After reviewing the first two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead, I decided to forgo the weekly posts and wait until the final episode had aired. Normally, I would post a link to a spoiler-filled, detailed recap of each episode followed by my own personal musings. Not this time. No, this time I just need to get a whole bunch of stuff off my chest.
Let’s start with the name of the series: Fear. The word itself implying many things. Unfortunately, however, fear seems to be the one thing that this series is lacking. For a few moments, let’s forget about the comics and stick with the television series universe. When you go from ‘Wildfire’ to global outbreak, factoring in the details provided in the original webisodes, as well as the date provided in a shot from episode 2 of FTWD that shows it was August 2010, it isn’t difficult to determine how quickly things fell apart (debatable, but not difficult).
When we meet up with the survivors in season 1 of TWD, and even into season 2, they are still learning. Even with all of their collected life experiences with the ZA prior to meeting up and becoming a camp-family, there are still holes in their knowledge with regards to how things ‘work’ in this new world. They still forget to aim for the head in moments of panic. Even with the amount of deaths they have witnessed, it still took a cryptic message from Dr. Jenner (and eye witness accounts on the farm with both Randall and Shane) for anyone to understand that we are all infected and turn regardless of whether we are bitten/scratched. And, in moments of confrontation, they still yell and scream and have looks of sheer terror on their faces stemming from their…wait for it… Fear.
I wasn’t naive enough to think that FTWD would provide answers as to how the outbreak began. Any true fan of zombie culture knows full well that really, the origins don’t matter. No one goes into a zombie movie or television show in this day and age unaware of how things ‘work’. It’s a pop culture knowledge we are all born with now–thanks Mr. Romero!–just the same way we are all born seemingly aware of the proper methods to thwart vampires and werewolves. What I was hoping, however, was that FTWD would introduce the ZA in such a way that would cause me great paranoia and play upon my darkest fears.
Many viewers took to social media to complain that there weren’t enough zombies from minute one. I disagree on that point. There shouldn’t be hordes of them so soon. It’s all new. To me, probably the most realistic scene in all of season 1 took place in the rioting streets out side of Salazar’s shop. We have seen that play out time and again in this country. That one sequence of them trying to escape the riots and chaos, with a quick glimpse of a newly turned walker munching on someone on the street with throngs of oblivious people running past scared me more than anything else I saw on the show. I wanted to see more of that. Show me the things we are blind to in our day to day living, the things just beyond the corners of our eyes. Make me question my sanity.
Instead, by day one…day one…the characters on FTWD already knew about an ‘outbreak’, they knew to go for the head, they knew it was the dead coming back, moreover, they knew that everyone comes back. That’s too much information. Part of the tension when watching horror or thriller genres stems from the audience knowing more than the characters. We become uneasy waiting for them to realize what we already know to be true. And, when something happens that the audience was just as unaware of, it shocks us (Holy crap, I did not see that coming!) By having all of the main characters brought ‘up to speed’ so early in the series, it leaves very little room to become emotionally invested in any of them as we are no longer accompanying them on their journey.
Not only did the series inform the characters at warp speed, they also handle themselves like end-of-the-world-preppers. The show jumped forward a week between episodes 2 and 3. In that week, a massive fence was already installed around their neighborhood, with an electric gate, mind you. They don’t bat an eye or feel any remorse when having to ‘kill’ a walker. Hell, Madison hasn’t shown a single emotion since the series began (and no, her Lady Macbeth moment in the bathroom doesn’t count, nor does the moping in the garage). I was just as annoyed by the likes of Lori in TWD as the next person, but at least her reactions to situations seemed genuine. It took the length of her pregnancy for that group to feel confident enough about how to live among walkers, how to move like a well-oiled military machine, how to have the resolve to risk clearing out the prison on their own. The cast of FTWD heads right on out of those gates, like a BOSS. Hell, Salazar learns that there are 2,000 rabid undead people locked in the arena and he casually leads them–on foot–to use them as a weapon and invade a militarized zone. Um…anyone else remember the prep work involved with the Governor dropping that zombie Molotav cocktail truck on the prison? It took living amongst the dead over a year before the characters of TWD were using the dead as an asset. It’s only been a week for those in FTWD. That should not have happened. I don’t care how cool it looked.
Also, while I understand the inherent need to never trust your own government, I am growing tired of FTWD’s constant attack of the police and military through their portrayal as ‘the enemy’. For every ‘bad’ cop who broke rank and fled during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there were just as many who stayed to help. This is yet another area where I think that The Strain did it better. Sure, they have corrupt politicians present, but the police and military presence on the show are actively trying to save NYC and protect the citizens. FTWD, on the other hand, has made them all out to be unlikable douchebags. Given the current state of things in our country, it’s a shame they couldn’t use this as an opportunity to show at least some people of authority doing good.
I am not going to continue to compare FTWD with TWD. Although, by outright stating it is the same outbreak, how can one not make comparisons. It all takes place in the same ‘universe’ yet for some reason, the survivors of FTWD seem way more chill about the whole thing. The thing of it is this: If this show were just another zombie series unrelated to TWD (like Z-Nation, for example) could it stand on its own merit? Are the characters worth investing your time? Is the pacing of the story holding your attention? Does the story, itself, leave you asking questions, curious for more? Or, is the series banking on the success of its predecessor for momentum?
Midway through season 9 of Supernatural, they aired an episode that was intended to be a pilot episode for a spin-off series. At the time, the network had planned for Supernatural to end with the conclusion of season 10. The name of the new series was to be called Supernatural: Bloodlines. The episode was, in a word, weak. It was the worst of Twilight and Underworld, with a little bit of soap opera, all rolled into one. The story wasn’t worthy of the name Winchester. Fans destroyed it on social media almost immediately. Based on fan reactions rather than viewership numbers (which were high), the network opted not to pick up Bloodlines as a series. The show’s creators scrapped the idea and instead, to the delight of fans, renewed Supernatural for an 11th season. And, while fans will be sorry to see it end, they will be at peace knowing their precious show that they have invested so much time and emotion in, will be laid to rest in unfettered perfection.
Don’t you think TWD deserves the same respect?
That being said, I am an undead junkie. I will continue to watch the show out of morbid curiosity for as long as AMC chooses to air it. The series doesn’t have to have anything to do with TWD for it to be worth watching. But, the fact that they chose to connect the two so closely brings with it an expectation that FTWD has yet to meet. I live in the hope that they will surprise me next season, prove me wrong, weave a story that leaves me gasping for air as I wake from nightmares days after each episode has aired. In the meantime, I will have to settle for it being merely a stop-gap, a way to satiate the hunger between glorious seasons of TWD.
The fall television season has barely begun and already I have cancelled the season passes on my DVR for Scream Queens, Heroes Reborn, and Doctor Who (don’t…just don’t). FTWD survived mainly because I chose to watch the first 6 episodes as a single entity. When the show returns in 2016, they had better step up their writing game if they want to keep my thumb off that remote control button. TWD roped me in with the realism and inundation of fear. FTWD is going to lose me for its sheer lack of it.