they will assuredly adapt if they want to stay alive.
Fear the Walking Dead is a show with an evolving genre. Right now, it’s not a zombie show, it’s a disaster show that will chronicle the downfall of a major American city as it happens. Eventually, I have to believe, LA will fall and they family will have nothing left to do but fight zombies as a pure zombie apocalypse series should display. At times, the slowness and ignorance of Fear’s characters is frustrating, us as omnipotent viewers already knowing what’s going to happen to their world. It’s definitely not The Walking Dead, but it’ll do until the show proper comes back for its sixth season in October.