During the year building up to the release of the heavily anticipated Fear the Walking Dead, back when it was still called Cobalt, AMC and its producers insisted on calling it a “companion” series and not a “spin-off.” Robert Kirkman claimed that the “companion series” would be very different.
“We’ll want to tell these stories in a completely different way with completely different people in a completely different setting that’s going to make for a fundamentally different show,” he said back in March of 2015.
Different, different, different, Kirman kept emphasizing.
There would be no crossover characters. They would operate on different timelines. Fear the Walking Dead would be set in Los Angeles and it would be set during that time in which Rick Grimes was in a coma on The Walking Dead.
When it debuted, that’s exactly what it was, and as it turns out, no one really wanted to see the origins of the zombie apocalypse. We’ve seen that dozens of times in dozens of zombie movies, and we had little interest in seeing that play out over the course of six hours. Consequently, the first season of the show was a tedious disaster that saw its huge audience nearly halve in the first six episodes.
Season two tried something different, too: A lot of it took place in the ocean, before eventually relocating to Mexico. it continued to remain a “fundamentally” different show from The Walking Dead, but it didn’t really work. It’s audience halved yet again.
Creatively speaking, the third season finally found its groove. It found a place to settle down for a while in the Broke Jaw Ranch, which was like the Farm on The Walking Dead and featured a character played by Dayton Callie who was a cross between Hershel and The Governor. Madison became more Rick-like, and the family dynamic on the series fractured. The Manawas and most, if not all, of the Salazars were killed off, while the Clarks remained largely divided. There were zombie hordes and territory battles and outside dangers.
In short, Fear the Walking Dead became more like The Walking Dead. Creatively speaking, it was never better. The ratings finally leveled off.