The horror genre isn’t just for us anymore, and this is why AMC’s “The Walking Dead” is one of the biggest shows on television.
But before “The Walking Dead,” I was dreaming of a horror series that could last more than one season before it got canceled. Based on Robert Kirkman’s incredible comic, “The Walking Dead” shambled onto cable in 2010, creating epic buzz that would turn the zombie series into a household name.
And while tens of millions of “fans” will tune into the sixth season of “The Walking Dead” this October, I will not. A huge fan of the comics, I’ve found the series to be a bore, with the fantasization of the zombie apocalypse not translating well to the big screen. Why? It’s probably a mix of the cheap sets, weak characters (and their arcs), and unrealistic Georgia setting. I stopped watching midway through the third season and never regretted it for a second.
It’s always bugged me that, next to “Preacher,” all I ever wanted was a “Walking Dead” television show. Yet, there I was deleting it off the list of programs I subscribed to. I understand a lot of you guys really enjoy it, which is why I restrain myself from jabbing at it as much as humanly possible. Still, I had to express my distate for the wasted potential, especially when AMC announced a spinoff.
Yes, while “The Walking Dead” continues to break ratings records, AMC’s set to premiere a series spinoff, “Fear the Walking Dead,” on August 23rd.
My biggest fear was that the execs, showrunners and filmmakers behind “The Walking Dead” would attempt to reproduce and replicate the show, only in a different setting. “Fear the Walking Dead” had instant meaning for this life-long horror fan. If it isn’t broken, why fix it, right? Well, even though the show is a home run for ratings, it’s a mess. And I desperately wanted it to be fixed.
While it’s impossible to tell how the latter episodes will be (Season One consists of 6 episodes), the pilot presentation of “Fear the Walking Dead” is dragging its feet in the right direction.
The biggest difference between “The Walking Dead” and “Fear the Walking Dead” is huge – no, massive.
While most people will point out the difference in scope – being that “Fear” takes place in an overpopulated Los Angeles, as opposed to the barren fields of Georgia – the biggest change is that “Fear” focuses on characters and family, while “Walking Dead” put way too much emphasis on the zombies and how cool the KNB-created undead effects would be (they were clearly trying to make us happy and lost focus of what makes a television series great).
“Fear the Walking Dead” feels very modern with a strong female lead and culturally diverse cast. The new series is led by the superior Kim Dickens, who is a stronger actor and has a more realized character than anyone in the first three seasons of “The Walking Dead” (sans Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of ‘Shane’). Dickens plays Madison Clark, a guidence counseler who is pushing through life as a windowed mother, and parent to a drug addict. Her son, Nick (Frank Dillane, pictured above, who is a literal scene-stealer), is the first person on the series exposed to the zombie outbreak, and it’s implied that the cause could be drug related. There’s a really fun arc in the pilot, that riffs on the 2013 Evil Dead, in which Nick isn’t sure what he saw was real, and is convinced it may be a hallucination caused by a bad drug. His confrontation with his dealer is fucking intense, and leads to one helluva finale that sets the rules, and drops the gravity of the situation on the characters like an atom bomb.
Something that really caught my attention in the pilot was the extreme sense of normalcy, which is a device used to lay the believabilty on thick. I basked in it. The one problem, though, is that this causes an extreme lack of urgency, especially since the characters are all scoffing at the news of a potential outbreak. Still, it’s laying the groundwork for several seasons, and knowing how hard the filmmakers are pushing in on the believability makes my nipples hard. There’s still 5 more episodes to build on that sense of urgency, especially after what happens in the pilot’s final moments.
What I can take away from the first 60-minutes of “Fear the Walking Dead” is that it’s aiming to be rich in characters, with Frank Dillane stealing the show (his addiction/affliction is literally the perfect character device). The Los Angeles-based setting is a ideal launching point to deliver on a massive scope. And, more importantly, the writers have written off any promise of explaining the cause of the undead rising. “Fear the Walking Dead” isn’t about the zombies, as stated above, and that’s exactly the fresh start this franchise needs.
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