Through the first season of Fear the Walking Dead, there’s barely been a flicker of what makes The Walking Dead so wildly successful, and nothing that might inspire the kind of passion we feel for the parent series. Dozens of reasons have been bandied about — dumb decisions, unengaging storylines, slow pacing, and a lack of zombies — but the central problem with the series has continued to be characters that no one cares about.
That changed, at least briefly, in this week’s episode, “We All Fall Down,” when the series finally brought in another family, and it made all the difference. The Geary family is exactly what the series needed, and they provided something that the series has sorely lacked: A point of view.
Travis, Madison, Nick, Alicia and Chris have spent the first seven episodes of Fear the Walking Dead reacting, running, whining, bickering, and fighting, but no one has really provided a strong perspective on what’s going on around them. They’ve been too busy sulking. George Geary, on the other hand, had developed a belief system. He believed the zombie virus was nature’s way of correcting itself. It wasn’t necessarily a good perspective, but at least it gave him a foundation for his motivations.
He and his family (or at least, his eldest son) were survivalists. They’d formed a plan, and again, while it might not have been a good one, at least it gave them a personality. George’s personality veered toward cultish behavior, but we’d seen evidence of his type of family several times in The Walking Dead: People who insisted on staying in their homes until the end, only to be found dead, having hung themselves or shot themselves before the walkers arrived.
George Geary had plans to hold out at the ranger station as long as possible, before ending his life and that of his family with poison pills. It backfired, of course, when Willa — the youngest daughter — sneaked into the stash of pills and took hers too early, setting off a chain reaction of deaths. Those deaths, in and of themselves, were the most emotional of the series because, in the very short time we got to know them, we cared about them, at least more than the series’ existing regulars.
Indeed, was something the series has rarely seen: He was an interesting character, and his wife was interesting by virtue of her fear of George and her love of her children. The Geary family also opened up the personalities of Travis — who we found out has an interesting family background — and Madison, who we finally learned is capable of an opinion. The youngest Geary children brought out Nick’s playfulness and sense of humor, which in turn created a bonding moment for him and his sister. That was truly the first time I ever cared anything for those two characters.
Chris, we also found out, has a sadistic streak, which is at least something, and we even got a hint of what makes Travis and Madison a good couple when they finally had a conversation that wasn’t about themselves.
This is what Fear the Walking Dead desperately needs to do moving forward: Introduce more characters who can inform the personalities of the regular characters. The more we know about the Salazars, the Manawas, and the Clarks, the more it will matter when they die.