“Fear The Walking Dead” is the kind of series I wish didn’t exist, not just because it feels uninventive and cash-grabbing, but also because I can’t help watching it despite knowing that this is the case! “The Walking Dead” is an incredibly lucrative show for AMC, so it’s only natural that they would want to cash in by creating a companion series to air whilst the main show is away from our screens. Still, it feels a bit manipulative to have a show with “The Walking Dead” in the title, because people are obviously going to tune in despite the fact that in reality it has very little to offer. I would personally much prefer that a new show was created with gifted young writers and actors, because AMC is already making its money with “The Walking Dead”, and as such they can afford to let talented people make something worthwhile. Instead, we have “Fear The Walking Dead”, a show just like “The Walking Dead” but with cheaper actors and less decayed walkers.
The reason that I’m tuning into “Fear The Walking Dead” isn’t just because I watch “The Walking Dead”, it’s because I want to know how it all began. How did the world react to the zombie apocalypse when Twitter and YouTube were still prevalent? When did the dead start turning into walkers? Like when exactly – everyone is infected in “The Walking Dead”, so if Nick (Frank Dillane) had died when he was hit by the car, would he have turned into a walker? When did the process begin?
My interest in “Fear The Walking Dead” is clearly tied to the main show, which is why I’m a bit frustrated at both AMC and myself. I don’t actually like the cast, and this premiere was pretty appalling, so the fact that I’m now invested is incredibly annoying.
The show has a lot going for it, because it could go in a number of interesting directions – we’re witnessing the start of a zombie apocalypse, the possibilities are endless! There’s so much going on in the city, so many people for the walkers to feast on, so the show could actually be pretty good. Sadly, from what I’ve seen so far, the showrunners will probably take whichever road is the most travelled and least exciting.
This season premiere began with a typical zombie cliché, as Nick searched a creepy looking building for a girl named Gloria (Lexi Johnson), only to find that she was a walker. The sound was ominous (although clearly artificial), the lighting was dim, and shrieks of panic could occasionally be heard in the distance. What could possibly be the matter?
I was so disappointed with this opening because we’ve seen it before hundreds of times, and there’s no surprise when a walker appears at the start of a television series about the walking dead! Why bother trying to build suspense at all? If you’re going to immediately reveal your cards then there’s no point in bluffing. Surely nobody was actually scared by this sequence.
I’m not a massive fan of jump scares, because most of the time they’re designed to shock rather than scare which gives the name a bit of a false feel. However, in this instance I would’ve been quite pleased if the opening had paved the way to a comedic one, with Gloria playing a trick on Nick rather than simply being a walker. This would’ve established that although the show isn’t going to be original, it will be fun and try to play around with genre conventions. Alas, the showrunners don’t seem to have any intention of thinking outside the box, so I don’t expect to see anything new or exciting.
I don’t want to linger on the opening scene too much, but it really is infuriating that the showrunners couldn’t have thought of a better way to introduce the story and one of the show’s main characters. The showrunners could’ve done hundreds of different things with the setting of the church whilst still establishing that this is a show about zombies. They could’ve started with a drug bust, which would’ve been interesting because the sounds of panic could’ve still made the audience think that a walker was about to appear. Alternatively, they could’ve had a walker banging at the door trying to get in, with Nick believing that it was a dealer and thus leaving the area. He could’ve even seen the walker that was knocking on the door from a distance afterwards and made a joke about it looking messed up, given that from a distance it might just look like a person on a large quantity of drugs. This would’ve let the audience have a glimpse of a walker and also established some sort of personality within the show.
The characters, like the opening, were completely clichéd – Nick is the stereotypical screw-up junkie, and as usual he’s the only person in the main cast who knows the truth to begin with. But who would believe a junkie? Wow, how original. On top of that, he’s part of a dysfunctional family. Madison (Kim Dickens), the mother in this family, seems pretty well put together, although her son is a junkie so we’ll have to wait and see. She seems to wear the pants in the relationship with her new husband so she’ll probably be a badass like Carol (Melissa McBride) is on the main show. There’s also a daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who has a boyfriend, Matt (Maestro Harrell) – that’s going to be her character development right there. The boyfriend dies and hey presto she becomes another lost soul hardened by the world.
Now I may be being slightly cynical and also a tad sarcastic, but come on, are the folks down at AMC joking? These characters are a disgrace! There’s nothing to any of them – they’re straight out of the ‘Writing a Zombie Film/TV Show for Idiots’ guide book.
Beyond the issues with the writing, characters, and general lack of ambition from AMC, the performances across the board were poor. I don’t want to condemn any of the actors, because the fault isn’t really with them, but they didn’t elevate the material they were given. Frank Dillane wasn’t good at all and he didn’t show half as much emotion as was necessary when he was explaining what happened in the opening scene. He whispered through his lines and tried to make his eyes water, but the rest of his face didn’t move and he flittered from sad to indifferent like a child in a school play.
Maybe things will get better, but right now “Fear The Walking Dead” seems like nothing more than a mediocre attempt to piggyback on the success of “The Walking Dead”. Whilst the idea of gaining an insight into where the zombie apocalypse began is potentially interesting, what I saw in this premiere leads me to believe that nothing creative will be done with the premise. Overall, this premiere was incredibly dull and extremely disappointing, with very few positives to speak of.