*WARNING: SPOILERS ahead for both Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead.*
The downside of watching a weekly episodic television series (or, in this modern era, watching a few days later via On Demand) is that it can be difficult to keep straight how much time truly passes between episodes. When we binge-watch a show, it's much easier to keep timelines straight and even question how realistically storylines are progressing. (I'm looking at you, Jack Bauer, and your 10-minute drives across Los Angeles in rush hour traffic.)
When watching Season 2 of Fear the Walking Dead, not only can it be a little tough to keep perspective on the show's timeline, but it has the added burden of being a spinoff of a show currently still airing. Which means that it's quite difficult not to compare Fear the Walking Dead and its characters' development to how things went in the original series of The Walking Dead and where its characters are now.
Fear the Walking Dead is currently on a midseason hiatus — another way in which shows confuse us, by making us literally forget what's happened in the first part of a season — and thus won't conclude its second season until fall. But yesterday, showrunner Dave Erickson addressed the timeline of FtWD as it relates to The Walking Dead:
“If you marked off the days [that have passed on air since 'FtWD' debuted], I think right now, by the end of the first half [of Season 2], we’re getting very close to Rick waking up in Georgia on 'The Walking Dead.'"
This is peculiar in that it has been established that Rick Grimes woke up in the hospital approximately 60 days after the start of the epidemic (+60). Those of us paying closer attention to Fear the Walking Dead find the math here a little flawed, guesstimating the FtWD characters as we left them in the midseason finale to be closer to day 25, a good month and some change before Rick wakes up. And if 1.5 seasons can fit into a month in the FtWD universe, jumping ahead an extra 30 days when we pick up in August will feel like too monumental of a leap.
Erickson seems to be speculating on the timelines of the two shows in an effort to face head-on the backlash fans have voiced over FtWD's characters developing too darn slow. On the learning curve of FtWD, he says:
"[It] creates frustrations, to a certain degree, because in some instances, you want [the characters] to get it already. And in some circumstances, the things that they do that don’t seem particularly zombie-savvy are, for me, moments where they aren’t zombie-savvy."
This is where it's important for us fans of the entire Walking Dead Universe to maintain some perspective and why there there are plenty of reason for viewers to not give up on Fear the Walking Dead just yet.
Rick Grimes Wasn't Built In A Day
First off, some of that perspective I was talking about.
When you break it down, Season 1 of The Walking Dead lasted only five days. It was a short season, of course, but with the sort of sustained action TWD was going for, it made sense to keep the adrenaline up with every episode ending on a cliffhanger and each new episode picking right back up in the moment.
Season 2 was closer to a full-length season, with 13 episodes (later seasons would all have 16) and, if calculated correctly, only covers 17 days. So if we add it up, thus far FtWD is about on par with the pacing of TWD, and in fact is moving a bit faster as we still have half a season to watch, which would push us over the 22 days of TWD's first and second seasons.
What probably accounts for the different feel in pacing between the two shows is that FtWD focuses on a much smaller group of people than The Walking Dead's initial group of survivors. Even the location change in Season 2 of FtWD has only brought us a handful of new people (most of whom are already dead), whereas Rick started with a large group and expanded more while on Hershel's farm.
We finally saw Madison Clark have her first "Rick Grimes" moment at the end of the midseason finale two weeks ago, exhibiting the sort of ruthlessness Rick came to embrace later in his journey. Perhaps she's catching on even quicker than he did that, sometimes, desperate times do indeed call for desperate measures. She can only get more interesting and complex since, when next we see her in August, she'll be dealing with the absence of her firstborn Nick — the focus of most of her concern and defensiveness.
Fear The Walking Dead Is NOT The Walking Dead
Jumping through time is fine — after all, between seasons 2 and 3 of The Walking Dead we skip ahead more than seven months, but it's important to remember TWD had a more established universe in that Rick Grimes was the only one who hadn't already had two months to get used to the new world. This just isn't the case in FtWD. Which is, of course, the point. It's a prequel. It's establishing everything we missed about the beginnings of a zombie apocalypse in TWD, with new characters and a new location. We're learning how to deal, right along with the characters.
So I'd lobby showrunners not concern themselves too much with catching up to Rick and let things play out at the pace at which they've been going. I appreciate Erickson's desire to connect the dots to The Walking Dead for the fans' benefit, but it's just not necessary.
FtWD was always supposed to have a different sort of feel to TWD. Even setting the series as far as one can get from Georgia — in Los Angeles — gives FtWD a distinctly different vibe. (Curious if down the line we'd be able to see dried-out desert walkers versus the humid ones of Georgia?)
While moving the characters to a boat for Season 2 felt a bit anticlimactic in that it narrowed the scope of seeing the epidemic play out on a grander scale, it fits with why we love TWD so much: It's a story about people first, walkers second. And let's not forget familial love was what motivated Rick in his first few seasons; Madison is similarly fueled.
Fear The Walking Dead Is Actually Ahead Of The Curve
We need to give the characters of FtWD the time to figure things out in the same way that Rick needed to. And heck, there's already a few examples that prove FtWD's characters are way ahead of the curve in knowing how to deal with the walking dead around them:
1) Nick figures out that blood-soaked, blood-cloaked trick pretty quickly. Granted, Rick used this trick fairly early in Season 1 and Nick didn't catch on until Season 2 of FtWD, but the youngster uses it far more efficiently and more often. Not to mention that he seems to get that covering one's head and face is essential, whereas Rick learned the hard way that one can still get killed without enough blood and guts slathered on the face — RIP, Jessie and Sam.
2) FtWD characters have caught on real quick that those who die of natural causes will still come back as walkers, which Rick and co. didn't learn until the end of Season 2. As a result, we've seen quite a few more mercy stakes/bullets to the head in FtWD.
3) Similarly, the villains of FtWD seem to have figured out how to extort the living in this time of chaos much faster than those of TWD. In Season 1 and 2 of TWD, the main issues facing the group are sneaky walkers, accidental injuries (poor Carl), finding food and supplies, and the philosophical debating of whether walkers are people.
Madison and her clan face all the same problems but have also come up against dealing with the military and their efforts to "help" the American population, facing off against greedy pirate types hijacking their boat and holding them hostage, and also dealing with an older character who wants to see the walkers as people (though she's much more calculated and evil than Hershel in who she thinks deserves life and death). By comparison, FtWD may have TWD beat in harrowing situations.
It's Too Soon To Call It
While Erickson's comments may soothe those looking for FtWD and TWD to align more — though there are ultimately no plans to sync the two timelines — they aren't necessary for those of us who don't want FtWD to be too eager to catch up to TWD in both timeline and maturity. We're only at the halfway point for Season 2 and things could get real interesting come August.
Though, then again, maybe we ought to hold out for Season 3. Imagine if we'd judged The Walking Dead based on it's second season — ooph.
We've seen what it's like to SURVIVE this apocalypse, now give us more of what it was like to go through it. Bring on the fresh walkers!