‘Fear the Walking Dead’: Zombie Spinoff Has a Long Way to Go

Ok look like you might be scared, but you're not sure if you should be just yet (Photo via AMC)
Ok look like you might be scared, but you’re not sure if you should be just yet (Photo via AMC)

AMC’s new spinoff series Fear the Walking Dead defeats the entire purpose of the original Walking Dead. Robert Kirkman set out to see what happens after the zombie movie is over. How does society move forward once it has completely broken down? Rick Grimes wakes up from his coma after the breakdown has already occurred for a reason. The breakdown is well-trodden territory.

So why do we need a series that walks this familiar path (besides the obvious ratings grab)? Fear the Walking Dead seems to have been made for those people who like the family aspect of The Walking Dead but don’t care for the comic booky aspects. The main show has certainly turned into “let’s see how gruesomely we can dispatch these zombies/survivors”, so I can understand the desire for something with the general appeal of The Walking Dead with a little less head-smashing. Something the whole family can enjoy!

That’s probably what contributes to what I saw a number of people on Facebook refer to as the “after-school special” feel. Fear the Walking Dead focuses on Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), her fiancée Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) and their attempt to raise their united family. Yes, The Brady Bunch meets Dawn of the Dead, the combination we’ve all been clamoring for.

Clark and Manawa work at the same school. She’s a guidance counselor, he’s the cool teacher who can connect with even the sleepiest of kids. As far as high school staffs go, they’re a power couple. The school acts as a cute way to show just how widespread the zombie plague is starting to become. WOW, can you believe this many people are sick with the FLU? What are the odds!?

The pilot has a heavy focus on Madison’s son, Nick (Frank Dillane). He’s a walking cartoon junkie. Nick looks like a Johnny Depp character gone awry. He runs and shuffles his way through the pilot as he scrambles from one bad situation to another. The actual way he runs is somehow ridiculous, especially when he’s decked out in clothing he stole from the dying old man he shared a hospital room with.

Nick acts as our gateway into the world of brain-eating. He witnesses a zombie in action, yet no one will believe because he’s just too much of a damn junkie to be trusted. Shut up Nick, you worthless drug…guy…you!

There’s also a plot with the other sibling, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and her mysteriously disappearing boyfriend. I’m sure that will be more of a factor moving forward. The same goes for Travis’ son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) and his ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez). Hey, Rubén Blades is showing up at some point! The point is, while this is the pilot, there’s a lot that Fear the Walking Dead hasn’t shown the audience yet. It’s difficult to gauge how the show will look once all its parts are in place and moving.

Fear the Walking Dead is a family drama plopped into of a zombie film. It doesn’t do anything well enough to set it apart from its parent show and the vast number of zombie movies released since George Romero filmed a rural Pennsylvania slaughter back in 1968. It’s nothing spectacular. The main thing that Fear the Walking Dead has going for it is two strong lead actors. Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis are the kind of people that you want to put front and center in a show like this. We’re also just seeing the very tip of the undead mayhem. Things will certainly get more chaotic. Fear the Walking Dead won’t hit its stride until Los Angeles is burning.

 

Blah blah blah

  • It’s not L.A. without a scene in the Los Angeles Aqueduct!
  • It’s hard not to think of this as a cheaper attempt at The Walking Dead between the ability to use subtler zombie makeup and the fact that it’s being filmed in Hollywood’s backyard.
  • I thought that Kim Dickens bought it for a second near the end of the episode. Surely they wouldn’t cast Dickens as a lead just to do that! She’s too good for that sort of treatment.
  • Cliff Curtis seems to play someone completely different in every role. He played an Iraqi rebel in Three Kings. He was also Pablo Escobar in Blow. I was very surprised to find out that Curtis is actually of Māori descent.
  • Something I discovered while writing this: Nick is played by Frank Dillane. Frank’s father? Stephen Dillane who is terrific as the all too serious Stannis Baratheon on Game of Thrones. Get this kid a fingerless smuggler best friend.
  • Frank Dillane also played Tom Riddle in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for all of you Potter fanatics.
  • Is it too much to ask for some celebrities getting zombified a la Zombieland?

 

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