Was the spin-off worth the ef­fort?

SFX - - Contents -

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.

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