Prequel series’, companion series’, and spin-off’s don’t usually fair well in the movie and TV world. Star Wars, one of the most beloved franchises in pop culture history had hit this snag, and even though they weren’t horrible films, the Prequel Trilogy is usually disregarded by most fans, especially the older ones. On the smaller screen, when you have a hit show like Friends that is nearing its final run, producers don’t want to completely step out of that universe, so they take a popular character and try to let him or her stand on their own to see if they can keep up what the main show is leaving behind. The lovable Joey was given a chance to prove himself as a solo act, which failed miserably.
Sometimes, however, a spin-off series can prove itself, whether it is actually continuing a story from its predecessor or expanding the franchise universe altogether. That was the case with Star Wars: The Clone Wars and it’s successor, Rebels, which focuses on a group of rag tag, erm, Rebels, who live just to “stick it to the man” which in this case is the Empire, and it is actually paying off (even being on Disney). Other networks such as AMC have tried expanding their shows; the immensely popular Breaking Bad series got a spin-off last year. Which character would you imagine they would focus on? Mike, the laid back hit man? Jesse Pinkman, the former junkie who now is on his own and free of Walter White’s manipulation? No – Saul Goodman. AMC has gambled again, this time creating a companion series to another show that is still very popular and running with no signs of ending anytime soon: The Walking Dead, of course. After watching Fear the Walking Dead, I can say that AMC has done it again.
By changing the setting from the green southern aspect of the original series to the urban jungle of Los Angeles and going back to the beginning of the zombie plague, even before we are first introduced to it in The Walking Dead, Fear really feels like a fresh new show that I believe can actually compete and give us a more substantial experience than what we’ve been getting from its predecessor, especially since – and those who have read the comics these series’ are based on understand – we can no longer predict what’s gonna happen. We are going into this show as clueless as anyone else who hasn’t picked up a Walking Dead book. We do not know these new characters, two school teachers, three kids, one of whom is a junkie, and an ex-wife that will be introduced better in the second episode. We get to travel with these poor souls as they witness first-hand the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, and seeing how far the original show has gone, it would be interesting to see how these characters survive up to the point Rick’s group has – if they do at all.
At first Fear the Walking Dead starts off with our unconventional eyes and ears of the series, Nick Clarke, who awakens after coming down from his heroin induced high. Upon waking up, what he sees frightens him so much that he takes off running into the middle of a busy LA street (those who have been there know how chaotic Los Angeles traffic can be), and is immediately hit by a car. And now we have our first main character in a hospital bed, not unlike Rick from the original pilot, only this time Nick wakes up a within a day rather than weeks in a coma, believing what he saw was just a drug induced nightmare. However, the authorities believe he was trying to hurt himself, so he is strapped down to his bed. Soon after we meet the other main cast, school teachers Travis and Madison, Nick’s mother, and Nick’s younger sister who seems to be discouraged that their mother is in a relationship with Travis. When the first few details emerged about Fear, he was described as the show’s new Rick, however I feel that title will fall upon Nick (Nick and Rick do rhyme!). His story is very interesting and can really open up some great opportunities for arcs that could carry on throughout the series.
As Travis and Madison figure out what to do with Nick, we get glimpses of what is beginning through television broadcasts and hear-say from supporting cast members in the background. We really get to know each character very well, and we learn their struggles. While the episode does slow down a little, it’s important to remember this is just the beginning of what we know will become something much more deadly and threatening later on – plus, it all pays off at the end. Like many plague-like scares we hear about in the news, such as the West Nile virus or the Ebola scare in Texas, the main characters don’t really acknowledge what’s going on until it directly effects them. The show capitalizes on this naivety, but that is not to say that there isn’t enough to look forward to as the episode progresses. After a drug dealer-turned-walker encounter at the episode’s conclusion, Nick, Travis, and Madison look on as they realize they are on the cusp of something much more dangerous than anything they have ever witnessed. The world will soon be ending and replaced by one of despair and loss, and we will experience this right along with them!
Fear the Walking Dead is slower paced than its predecessor, and for good reason – not a lot is really going on aside from character set-up. This is literally the beginning of something greater, and I believe Fear has the ability to surpass the original Walking Dead in every way if given the chance. With a new setting and characters, none of which are comic book originals, this new show is just for us zombie fans. We will not know what to expect, and now we can really believe that any one of these characters could die. It’s hard to believe Rick can die at any time when he is still alive facing off against zombies and badass, even now. But Nick? I don’t know Nick, I don’t know what he can or cannot do. I don’t know what he’s capable of. He may survive and be the man Rick has come to be, or his demons may get the best of him and he won’t make it out of the first season! I don’t know, and that’s the beauty of the show! No one knows but those demented writers!
This show has extremely great potential, and the first episode was, overall, superb. It really established itself as its own show, and promises to deliver some great storylines later in the future. Remember, this is NOT The Walking Dead. These characters may meet our favorite heroes many years from now, but right now this is their struggle. This is their lives and we are there with them as they are forced to live in a world that will no longer have cell phones, TV, movies and social media. They will soon be in the dark and must unlearn everything they’ve known their entire lives. They will have to adapt to this new world or else they will die. And with a protagonist junkie, like Nick, the struggle for him will be unlike anything we have seen in the world yet.