Despite being a huge Walking Dead fan, I’ve only just got round to watching the first season of the spin-off series, and I have to say my lack of enthusiasm in advance is rather matched by lack lack of enthusiasm afterwards.
Almost as if by magic, Fear the Walking Dead (and god, isn’t that a tedious title?) manages to leach all the specialness out of The Walking Dead and just make a pretty run of the mill, extended zombie film. There are a number of traps that the production falls into which The Walking Dead had completely avoided.
The overall problem with the series is that it’s all too fast. For a start, too much happens. The six episode first season spans way too much time. The entire multi-season span of this series could have been spent slowly showing us how the zombie apocalypse started, grew and took over; how normal people gradually came to realise what was happening; how people and governments reacted; and how everything fell apart. It could have spent YEARS showing us what happened before Rick Grimes even woke up in The Walking Dead. Instead all of that is covered in just 6 episodes. It’s an utter waste of a huge amount of material and, worse, all it means is we’re effectively just watching The Walking Dead with a different set of characters.
Having to cram that much activity in means that everything is too fast – each scene and character is in a rush to get to the next moment. The Walking Dead moves painfully slowly at times when you want to know what happened to a favourite character, but that time gives space to fully understand the emotions and choices. Fear the Walking Dead dashes about and it’s hard to really connect with anyone. Mind you, when several of those characters are teenagers, it’s not like I really wanted to connect that much. If I wanted to watch teenagers moping about their relationships and the unfairness of life I’d be watching The CW.
The other victim of the speed is that Fear The Walking Dead just doesn’t look as good as it’s older brother. The Walking Dead is gorgeous to look at, with incredibly careful framing (harking back to its comic book roots) and incredible lighting showing off everything from the Georgia landscape to the amazing makeup and effects. While Fear the Walking Dead has some impressively large set pieces, it just doesn’t often have the time to linger and find the beauty of the rapidly deteriorating city, and even when it tries, it often comes across a bit cgi.
I feel like this missed an opportunity. I love The Walking Dead because it’s so much more than a zombie show, but it’s about survivors not the fall. Fear the Walking Dead was an opportunity to show the fall and it just wasted that opportunity to try, and fail, to just be another Walking Dead. It was… fine, but absolutely nothing more.