Fear the Walking Dead is the companion series to the post-apocalyptical comic book inspired TV series The Walking Dead, which you will have most definitely heard about by now, unless of course, you were in a coma until very recently.
The companion series follows a different set of characters as they face the beginning of the zombie apocalypse as shown in The Walking Dead. The main cast is the Clark family, with the members being played by Kim Dickens, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey and Cliff Curtis. While The Walking Dead has Rick Grimes as its ultimate 'hero', the first impression of Fear The Walking Dead is that the show won't focus that much on a single character, but rather be centered on family affairs. In short, the companion series is bravely playing as a slow burn horror-drama.
Three episodes in, and there are enough reasons to make Fear The Walking Dead a must-watch! Here are five of them:
1. It takes the Horror genre and zombies seriously
The zombie sub-genre exploded in the beginning of this decade, mostly because of how successful The Walking Dead turned out to be in 2010. It spawned the most powerful resurgence of the creatures in pop culture, to a point that it turned in to a big joke. It was almost as if the zombie apocalypse actually happened, because they were everywhere! It's without a doubt one of the most remarkable cultural phenomenon of the 2010's.
One of Fear The Walking Dead's biggest accomplishments is to take the genre seriously. Zombies aren't funny or something to play with. Curiously, the characters aren't aware of what a zombie is; they still see the undead as sick people, which takes away that 'coolness' of a head-shot-expert blowing heads up left and right just for the sake of fun. There's a mature approach to the genre, which is a quality of most memorable horror stories, and that takes it to its very origin! That takes me to my next two reasons to enjoy the show...
2. Fear the Walking Dead is socially relevant
Looking back to Romero's original trilogy '...of the dead', it is quite easy to spot the social commentary in it; from race and gender to capitalism and consumerism, the original flesh-eating zombie is loaded with criticism towards the western civilization. Somewhere along the road, especially nowadays in this 'age of zombies' we live in, that element lost itself almost completely. Fear The Walking Dead is bringing it back though, in many different ways.
As an example, on episode 2 some of the characters are caught in the middle of a conflict between protesters and riot control after a police officer shot an innocent black man to death. We are living In a time where racism is on the spotlight in The United States and the immigrant situation is moving Europe, and Fear The Walking Dead is being responsive to it. People love to say that Horror is dead, but here is evidence to the contrary! Horror is alive and it is adapting to real life.
3. It has character diversity
The main 'survivor group' of Fear The Walking Dead is composed by an extended family with lots of different elements; There are the Clarks - Madison (the Mother), Nick (the Son) and Alicia (the Daughter), who are white Americans. Madison Clark is currently dating Travis Manawa - who is of Maori descent, like the actor Cliff Curtis himself. He was previously married to Latina nurse Liza Ortiz and they have a son, Chris Manawa. Such a group is completely distant from the average nuclear white family seen so often on television and movies. There's also the Salazar family, who are El Salvadoran, and believe it or not, they actually have whole dialogues in Spanish! This new family set up is also a reflection of our time and it works perfectly due to cast chemistry.
The very best performance on the show so far is Frank Dillane's Nick, who is a middle-class white boy with a heavy drug addiction. His portray of a drug addict is spot-on, from his looks to all his mannerisms, the guy totally nailed the role.
4. It is a well-written zombie story
The first two seasons of The Walking Dead had some abysmal character motivation and everything seemed to be going around in circles. In the companion series, they cared about writing plausible characters who make plausible decisions in stressful situations. Decent writing is essential to build the desired sense of realism and it is the source of all three previously mentioned qualities.
The mass production of zombie movies, series, books, games and everything else possible related to it, resulted in an overall loss of quality. In fact, most of the mainstream Horror movies suffer with the same problem. There are some other exceptions to the rule on television, like Penny Dreadful or Hannibal, but it is a rare thing.
5. It actually improves The Walking Dead and vice-versa
When the story of Rick Grimes began in The Walking Dead, zombies were already ruling the world. The apocalypse itself was never shown and only stories were told about the beginning of the end. Fear The Walking Dead is filling in that gap by giving an account of the first days of the zombie plague. It works as an indirect prequel that makes The Walking Dead's universe even more interesting and whole. At the same time, knowing in advance what will happen to humanity, it gives Fear The Walking Dead an extremely nihilist vibe, as the viewer is aware that those characters have no salvation at hand.
It's important to emphasize that Fear The Walking Dead is not a perfect show. It started better than The Walking Dead but it isn't quite as good as Season 5 of the original show and it has a lot of things to improve. Sometimes it feels too contrived as if they are trying to play safe, so it doesn't have its own visual style like The Walking Dead itself or other great shows of today like Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad.
For our next Moviepilot Magazine, it's all about fear. So we're polling our readers to find out what terrifies them. You can help by answering the question below!