Throughout this series I would occasionally check certain comments, feedback and social media reactions and what I found, personally anyway, was ambivalence and often outright negativity. I don’t get the hate to be honest. This spin off had two things going against it, the obvious problem firstly is that it has been done before. Someone finally put a zombie survival thriller series to television. The second problem is that it has been done relatively recently, in 2010 the original series had a zombie breakout in North America. Well, this series is almost as good as Frank Darabont’s originally effort.
The series follows the original breakout in The Walking Dead albeit from a different angle, headed on a different trajectory. Two families are followed as Los Angeles implodes in the midst of an emerging zombie apocalypse, we see it prior to, during and after the genesis of the infection. Cliff Curtis is the head honcho here, filling in the alpha male role played by Andrew Lincoln in the main series. Rubén Blades is also perhaps a reflection of the Jon Bernthal character from the main series as he plays the sterner, cynical figure… at any cost is his motto.
Their families are for the most part uninteresting and I would say that there are too many of them, a recurring problem that has been inherited from the main series. There are too many faces being returned to, for example Curtis’ character does not need two wives, each with different children. Character development suffers from overcasting especially for a series of only six episodes. It can become slow too, in trying to ‘settle’ these characters, especially in the early episodes. It seemed at times that Dawson’s Creek was around the corner just as much as the apocalypse.
Things pick up though and the series refreshes with things that have been missing from the main series for too long. The Walking Dead has had people hanging out in the country under Rick Grimes’ paranoid leadership for entre seasons now. Occasionally they’ll encounter some zombies and destroy them with ease. There is no terror, fear and certainly no panic. It’s obvious that the central characters have long term contracts and will probably not be killed off until the very end. That was never the case in George Romero’s work. For its short duration I enjoyed the return of those core tenets of horror in Fear the Walking Dead.
I liked the fact that Cliff Curtis’ character was not impervious, like the main series’ Rick Grimes, who roves the wasteland, owning everything and everyone with zombies being, apparently, a trival nuisance. I like Curtis more than Lincoln too, I buy him as an edgier manly man more than the former, he requires less effort to convince us of his alpha male status. A big plus, I don’t like the Grimes character nor the actor who portrays him because they are not at ease, ever. But I hope they don’t ruin things with the ‘we can’t trust other survivors’ schtick that has plagued the main series for too long now.
I thought the series was fairly decent, but the finale convinced me to bump it up to an eight. The finale of Fear the Walking Dead was superior to any episode from the main series in recent memory. It had zombie hordes and people who ran from them, in fear. It had panic and doubt. The main series has stagnated, I’d be surprised if it can produce an episode of similar quality when it returns to our screen this year. In short, this series feels more ‘survival’ horror than the main series has in years.