As a huge fan of The Walking Dead I was more than excited at the prospect of a spin-off series. After finishing series 5 of TWD, it was great to have the new spin-off recorded and ready to go. Robert Kirkman has created an amazing zombie apocalypse scenario with his comic books and the TV series just seems to get better and better. So, it was with some trepidation and excitement that I watched Fear The Walking Dead, hoping that it would cover new ground and find it’s own place in the world he and his creative partners have produced. In my opinion, they nailed it.
Set over six episodes, the show centres around a dysfunctional family: high school guidance counselor Madison Clark, her English teacher boyfriend Travis Manawa, her daughter Alicia, her drug-addicted son Nick, and Chris, Travis’ son from a previous marriage. Adding to this odd collective is an elderly barber, Daniel Salazar, Griselda, his wife and Ofelia, their daughter.
Two things surprised me from the outset. Firstly, how they dealt with having to ‘reboot’ the Walking Dead premise. Viewers are, in the main, coming to this new version of events knowing what it’s all about, what’s happened and how crazy and quickly the apocalypse occurred because of The Walking Dead. What this series did was to play on these expectations. Rather than dragging out the inevitable appearance of the first zombie, we were shown one early on and this, along with the viewers preconceptions, allowed the show creators to really ramp up the tension. Using the same set ups and subverting them for this spin-off was brilliantly handled.
Secondly, how they managed to make such an unlikeable bunch of characters interesting and worth investing in. None of the family members, or indeed the Salazars, are people with many redeeming features. They’re out for themselves from the outset but it’s these characteristics that make them likeable in a sense; they don’t do stupid things but they do put their family’s safety first. They are selfish and self-interested and this is what will help them survive in a drastically changing world. In a sense they are the ‘everyone’ of society putting themselves first; completely unlike Rick Grimes (or at least the series one Rick Grimes before everything happened to him and his family and friends).
It’s good that the main lead female is tough and prepared to do what she needs to do. Equally, having Daniel Salazar on board makes for an interesting addition (because of his past and unflinching attitude to violence). However, I thought the inclusion of drug addict Nick was the most intriguing choice. As a junkie, he already has the skills to scavenge, steal and take opportunities others (normal citizens) wouldn’t initially. It’s his ability to know the fringe of society and hide in plain sight that will help him survive the initial collapse.
One thing I have seen kicked about is a general disgruntled opinion when it comes to missing out on that actual apocalyptic event; the lost nine days. The family are safely ensconced in a military safe zone and so removed from the zombie break out. I’m not sure showing the losing battle against the zombies was the ever the point of TWD series. It’s been done in books and films before. The interest lies in how the survivors adapt, change and evolve in a world destroyed. The series has never really been about zombies, in my opinion. Instead, it’s a character driven drama that uses the horror and threat of zombies to fuel stories about human survival and relations under such immense duress.
Fear The Walking Dead is taking this same premise from a new angle. The family aren’t like Rick Grimes; they aren’t driven to be moral or save the day. They are looking to escape and the series finale showed they cared little for the consequences beyond their own immediate survival. I’m looking forward to seeing how they get out of the city and how they solve the next set of problems they’ll come across. I might not like Nick or his extended family but I am interested in their story.