“The Walking Dead” has always been one of those television shows that brings friends and family together for the kind of gore-y, violent and dramatic television that is now a staple of American television. That’s why it’s so impressive that the spin-off, “Fear the Walking Dead,” actually surpasses the original material in many ways.
First, let’s get the similarities between “Fear” and “The Walking Dead” out of the way. Yes, the titles of both programs are very similar, and I can only assume that the creators made the title of the show last, when they were running out of creativity. The show is also set in the same universe as “The Walking Dead,” but instead of Atlanta and the American South, “Fear” focuses on Los Angeles and the suburbs, a fairly dramatic change of scenery.
For a show that only has six episodes in its first season, there is a lot of character development and world building, which I love about “Fear.” The show presents a group of main characters with various flaws and goals that feel very real to the audience. A heroin addict, a high school overachiever and a couple both coming off separate divorces round out the main cast, although there are some fantastic side characters that are introduced throughout the season.
The biggest difference between “Fear” and “The Walking Dead” is that the latter focused primarily on the aftermath of the apocalypse, when the dead are already roaming the streets and number in the thousands while the living have been reduced to a minority. Instead of rehashing the same plot points, “Fear” depicts the downfall of society, beginning on day zero and going all the way to about three or four weeks later.
The great thing about “The Walking Dead” has always been the characters, so it is gratifying to see that “Fear” gets that, as the characters are all well developed. Because of the limited amount of time available to the writers, I suspect that the amount of development that could be allocated to each character was limited. In a way, though, that’s a good thing, because there are no obnoxious flashbacks or flow-breaking or origin stories.
Looking back on “Fear,” the biggest problem that I find myself thinking about is the gaping plot holes that don’t really bother you until you really start to think about it. A few plot points in particular go absolutely nowhere, such as one episode that introduces a mystery about a flashing light only for it to get snuffed out at the very end of the same episode.
“The Walking Dead” has always focused more on the living than the dead, and Sherriff Rick Grimes has almost always been a hard-nosed, take-no-prisoners and leave-no-survivors type. For Travis Manawa and Madison Clark, played by Cliff Curtis and Kim Dickens respectively, we get to see the beginning of the descent into that reality, and it is a joy to watch.
Although I cannot say I enjoyed “Fear the Walking Dead” quite as much as the original series, I will say that “Fear” has more than earned my attention. Fans of the original show should pay close attention to the future of this promising spin-off.
Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.