For a separate piece I have been working on, I have been reflecting back on the past eight seasons of The Walking Dead and the past four of Fear the Walking Dead, and while it may seem obvious, it is nevertheless striking that in the 12 seasons between the two series, easily the best storylines have uniformly originated in the pages of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novels. After this week’s Fear the Walking Dead finale, which was frankly pretty lousy, it struck me that it probably won’t matter what characters the series brings in, what showrunners are leading the operation, nor where the series is set. It starts with the story, and through four seasons, Fear just can’t compete with the tales from Robert Kirkman’s comic books.
Granted, Fear has managed to create a few solid characters (Madison, Alicia, John Dorie, and Strand), but it’s never managed to write a truly compelling arc. The first season, which tracked the outbreak in Los Angeles, was a bust; the second season, which moved to the ocean and later Mexico, never worked, either, and while the third season is the series’ most successful, it was probably the season most like The Walking Dead (with a The Governor-like villain and its giant zombie horde). The fourth season, meanwhile, started out incredibly promising — in fact, the season’s first three episodes is the best three-episode stretch of the series — but it faltered after the death of Madison, and the back eight ultimately fell on its face.
A huge reason for its failure was the use of a hurricane as a plot device to separate the characters and a villain in The Filthy Woman who officially goes down as the worst villain in the history of The Walking Dead universe. In fact, except when she had Al’s vehicle, she proved to be an almost laughably weak antagonist with a boring backstory and illogical motivations.
To reiterate, The Filthy Woman lost her husband because nobody would stop and provide him aid, so The Filthy Woman decides to … kill everyone who tries to help anyone else. She is not menacing. All she has going for her is the element of surprise, and the only reason she manages to survive as long as she has had nothing to do with her competence and everything to do with the compassion that Morgan and others have shown for her. There have been several points over the last few episodes when it would have been easy to kill her (Alicia could have; Althea had a gun trained on her; and obviously, Morgan had several opportunities), but Morgan insisted upon trying to save her. No antagonist has ever managed to stick around so long simply because the protagonists didn’t feel like killing her.