'Fear the Walking Dead': More Brains?
The Walking Dead is the most popular show on cable right now. Given the dearth of legitimately great shows on AMC since the end of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, AMC decided to take a "massive" creative risk in creating a spin-off of their biggest show while The Walking Dead was still going strong. It's not the exact same show, of course. The cast is completely new, it takes place on the opposite side of the country (the West Coast), and is during the actual zombie outbreak, where The Walking Dead has barely half an episode of pre-outbreak life.
As an avid horror fan, I was interested to see how Fear the Walking Dead would handle the outbreak and perhaps provide some more clarity on its causes. We're given a fairly diverse cast, including veterans Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens as lovers with existing families prior to the outbreak. While the performances are generally enjoyable, the overly angsty teenage kids (Alycia Debnam-Carey, Frank Dillane, and Lorenzo James Henrie) can be a little grating. Yes, we know teenagers are sometimes emotional, but every single show doesn't need to exacerbate this. Not to mention Dillane's character is an actual drug addict, so while he is probably the most accepting of the crumbling situation around him, I'm not a huge fan of watching someone scrounge around for their next "fix" when there are much larger stakes at play. The outbreak itself has been kind of interesting as it is a mixture of denial and the rapid descent of society as the disease spreads. I think it handles this situation better than a show like The Strain (which has actually had a very solid second season) that pretends the outbreak is minor in scope and most people continue living as they normally would.
One glaring issue with Fear The Walking Dead is that we, as an audience, know how to deal with the zombies and the basic generalities of what is going on. Watching these characters go through a learning curve we've experience years ago is grating and somewhat tedious. This may not have been as much of an issue in a universe where The Walking Dead didn't exist and walk us through these step by step, but we are not afforded such an existence. Also, through the first three episodes, the show is a massive slow burn. Most of the show is spent in confined quarters with the families mostly confused and having no clear plan of what to do. Admittedly, the last episode ended on an interesting beat, introducing the US Army into the fold, so hopefully this speeds up the development in the show. There are minor character gripes, like Curtis' character killing a zombie with a car, then acting moralistic when an attacking zombie is killed in front of him. I'm hoping this doesn't devolve into another Andrea situation, and Fear The Walking Dead will spare us of completely useless and irrational characters because while The Walking Dead is massively popular, it has a litany of its own issues that likely deserve a separate piece.
Fear the Walking Dead is an interesting experiment in safety from AMC, and I will be watching to see how it is developed. Aside from zombies, it has been a relatively unique experience from The Walking Dead but the two will be intrinsically linked for the remainder of their runs. I want to see this era of the disease outbreak, but I'm still not sure if a full series order is warranted for it. Perhaps the rest of the season will change my mind.