“When civilization ends, it ends fast.”
That’s a line from the first full official trailer of Fear the Walking Dead, but viewers of the show had better hope that isn’t the case, lest this prequel series from Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman turn into little more than The Walking Dead: Pacific.
Not that more Walking Dead would be an abomination — Kirkman and the team over at the mothership have shown a deft touch deconstructing our pre-installed civility and reinstalling our more primal urges. The weak and human suffer, the strong and feral survive in that world. It’s brutal and there’s constant loss and an absence of hope even as the main survivors inhabit the closest thing to nirvana they’re ever going to find. You may not agree, but a lot of viewers (and myself) think it’s a high-level drama. But Fear The Walking Dead might actually be more interesting if it focuses on the spread of the zombie plague and shows how people react—not when all hope is lost, but when confusion and fear conspire to take hold as everything crumbles around them and they fight like mad to keep a handle on the quickly evaporating hope they have left.
With Fear the Walking Dead, we won’t be staring at someone that woke up from a dream into a nightmare of ghost cities and power-mad warlords in all but name. This world won’t feel as foreign, borrowing heavily from our reactions to outbreaks as they tip toe into our country and cause our communities to take note — Swine Flu, Ebola, etc.
The trailer reveals that we’ll see some of this through the screen of a television or a smartphone — people huddled around glowing devices getting the sh*t scared out of them by aerial shots of the beginning embers of a brush fire, no doubt checking Twitter for a caustic game of telephone. Fiction, but with a few tweaks, not wholly unbelievable. Not like the post-apocalyptic Walking Dead.
Whether Fear the Walking Dead can sustain our interest depends on where it goes following the pilot. It’s hard to forecast what Fear the Walking Dead will become, but anything other than a straight path toward where The Walking Dead is now will be a challenge, since the narrative ceiling is so close to the ground floor. This is thanks to its predecessor and the tussle between a fast developing catalyst (walkers) and a brief window between the start of this show and the start of that show. But, if the creators are able to slow burn, the stew might be quite rich and unique. Not just a worthy companion, but a competitor for the hearts and minds of zombie fans who could use a well-honed option besides The Walking Dead, even if that option is also sort of The Walking Dead.