TV

‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Is Not The Show We Signed Up For, And Maybe That’s OK

Spoilers

Fear the Walking Dead took a strange turn in the midseason finale, and I’m not sure it’s going to work for the series, but I respect showrunner Dave Erickson’s attempt to separate his show from The Walking Dead. When we signed up to watch Fear the Walking Dead, we were expecting another version of the parent series, only one set in Los Angeles. We expected to see the origins of the outbreak. We expected to see the initial madness and chaos that a zombie epidemic foments.

However, the series quickly dispatched with the origins story — we never got any better sense of what caused the outbreak in Fear that we did in The Walking Dead — and the series blew up Los Angeles after the first six episodes. Showrunner Dave Erickson wasn’t interested in creating another version of the same series, so he took a chance and he put his characters on a yacht and set sail for Mexico. The Pacific Ocean is a much larger terrain with which to work than the woodlands outside of Atlanta, obviously, and that has allowed Fear to tell smaller stories, as enemies and other tragedies drift (almost literally, in this sense) in and out of the lives of the survivors. In just seven episodes this season, they have held a funeral for Liza, they have encountered a survivalist family, they’ve scavenged from a plane crash, dealt with pirates, and found temporary safety within a Mexican estate.

It’s a big world, and it makes sense that the characters that populate it wouldn’t recur. We may never see the surviving members of the survivalist family again, or Jack and Alex, or Tobias, or even Andrew Adams, the man Travis beat to a pulp in the first-season finale. Unlike The Walking Dead, there are no turf wars yet. There’s nothing to defend because the Fear characters are still in search of a home and until they find a base, we may continue to see characters drift in and back out of the series.

In the midseason finale, however, the series took a strange turn away from zombie show and into a more mystical one. We saw Daniel go mad and burn down an entire village on the advice of his dead wife. We saw Madison feed a relatively innocent woman with a different belief system to the zombies. We saw Chris leave the group and take a small boy hostage, and we saw Nick buy into the belief system of Celia, leave his family, and walk among the zombies, invisible.

This is not yet The Walking Dead. It’s not a show about surviving, about claiming land and trying to carve out a life on it while fending off outside forces. Fear the Walking Dead is about eight — well, seven now — characters trying to find themselves in the world. Daniel found his peace — he exorcised the memories that have haunted him his entire life — and he joined his wife in the afterlife (presumably). Chris is trying to figure out if he’s a psychopath. Travis is digging deep to become the father he never was to Chris before the apocalypse. Strand is trying to figure out how to move on after losing the love of his life. Madison continues to play mother hen, trusting her own instincts above those of her children. Alicia … she’s still in search of an identity, while Nick apparently thinks he’s immortal and can live among the walkers.

It’s a different show with a different language (they haven’t even come up with a consistent name for the zombies yet) with a different perspective. I’m not sure that Fear the Walking Dead knows exactly what it wants to be yet, but it continues to experiment with different ideas. Some work. Some decidedly do not. I am beginning to wonder, however, if there’s not an element of Lost to it. The cast of regulars has not grown since Strand joined them at the end of the first season, and there’s the possibility that the series is less about survival than it is about making peace with themselves before they shuffle off into the zombie afterlife.

I’m not sure what to think of Fear the Walking Dead after its midseason finale. Is it a good show? Is it a bad show? Is it a show still in search of a voice? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s different from The Walking Dead, and there is something to be said for ignoring the path laid down by the most popular show on television and embarking on a different journey all together.

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