Complementary show, shlomplementary show. (Maybe that should be “chomplementary” show.) Two episodes into Fear the Walking Dead and I’m ready for some crossover action.
Not your garden variety crossover, either. No scenes of the Governor on vacation at Disneyland right before the apocalypse. Or Dale and his RV parked in the desert, debating whether to make the drive to Atlanta.
Any kind of crossover between AMC’s two shambling, ratings-devouring hits should be as unique as the two shows. It has to have narrative impact, too. No gimmicks. Real story.
And guess what? I have some ideas!
Robert Kirkman and friends, check these out:
1. Character swap to the future
Imagine we reach the end of this first season of Fear the Walking Dead and a character like, say, Tobias, is thrust into a do or die situation. One in which his life is dependent on making a life-or-death moral decision.
If Tobias chooses to let another character die, let’s say it’s Alicia, Madison’s daughter, he’ll live. If he chooses to die, Alicia goes on to kill walkers for another day. Think of Shane shooting Otis in the leg to ensure he gets away in Season 2’s “Save the Last One.”
What will he do? Cliffhanger! We’ll have to wait until next season to find out.
Or maybe not!
Maybe we could find out early in The Walking Dead when Tobias stumbles into the Alexandria camp or saves Carl’s life or - heaven forbid - was living in Alexandria all the time we were there.
And what if Tobias becomes a big bad? What if The Walking Dead version of Tobias has turned to the dark side? Even more reason to want to know what happened to Tobias along the way in Fear.
Whatever way you choose, it heightens the cliffhanger’s tension. Is Alicia dead? She must be! What did Tobias do? Did he do anything at all? Ahhhgggh!
2. Major / minor character swap
Alternatively called the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead maneuver. This is similar to finding Dale camped in his RV in the desert, or our Fear heroes bumping into The Governor because he’s at a professional conference in L.A. at the time of the apocalypse.
But instead of using a well-known character with not a lot of story to plumb - and in what would certainly feel like a ratings stunt - our creators should pick a minor character from The Walking Dead and give him or her a full life on Fear.
Example? Dr. Edwin Jenner, the CDC doctor our Walking Dead heroes encounter in the first season finale. Jenner is at the forefront of the disease (if it is a disease). He and his wife, who we only know as Test Subject 19, are hoping to find a cure.
What if, right before the outbreak, the Jenners are working at the CDC’s Los Angeles Quarantine Station? Wouldn’t it be intriguing to learn how the Jenners make their way to Atlanta? Discover how Dr. Mrs. Jenner is bitten?
The CDC has facilities all over the country, so there’s no reason the MRI of Dr. Mrs. Jenner’s turn would have to take place in Atlanta. It may be that there’s a call to CDC officials to converge on Atlanta. Who knows?
Regardless of that MacGuffin, what this really does is provide us with is an opportunity to learn about the Jenners, minor characters (one no more than an MRI), painting an even more detailed tapestry of the Dead universe and giving their sacrifices a heavier emotional impact.
3. Fear the parallel lives of the Walking Dead
Okay, fair, there isn’t a good name for this suggestion. But it’s my favorite nonetheless. It’s also the most ambitious.
In this crossover, we would see the same character introduced the same week on both shows, and we’d follow that character throughout at least one if not multiple seasons on both shows - simultaneously.
To illustrate, let’s invent a character. Let’s call him Peter Shaw.
Peter Shaw is introduced in Season 2, episode 2 of Fear the Walking Dead as a California banker who escapes the city and joins Madison, Travis and the family as they head out to the desert in search of refuge.
The same Peter Shaw is introduced in Season 7, episode 2 of The Walking Dead, having made his way to Alexandria over the last couple years.
In both instances, we know very little about Peter Shaw. But as both seasons unspool, we get to know a little bit more about his background, who he is, what he’s about, and whether he’s one of the good people or evil to the bone.
In each case, what we learn about Peter in one episode of one series informs the situation of the Peter we’re following in the other series.
This would create a fused tension between the two series. You almost couldn’t watch one without watching the other (as long as the story is compelling, of course).
Bonus crossover idea with web series tie-in!
Finally, before I go, here’s one other way to tie the two series together. Now, I know that show producers are planning a web series about an outbreak on a plane with a main character who will eventually turn up on Fear. This is different to that.
How about a character on Fear who we get to know relatively well, who then turns after a walker bite? Let’s call him Bub, for obvious reasons. He’s not killed, but roams off into the Los Angeles suburbs.
Then, between series, we’re treated to an anthology web series that follows Bub as he shambles his way across the country. We get glimpses of Bub in the background of six or eight different stories.
There he is on the strip in Las Vegas as the lights go dark and the city falls apart. There he id tearing through a campsite in Yellowstone. There he is crossing through a corn field in Indiana.
While each webisode would introduce a human story about different survivors at various stages of the Dead timeline, Bub would make an appearance, slowly rotting as the months and years go by.
Then, after the web series, Bub would make his appearance on The Walking Dead. And, maybe, he would encounter Carl who, for some reason, decides to just let him go.
And Bub manages to unlive another day.