We all have our favorite television shows. Some of them are obscure and might not even be known by many people. In the brutal climate of television, shows like that are always in danger of cancellation. With sweat forming on your forehead you eagerly await news about a new season. And then two things can happen. One: you finally receive word that your beloved series has been renewed and you happily dance around in your living room (or maybe that is just me). Two: The television Gods have decided the show needs to get the axe, and you spent the rest of your week weeping, expending an entire box of tissues (erm, maybe that’s just me as well). But there are also shows that are juggernauts that are never in that danger, at least not any time soon. One of those shows is The Walking Dead, and it’s still my alltime favorite. When a series is this succesful, the television studios begin to think up ways to expand on that succes. Which usually means that the original show gets a spin off, that takes the established story into different directions.
Fear the Walking Dead acts as a prequel to the original show, and takes us back to the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. High school guidance councellor Madison Clark has more than her fair share of problems. Her son Nick is a drug addict and his habits weigh heavily upon the rest of her family. One day Nick ends up in the hospital after being hit by a car while he was running in the middle of the street. While visiting him there together with her new boyfriend Travis and her daughter Alicia, Madison tries to find out exactly what has happened. Nick tells a story that makes no sense and is being dismissed as yet another drug induced psychosis. Supposedly he woke up after using his drugs to find the girl he was with that night turned into a flesh eating monster. Travis still decides to investigate anyway, and is beginning to find indications that there might be more to Nick’s story than everybody at first believed. Meanwhile news outlets are showing strange reports about people that brutally attack others for seemingly no reason. Humanity stands at the eve of a total societal collapse and the real horror is about to begin……
Fear the Walking Dead is a completely different show than it’s big brother. At least that was the original plan. When the show first aired a lot of complaints came from fans of The Walking Dead about how this show was incredibly dull and slow, and had so very little to do with the original series. Finally the studios bowed to this pressure and took the series in the direction the fans wanted. And honestly, I think this is a real shame. Why would you want two series that are pretty much exactly the same, only with different characters? What I absolutely loved about this show in the beginning, is how it showed the slow decline of civilisation and the eerie atmosphere. When the first zombies begin to appear people aren’t even worried, thinking it’s just a disease that will eventually get cured. We of course as an audience know how the events will eventually turn out, and how the world is going to fall. One of the creepiest scenes in this first season is when the power begins to fail, and you see entire city blocks turning dark. That event really is the foreshadowing of the beginning of the end, and it was filmed in a truly powerful way.
For me that was one of the show’s greatest strengths. The pacing, especially in the beginning is definitely very slow. I can totally understand how people can be turned off by this, but I think this has also to do with the characters that aren’t all that interesting. Where The Walking Dead has powerful leads such as Rick and Daryl, here we have a normal albeit dysfunctional family that you just don’t really care about. Nick played by Frank Dillane, is a very selfish character whose only goal seems to be looking where he can get his new fix. Actress Kim Dickens in the role of his mother Madison does a good enough job of playing his despairing mother. But in the end she is just, at least in this season, a very dull character. The only character that I at least liked was Travis, played by Cliff Curtis. Here is a man that tries to keep his head above water while his family is being torn apart and society around him is collapsing. He played the part perfectly and was for me one of the shining lights. Later on in the series, his family meets up with another one, that also doesn’t contain very memorable characters.
And that is pretty much this show’s greatest flaw. When a tv series fails to give you characters that you really care for, it’s hard to keep you interested in it. That said, I for one was still very much entertained. I know that in the upcoming seasons, the show is going to change and I heard that some people even say they found it better than it’s big counterpart. (A fact I find very hard to believe). But I loved the way this season showed us how everything started on the road to the zombie apocalypse. I thought it handled this in a very good and believable manner, despite it’s slow pace. Fear the Walking Dead won’t be for everyone, especially not if you are hoping to find full on zombie carnage, of which there is very little here. But for those of you that are interested in seeing what could happen when an unstoppable disease begins to ravage the world, you are hardpressed to find a series that does this in such a realistic way.
I give Fear the Walking Dead season 1 a 8 out of 10 score.