So Fear the Walking Dead actually happened.
And for those of you that missed it on broadcast TV, it’s now available to stream (Amazon Prime etc). The big question is, if you haven’t seen it, is it worth your time?
Streaming Fear the Walking Dead
Horror movie critics were sure that a television programme based on every zombie film ever made in sphere already saturated by zombies would fail. And yet it proved to be hugely popular, even attracting those who aren’t ‘in to’ horror.
So a spin off had to happen sooner or later right? And why not have that starting, as the original series did, before the outbreak?
This time round we’re introduced to residents of Los Angeles who are going about their average (by LA standards maybe) lives when the mysterious infection sweeps across the world.
And on the surface, the concept isn’t that bad.
It’s similar in terms of quality to its predecessor. The acting is good, the characters are real enough (or most of them, I’ll explore that later) and the pace is tantilisingly slow. Frustratingly so? Perhaps a little, but it’s nice for a show that is going to be pretty damn predictable to at least pretend that it needs to make us wait for things.
The first episode follows our new ‘family’, the replacement for Ricks’s band of survivors. The fresh bunch is more vulnerable: two teachers and their children with issues. The daughter is grumpy, one son is a drug addict and the other son doesn’t want to be a part of his step-family.
The key character is Nick, the addict is trying to get clean after a surreal comedown (during which he watched his girlfriend eating people). His mother and step dad are struggling to keep their complicated family and careers on track. And just when things couldn’t get more complicated, the zombie outbreak hits.
So what’s not to like about this new angle on the Walking Dead?
The main problem is… There is nothing new.
To US citizens, the idea of this scenario in LA as opposed to Atlanta may be mind blowing. But to the rest of us, things don’t look that different. A bigger city, yes, but the same kind of people in the same kind of situation.
The fact that the first episode revolves around a hospital stay is also far too similar to season one of The Walking Dead. And it’s all just too easy to see this as an all-too-predictable retelling of the same story with similar characters.
This may be enough to cause a momentary sense of excitement in WD fans, many of whom may be suffering from zombie fatigue after 5 seasons of Rick Grimes and co. But it’s not enough.
If things had been different, perhaps season 2 of the original series could have been ‘a new chapter in a different city’ and the third from a different place again and so on. But such is the nature of network television – that the concept had to be proved successful before bigger investment was secured. As a result we had to get 3 seasons in before viewers and producers started to wonder ‘wait a minute, where is this going?’
And add to this the fact that one of the two main black characters is your stereotypical ‘gangsta drug dealer’ and suddenly alarm bells start to ring. How many new dynamics are there to be explored in this post apocalyptic world? And how can this series be fresh and innovative without detracting from the standard bearing original?
Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t break any new ground, so don’t have high hopes if you decide to catch it. On the plus side, it does give zombie fans something to watch while they wait for the return of the real deal!