I don’t know at what point AMC decided they were going to make great television, but we should all thank them for it. For the better part of this decade AMC has been responsible for three of most critically praised shows of all time : Breaking Bad, Mad Men and The Walking Dead. Fear The Walking Dead is the network’s second attempt at making a major spin-off. What makes this spin-off so interesting is gap it intends to fill in The Walking Dead Lore. This spin-off focuses on an entirely different cast of characters on the other side of the country from rural Georgia. Chronicling the downfall of Los Angeles in the midst of the initial zombie outbreak. Spoiler free!
One of the reasons “The Walking Dead” is so good is because its relentless in how uncompromising it can be. When the modern world as we know it is collapsing, a lot of things happen that most people just aren’t ready to deal with. The show can get away with portraying extreme and irrational actions because essentially the rules are all gone. However, this world we’ve come to know was just presented to us as such from the very beginning. We don’t really see the transformation, or rather the descension into the world we know. This is where “Fear The Walking Dead” brings something to new to the table. Giving us an in-depth look at how society fell apart when dead people starting waking up and eating other people. Especially in the social media world we live in today, how did this all appear on Facebook? Twitter? YouTube, there is no doubt the masses saw what was happening, but how did they respond?
Prequels always have an issue about presenting a story that isn’t ruined by the fact that your audience knows the ending. Show creators Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman are taking this weakness and leveraging it as a strength. It fills the episode with moments of suspense and tension that only really work because the audience is so familiar. Which is a fine line to walk since you wouldn’t want to alienate any new viewers. They do this a couple of really clever ways. The first is rewarding fans of the show for paying attention. I won’t go into spoiler territory, but the cinematography illustrates these moments in some creative ways that I enjoyed.
This series focuses on one family, instead of the mixed bag of characters of the original show. Most of the characters in the original show have lost their family as a result of the apocalypse. Husband, wives, brothers, sisters, daughters and sons, etc … all dead or unaccounted for. The original series is essentially about forming a new family, while this spin-off will instead focus on the maintaining/protecting of an already existing one. It could spell serious trouble for the lead family of FEAR. How long will they be able to stay together? and how will they handle the inevitable loses that this show is known to produce.
The cast all performs strongly, especially since this family is nothing close to “traditional” family. Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) is a high school guidance counselor with a two children. Her oldest son, Nick(Frank Dillane), is an in and out of rehab drug addict. Dillane’s performance is particularly strong, he is one of the first characters exposed to the confusing horrors of zombies. However, his stint with drugs has the people around him and himself in doubt about if what he experienced is even real. His sister, Alicia(Alycia Debnam-Carey), is the polar opposite, on the fast track to academic success and college aspirations. Travis(Cliff Curtis) is the step father of the Clark house hold, but he still maintains relations with ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and his painfully difficult son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie). This mixed family has very apparent different levels of trust and synergy issues, which is probably way closer to the norm than normal TV shows will allow. It’s too early to tell if they will have any long-lasting synergy, but even if the synergy isn’t great… the show could always just kill off characters til it gets the formula just right.
Fear the Walking Dead is off to a promising start.