FEAR THE WALKING DEAD
Was the spin-off worth the effort?
UK Broadcast AMC, finished
US Broadcast AMC, finished
Episodes Reviewed 1.01-1.06
It seems there’s a good reason Rick Grimes spent the first weeks of the zombie outbreak in a coma – if Fear The Walking Dead is anything to go by, he really wasn’t missing that much.
This Los Angeles-set companion piece to the allconquering Walking Dead tells a story that never needed to be told, rewinding the clock to the beginning of the infection that caused the dead to rise and society to fall. It’s an odd place to go, seeing as one of the main selling points of the original series and Robert Kirkman’s comic were that they told the story of the survivors after the apocalypse. Trying to fill in the gaps now feels like a slightly retrograde step.
Across six episodes here, the show does very little that’s unexpected. Indeed, it’s a damning indictment of this spin-off that season five of the parent show felt way more inventive and groundbreaking. In Fear The Walking Dead the narrative path is mapped out from the start. You know that unlikely people will be forced to group together by the outbreak. You know that a seemingly mellow person is going to be driven to an act of extreme violence. You know that a central character is going to die at some point – though it’s rather safer to be a series regular here than in the parent show. Even nice guy Travis reluctantly shooting his infected ex-wife in the season finale feels like a case of deja vu.
And we really don’t learn anything we didn’t know before. It’s hardly a shock to find out that the zombie outbreak wasn’t limited to the environs of Atlanta, Georgia. Or that the army moved in and declared martial law. In the
It drags down rather than enhances the original
absence of major revelations, it’s like going through a checklist as the survivors learn the rules of the game: you can only kill a walker with a head shot; the dead don’t need to have been bitten to come back as a zombie... Los Angeles may be a new setting, but it’s pretty much the only thing that’s changed.
The only justification for making a spin-off show is doing something radical with a format. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine worked because it was set on a space station rather than a starship. Star Trek: Voyager didn’t because it was just a lower quality retread of The Next Generation with a less memorable crew. Fear The Walking Dead already feels like this franchise’s Voyager – the analogy even stretching as far as a core cast that lacks the charisma of Rick and co. Okay, it’s early days – and The Walking Dead didn’t get everything right at the beginning – but can anyone see Travis, Madison and Ofelia becoming fan favourites like Daryl, Carol or Michonne? Only the sharply dressed, morally ambiguous Strand emerges as someone you want to learn more about.
Come the season finale, with the city lost and a band of survivors planning their next move, we’ve effectively caught up with season one of the parent show – just with a different group of people. If we’d been able to follow the doctors working out how to battle the plague, the officials making decisions or the soldiers following their orders – a more 24 take on The Walking Dead – this could have felt essential. Instead we’re left with a companion piece that drags down rather than enhances the original show. What a wasted opportunity. Richard Edwards
Travis and co discover that the compound really isn’t very nice.
Piano lessons gone wrong? Oh, something like that…
Travis didn’t get on with the neighbours.