I’m a Walking Dead fan. They’re the only comics I buy, which I’ve been buying since they started in 2003. There was often talk of adapting it into a movie back then, which I was always against as there were so many characters and storylines that I felt it could only work as a TV show, even though there had never before been a TV show featuring zombies, so I never suspected it would happen. Until it happened! And even though the show was a little different from the comics, the differences were necessary and helped make it one of the most successful TV shows in recent memory, one I’m proud to be a fan of. But then they got greedy. One show wasn’t enough. And now we have the spin-off, not-so-cleverly-titled Fear the Walking Dead.
Fear is a pseudo-prequel/parallel storyline to The Walking Dead, pulling audiences out of Georgia and dropping them into the way-too-overused Los Angeles, California. The zombie outbreak we’re all expecting is slowly (too slowly) starting to take form, but with only two zombies in the first episode (one at the very beginning, one at the very end), we quickly realize that they’re going to drag this thing out for all six episodes. Soon after the first episode, there are riots in the streets by citizens accusing their gun-toting police force of being cold-blooded murderers, and then our eclectic group of characters need to band together and flee from the ensuing chaos. But then the military shows up, and for a couple of episodes it seems like things are getting better. Then out of nowhere, things get worse again when we learn the military never had anything under control to begin with, rendering the previous episodes meaningless, showing that six episodes was actually TOO MUCH for the writers to handle without any source material to draw from.
Character is everything on The Walking Dead. Rick, Carole, Glenn, Maggie, and of course Daryl, are almost household names with fans of the show. Fear fails to create compelling characters, instead resorting to overused clichés, such as the drug-addicted tween, the shady confidence man in a way-too-clean business suit, the angry ex-wife, and the secretly-badass foreign small-business owner. The only saving grace is Cliff Curtis, who remains sincere and likable from beginning to end, making me wish he was on the real Walking Dead show instead of this one. Other characters like his ex-wife, his new wife, his real son, and his stepson, don’t get enough shared stories to fully establish a relationship, however dysfunctional. It would have been nice if this show had focused on a smaller group of characters, rather than trying to make this spin-off equally big as its predecessor.
Whereas The Walking Dead was refreshing in that it did not feel very Hollywood, Fear feels TOO Hollywood. It’s set in L.A., the characters are all clichés, and worst of all, we know the situation is only going to get worse not better, effectively removing any and all suspense from minute one of the first episode. But that doesn’t stop them from slowly establishing the zombie outbreak, annoyingly showing the characters trying to rationalize what’s going on as being some sort of disease, until they finally have to admit that all the dead-looking people walking around are in fact dead people walking around. That kind of thing might be okay in the first couple of episodes of a standalone show. But a spin-off that moves slower than its predecessor is creative laziness to the highest degree.
Spin-offs have more to live up to than pretty much anything. They have to be different while creatively restricting themselves to the established mythology, and they have to also provide a similar level of entertainment as the show they’re spinning off from. Sometimes you get a Frasier, other times you get a Joey. Unfortunately, Fear the Walking Dead leans more towards the Joey side. While the original Walking Dead show had the comics to turn to for inspiration, Fear is left at the mercy of the writers’ talent, something they are sorely lacking here. There are plenty of unused characters/stories from the comics that they could have used, but I saw none of that here. The writers and producers got cocky, believing they had what it took to re-create the magic that Robert Kirkman created all those years ago. This spin-off feels more like fan-fiction to me. It’s not bad, but if the original show didn’t exist, you’d have no reason to pay any attention to it.
2 out of 5