FEAR BEGINS HERE
Whet your appetite with a taster of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD, the new sister show of AMC’s top zombie drama.
After five seasons of The Walking Dead’s Rick, Darryl, and oft-doomed friends wandering the Atlanta forests, fans have grown to love this select group of survivors. But their adventures are only a small part of a worldwide zombie apocalypse – there are so many other stories waiting to be told in Robert Kirkman’s brutal world. Combining this with the unwavering popularity of The Walking Dead, it’s no surprise that, back in September 2013, a spin-off series was announced.
As we came to learn more about this series, first referred to using the codename Cobalt before the somewhat less underwhelming title Fear the Walking Dead was settled on, it only became more intriguing. The action’s moved west to Los Angeles, but the more significant move is backwards in time. Whereas its parent show’s first season skipped over the early days of the outbreak,
with Andrew Lincoln’s Rick lying in a convenient coma while chaos broke out around him, this series aims to fill in that gap and explore exactly how the world went from civilised society to dog-eat-dog-eat-brains wasteland.
Unlike its predecessor, this sortof-prequel isn’t based on any of Robert Kirkman’s comic books, though the Kentucky-born author is still one of the main creative minds behind it, along with Sons of Anarchy writer Dave Erickson, who’s serving as showrunner. Erickson and Kirkman, who’s enjoyed the creative opportunity to make a series not “tethered by the events of the comic book”, have created a new set of characters whose lives we’ll be fearing for, focusing mainly on one dysfunctional family unit and their experiences of society’s breakdown.
Kim Dickens (who you might recognise from Gone Girl, Deadwood or Treme) leads the cast as high school guidance counselor Madison Clark, and is joined by Cliff Curtis (from, err, Whale Rider) as her English teacher fiancé Travis Manawa. Madison has two kids from a previous marriage – troubled Nick (young Lord Voldemort himself, Frank Dillane), who’s battling a drug problem, and high-achiever Alicia ( The 100’ s Alycia Debnam-Carey). We’ll also meet Travis’ free-spirited ex-wife Liza ( Orange is the New Black’s Elizabeth Rodriguez) and son Chris (newcomer Lorenzo James Henrie), who’s not so happy with his dad for having divorced. So, as you can imagine, this gang have a load of problems going on, and that’s before the dead start coming back to life…
A series of teaser trailers have hit the Internet showing walkers sneaking up on poor unsuspecting bit-part actors going about their everyday lives; these were followed by a longer trailer released at Comic-Con finally introducing us to our leads. Both give a good idea of the show’s tone – rather than the manic fight for survival we’re used to, Fear the Walking Dead (for the first season, at least) will give us a sense of slowly rising terror, starting off in a very recognisable Los Angeles that will gradually descend into chaos. The school at which Madison works notices a large amount of kids off sick, as a virus begins to sweep the city. But flu jabs alone aren’t enough to halt this illness, and soon people are watching
shaky phone footage of police gunning down suspects only for them to stand right back up. Before anyone knows it, granddad’s back from his grave and is hungry for flesh.
This bustling urban environment should provide a nice change from the forests of Atlanta, with the densely populated area a fertile breeding ground for chaos, paranoia and the undead, and allowing the show’s writers to explore modern policing and politics, as well as the mass anxiety that comes with epidemics, as they show us how this city reacts to the upcoming apocalypse.
With Fear set at the other end of the States, and in a different time period, to the show it shares three quarters of its name with, there are no direct crossovers planned, so if you’re expecting Darryl to pop up you’ll be disappointed. However, the two series are going to be clearly set in the same world, with creator Robert Kirkman having explained: “There will be hints and moments in the second show that if you go back and watch the first season of The Walking Dead will inform some of the discoveries that they had… We are trying to form an overall tapestry of a TV universe.” A common rumour has been that there’ll be a connection to The Walking Dead Season One’s Centre for Disease Control, and Noah Emmerich’s Dr. Edwin Jenner, but this remains unsubstantiated.
After an initial pilot went down well with studio executives, AMC ordered two seasons of Fear the Walking Dead. The first, comprised of six episodes, will air this summer before The Walking Dead returns for its sixth season, and the second will be a longer run and will air sometime next year.
If Fear the Walking Dead proves as popular as the original show, which has several seasons in it yet, there’ll be no stopping the steady onwards walk of this zombie-infested world, and soon we’ll be watching The Walking Dead UK, The Walking Dead Take Manhattan, The Walking Dead in Space, and who knows what more? Until then, remember your flu jabs, lock your doors, and get ready for some quality fearing. FEAR THE WALKING DEAD premieres on AMC in the US on August 23rd, with a British broadcast expected soon after exclusively on BT’s YouView platform.