It’s not as good or as bad as you may have hoped or heard and that’s a good thing.
Let’s dive into Fear The Walking Dead: Season 1.
Fear the Walking Dead is set in the same world as The Walking Dead TV show and follows the exploits of a group of survivors on the west coast of the United States, thousands of miles from the action in the original show. The main focus of the first season is on the initial days of the outbreak as we see things start to fall apart.
It showed the doubt and confusion that accompany disaster. Have you ever been in a situation where things started to fall apart? I mean really fall apart, where hospitals and public services are overwhelmed, where the military is all over the place and where the normal supply lines are suddenly gone? A situation where not just your few blocks, or your city have been affected but most or all of the country.
I have. In 2011 I was living in Fukushima Japan not terribly far from the nuclear power plant. My wife, being from Sendai, we had to go way up there the next day which is where we spent most of the time just after the quake.
This wasn’t a case of a few buildings being damaged or a road falling over or something. This was the entire norther part of the country. Every single road we drove on was split and cracked, every business closed, every food shop rationing out food when they did reopen.
The one thing Fear the Walking Dead really tried to capture was that feeling of not really being sure what’s going on around us, what’s going happen, what’s around the corner, what’s going on. They didn’t do a bad job of that. Watching the show I was reminded of personal experience and that sat pretty well with me.
There’s a lot of teasing going on where we see characters doing mundane things that seem scary because we’ve been trained to assume that when that guy hunched over turns around his face will be gone or he’ll try to eat us. Actually he’s just a guy turned around. From a writing standpoint this makes a lot of sense and works to help create the sense that people are starting to have that something is wrong they just can’t put their fingers on. They sense something is just around the corner waiting for them yet they aren’t really sure where the corners are.
The sound design was pretty good. There was always a siren or a helicopter or plane sound going in the background. Something to let us know things were happening all over the place.
It’s short. Good or bad the simple shortness of the season means that it did what it needed to do in a short amount of time without adding a lot of unnecessary extras or fillers. It got to the point.
It doesn’t really come together in a satisfying way. There’s this great idea in the show where a ton of infected have been locked into a stadium and are just milling about in there, pressing against the doors and could break loose at any minute. It’s a great little example of how the damn is about to break, all the uncertainty is about to become certain and the shit is about to hit the fan. But we don’t really feel the build up to that burst and when it comes it’s sort of unremarkable.
In fact, we don’t actually get to see it happen. We do see Daniel, the El Salvadorian barber leading a hoard of walkers down the street towards the National Guard’s headquarters and are left to assume he got them from the stadium. It feels unsatisfying that this guy who has no real experience with the walkers is able to just release an entire hoard of them and casually stroll along leading them to where he wants them to go to use as a weapon or a distraction. It felt cheap. The actor playing Daniel isn’t bad but he’s too tranquil, to cold, too unresponsive in his guiding of an army of the dead. Don’t get me wrong, cold and placid is great for his character but we’re talking about an army of the dead!
It also detracts from the Walking Dead. Looking at the ending of Fear the Walking Dead and Daniel leading the walkers around we immediately jump to the Walking Dead and Rick and company struggling and working to do the same thing. Too bad Daniels on the west coast, they could have used him. This similarity in the ending of one show and the start of the other made the opening of season six of the Walking Dead a little less interesting. The timing is also unfortunate in that I wasn’t as hungry to watch the Walking Dead by the time it premiered having whet my appetite on Fear the Walking Dead.
Maybe I’m biased because I’m a teacher myself but I have a hard time watching people play teachers on TV. I have even more trouble buying that the lessons being taught are so deep and meaningful and that they tie in so nicely to the plot of the show I’m watching. Take for instance the English lesson on Jack London teaching about how to build a fire as a symbol for survival or when another teacher is talking about chaos theory in the first episode of the show. I just don’t buy it. It feels like the writers are just reaching.
Probably one of the “ugliest” things about Fear the Walking Dead is the fans.
A lot of the comments and complaints about this new show center around the fact that it doesn’t have what the original show has; lots of corpses, Zombies, dripping and slobbering and rotting all over the place. The fans want to see what they love so badly that when they get something else they don’t like it. To some extent they have a point. It’s a show about zombies . . . show me zombies! But always getting what we want in neatly doled out packages isn’t good. We need to be surprised, to be made to wait, even to be disappointed sometimes in order for the good times to seem all the more powerful by comparison. No, that’s not an excuse for making bad shows or bad episodes but every mediocre episode of Fear the Walking Dead is still way better written and produced than the good episodes of lots of other shows. For my money, I’d rather have a great show with a solid story and very few zombies than a constant barrage of special effects that leave me numb.
Do you have any predictions for season 2?
I’m guessing the season will be longer, we’ll finally see the desert, we’ll get some Mexican gang action going on, more zombies to appeal to fans and Travis is going to die.