It’s often the story that prequels and spin-offs of shows and movies are subject to much hate. The second can never live up to the first. The original, well, it’s the original, and therefore it’s what sets our expectations. It goes a little something like this: A prequel or spin-off is announced, fans go crazy with excitement, the hype surrounding the release builds, fans watch, fans are left disappointed when the release falls flat to their expectations. This has never been truer than with Fear The Walking Dead, the spin-off series of AMC’s hit TV horror drama The Walking Dead.
Hype surrounding the spin-off began as soon as it was announced, and fans of The Walking Dead eagerly awaited the premiere of the new show, anxious to satiate their craving for the undead. But ever since the first episode aired, Fear The Walking Dead has garnered a lot of hate. It is not living up to the anticipation and expectations that fans of The Walking Dead, a show with a cult following, have put in place. But, sorry to burst some bubbles, Fear The Walking Dead is not The Walking Dead.
Much of the hate surrounding the spinoff series comes from an audience that is bored, an audience who thinks that the plot is moving too slowly and the characters are uninteresting. But this audience has been surrounded in the world of the undead since 2010, and the characters in the show that they are comparing it to have been living through a zombie apocalypse for nearly two years; the characters in Fear The Walking Dead, however, have only been subject to this new world for less than a month.
There are no Rick Grimes in Fear The Walking Dead. There are no Negan’s or Terminus’s or Grady Memorial Hospital’s. There aren’t any Carol’s or Daryl’s, Maggie’s or Glenn’s. There are, however, an abundance of characters who are only just beginning to figure their way around the world that they have suddenly become immersed in. There are characters with potential to become the hero who always saves the day, characters who can become the innocent one who knows how to protect themselves, and as they traverse further into this world, there is the potential for characters to become hardened, to mold into something that can hardly be considered human. But the characters of Fear The Walking Dead haven’t been put through what the characters of The Walking Dead have, and it takes time for a person to develop into the characters that fans have come to know and love on The Walking Dead.
Fear The Walking Dead touches on something that The Walking Dead has explored briefly, something that is oftentimes overlooked in the bigger picture: each individual character is struggling with something, and it is not necessarily the walkers and other people that are the biggest threat. Fear The Walking Dead allows the audience a chance to see how these characters process and deal with the apocalypse as it happens, whereas The Walking Dead began weeks into the collapse of society. We are seeing these characters go from people living in a normal world to people who are forced to do the unthinkable.
Take Nick for example. He is a former drug addict who perhaps feels more in place in the apocalypse than he ever had in his life before, but at the same time, he feels more distanced from his family than before. He has faced down death time and time again during his addiction, and this new world allows him to face death in a more literal sense and in a way that gives him an entirely new rush. Walkers are not a threat to him, and even when they pose a threat to his family, he chooses to walk with the dead.
On the other end of the spectrum is Chris, who recognizes the infected for what they truly are and has already done things that nobody his age, or any age, should have to do. Walkers are not the biggest threat to him. Other people are not the biggest threat to him. The biggest threat that Chris faces is himself and what this world is already turning him into.
And there’s Alicia, who strives to find a human connection, and whose attempt to make that connection almost led to the group’s demise. She is trying to maintain a semblance of the world that she was forced to leave behind, one that she didn’t even realize was gone until it was too late.
The group is fractured, both literally and figuratively. Families and relationships are fractured. People have gone their separate ways. They are only weeks into an apocalypse that we, as the audience, know has no end in sight. They may not be gung-ho about fighting the undead yet, or the living for that matter, but they are still coming to understand this world and what it means to survive, all the while learning what this world can do to you. They aren’t season six Rick Grimes’, but they aren’t living in the season six world.
Perhaps Alycia Debnam-Carey, who portrays Alicia Clark, put it best: “I’d be more worried if someone was like ‘Oh, they’re sick? Oh, I’ll just kill them.’” These characters still have their humanity. They still hold out hope that things can go back to normal, and they are still trying to keep their hands free of blood, something that will inevitably become increasingly more difficult as the series progresses. But right now, these characters are dealing with their own issues, and the undead and other people are only one of their many concerns.