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I would really like to sit down with someone who hasn’t watched the original Walking Dead series and see what their take is on Fear the Walking Dead. Because I have a feeling they might enjoy the series more than I am. But, here’s the strange thing: there are elements of Fear the Walking Dead that I really like. There are characters I enjoy watching, and elements of this zombie origin story that are completely engaging. Unfortunately, there are just as many (if not more) characters and story arcs that are just plain tedious for someone who has already devoted five years to this version of the zombie apocalypse. And I’m having too hard of a time letting go of all that I know from following Rick Grimes and his motley crew to really enjoy the tale offered by Madison and her blended family.
The major problem for Fear the Walking Dead is that it has to constantly find ways to delay the inevitable. Even if an audience member isn’t already on the Dead bandwagon, I think it’s pretty clear so far on the show that chaos is coming and those SWAT members aren’t going to be able to stop the virus that is rapidly spreading throughout the country. There isn’t a happy ending here, and before long everything these people have ever known will be gone- replaced by the darkness of an apocalyptic hell. Which is what makes a character like Travis such a problem. When you take a moment to put yourself in Travis’s shoes, yes, it makes sense to hope that there might be a cure for what ails poor Susan. And if there is a cure, you can’t just kill her. But we all know there isn’t a cure. Just like we know that when her husband starts walking toward her, he’s a goner (unless there is a deus ex machina in the form of a SWAT team). So, hearing Travis tell Madison (who I’m liking more and more as the show progresses) not to act on her (very correct) instinct and kill Susan, well, that tags the character as a relic and makes the audience less inclined to accept him.
And it’s just plain frustrating to watch, because we all know Travis is wrong. We know that his way of thinking will get him and his family killed, while Madison has the strength and wherewithal to know, on an instinctive level, that things are not getting better. To put this in Walking Dead terms, Madison is being set up as the show’s Rick, while Travis is being set up to be walker food. Can the character change and morph into someone who understands this world and fights to protect his family? Sure- look at Carol on the mothership for a great blueprint for this. But, considering Travis is the series’s second lead and that he’s meant to be one of our heroes, I wouldn’t be shocked if the show continued to pit his ideals against Madison’s (because conflict between humans is just as engaging- if not more so- than conflict between walkers and humans). And, considering how pragmatic Liza is turning out to be, I really wouldn’t be shocked if she and Madison eventually team up against Travis when he presents a more pacifistic agenda for surviving in this world.
To counteract Travis’s stupidity, the show has given us an audience surrogate in the form of Daniel Salazar, who is always ready with a smart comeback exposing the stupidity of Travis (and others) as they fail to accept that the world is already lost. Next to Madison and Liza, Daniel is perhaps the show’s most interesting character. Yes, he seems to get what’s happening, but he’s also between a rock and a hard place when it comes to his wife. It is clear that, while he knows things are dire, he still has some hope of getting a doctor to save her (and, thanks to Liza’s excellent nursing student abilities, we know things aren’t looking good). One of the stories I’m most excited to see play out over these next three episodes is how losing his wife will impact Daniel. Since she will die (and really, I have almost zero hope she’ll make it, barring a Herschel/Bob-style amputation) without a bite, how will it change Daniel’s thoughts on surviving in this world?
Finally, I really hope the show spends some more time exploring how this crisis impacts the city and its people on a larger level. One of the things we missed seeing on The Walking Dead was how the outbreak destroyed the government on both a national and local level. Seeing the panic, the riots, the SWAT intervention, and the cop loading up his squad car with water are small elements that really give the crisis weight. Per the radio, we now know 11 states have declared states of emergency. I want to know more about how this is spreading and where. There was talk before the show began of showing audiences “patient zero,” which would be extremely interesting to see. Fear the Walking Dead has a chance to fill in some major holes that exist in this universe, and it would be remiss not to take advantage of that. I don’t need to know why there’s an outbreak, but I do want to understand how it spread, where it spread (how were international countries affected, as was implied on The Walking Dead?), and when did it start? There are three episodes left in this shortened first season. The show isn’t perfect, but it appears to be beginning to find its way.
— In the category of stupid storylines, I think the “let’s run to the neighbors and take their gun” wins the prize for dumbest. Breaking this one down, why in the world would you run out of your safe house when you see a creepy sick neighbor in your front yard? And why would you go to your neighbors house? And why do the kids know that their old babysitter has a gun behind the couch (and was that gun there when they were little)? And why in the world would you leave your own door open?!? This was the dumbest thing characters on this show have done so far, and at least Madison and Nick should have known better.
— Chris and Alicia remain tied for most annoying child in a zombie apocalypse. Although I’m hoping Chris gets eaten first.
— That poor dog.