Fear the Walking Dead Miniseries - Our Take

Whether you toasted to a screenwriting success or flung your TV set out the window after the finale of Fear the Walking Dead, last night’s episode was an unparalleled display of dark, deeply existentialist entertainment. Zombies overran the military base. Families were reunited then torn apart again; main characters were shot and killed.  In short, it was a brief glimpse of utter chaos and confusion. And despite the fact that a plot’s been hatched to escape on a yacht, it’s hard to foresee a bright future for our zombie fugitives.

Moving along at a breakneck pace typical of modern zombie cinema (see: 28 Days Later), this episode in particular bit off more than it could chew in terms of storyline and plot development. While the action itself was great and the gore was good and plentiful, that rush to the finish left a lot to be desired in other areas. Pushing too hard, too fast has plagued the entire first season of The Walking Dead’s prequel series. With only six hour long episodes to work with, Fear the Walking Dead has focused most of its time on advancing the plot forward as much as possible, and the creation of solid characters occasionally gets lost in the shuffle.

By the end of the premiere, zombies were already on the scene (though rumblings and rumors about them started sooner in the episode), and it was clear that this show had hit the ground running. The military showed up to save the day by the end of episode three, and by the fourth episode it was obvious that the zombies were the least of the main characters’ problems. While the original Walking Dead series picked up after zombie hordes had already overrun the country, Fear the Walking Dead focuses on the fear as it first takes hold. Fear the Walking Dead depicts the downfall as it happens, as citizens become accustomed to the fact that no one and nothing is safe from the zombie menace. To effectively convey these dramatic elements the show could have used extra time dive deeper into the anarchy of total collapse. When all social and governmental structures are destroyed, you would think there would be more than enough material there to make it last.

Though the settings remain evocative, FTWD could have also used more time to develop the main characters, as by the end of the season they are still essentially the same as they were at the start. Maddie is still a “tough love” mom who will do anything to protect her children. Alicia is still the good girl who longed for escape, and Christopher is still the whining teenager who is as likely to pout about being left behind as he is to do what’s instructed of him in an emergency. Travis may actually have revealed himself to be the most dynamic individual on the show, as he was the only character to reach a breaking point by the finale’s conclusion. Some of the most frustrating moments various episodes have come as a result of characters being painfully slow on the uptake – a problem which curiously (or purposely) parallels our response to warnings of looming climate change. According to recent studies, as a nation, only 63% percent of us are certain the planet is warming, and less than half of those feel that these changes have come as a result of human actions. With our own apocalypse in full bloom, might we take some advice from characters fleeing another cause of near-certain extinction?

Picked up for a second season before the finale of the first season even aired, and given the greenlight for 13 episodes instead of just another six, Fear the Walking Dead will be back next year to continue its story of life at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. Travis, Maddie, Nick, Christopher, Daniel, and Strand will return, and with more time to tell their stories, perhaps they’ll have more of a chance to evolve as characters. But of course, there’s always comfort in the fact that The Walking Dead will be back for a sixth season of dependable zombie destruction. You can catch all episodes of Fear The Walking Dead on AMC, DTV, and Hulu.