‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Has Forgotten What Makes ‘The Walking Dead’ Work


Warning: The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead spoilers will be found below.

In the back of the final issue of The Walking Dead comics, which ended their run last week, Robert Kirkman delivered a message to the fans. In reference to why he ended the series so abruptly and without notice, Kirkman wrote:

The Walking Dead has always been built on surprise. Not knowing what’s going to happen when you turn the page, who’s going to die, how they’re going to die … it’s essential to the success of the series. It’s been the lifeblood that’s been keeping it going all these years, keeping people engaged.

The thing is, even after the death of Rick on The Walking Dead, the parent series still managed to deliver some huge surprises, whether it be the surprise death of Jesus (RIP) or the series of heads placed on pikes by Alpha and The Whisperers. There’s still a lot of shock value left in The Walking Dead.

As for Fear the Walking Dead? Well, we’re six episodes into the season, and there have been no major deaths. There hasn’t even been a minor death. In fact, the last good death that the series delivered was the brewer, Jim Bob, back in season four, and he had only lasted four episodes. The front half of season four delivered a couple of whoppers: Madison and Nick. Travis’ death was a huge surprise in season two. The third season was littered with great deaths.

Lately, however, Fear the Walking Dead has felt like a zombie series written for a young adult audience. The violence has been severely restrained. There have been big sentimental speeches. There was an entire episode devoted to what was essentially a brief romantic liaison between Althea and Isabel. This whole half season has been about saving a bunch of kids. Hell, there was an episode named after a cat! And another one named after a children’s book! Where’s the mayhem? The chaos? The death? Where’s the fear in Fear the Walking Dead?

Instead of killing off characters, Fear the Walking Dead has been adding them. This season has seen he addition of Dwight and Grace, plus the three kids (and their larger group). June and John are out having Old West adventures (admittedly, that episode was fun). Right now, Fear the Walking Dead is not scary or intense, and it’s not funny enough to make up for that lack (it is, in fact, not funny at all).

How many speeches and pep talks were delivered in this week’s episode, “The Little Prince”? It opened with a big speech from Morgan that sounded like something out of Bad News Bears meets the apocalypse. June gave Anne a mawkish speech about “wanting to run.” John gave Dwight an aw shucks speech about how much easier it was to find June when he joined up with folks and “had an extra set of eyes.” Sarah gave Victor a pep talk about “finding a way.” June gave Althea a speech about being there if Althea needed someone to speak to “off the record.” Dwight gave John a speech about needing some of his luck. Alicia gave Anne a speech about not staying behind, and Anne gave Alicia a speech about why she has to stay. Morgan even gave Grace a big speech about his damn stick!

It’s just one speech after another, but it’s not just the speeches. There was basically a teenage makeover scene with Anne in this episode, like something straight out of She’s All That. And at the end of the episode? Victor and Charlie come flying in on a hot air balloon shaped like a beer bottle. I thought that Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg would bring some of their storytelling ability over from Once Upon a Time. Instead, they’ve brought the entire tone of a network fantasy show to Fear, which is somehow now less scary than a show about the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming.

Scott Gimple is connecting Fear the Walking Dead to the larger The Walking Dead universe, but there’s no consistency of tone between the two shows. The Walking Dead is a series that had a guy who kept his zombie daughter around, another guy who bashed in heads with a baseball bat he named after his wife, and characters who wear zombie skins on their faces. The biggest villain that Fear has had lately was basically a homeless lady who went crazy because no one would stop and help her husband after a car accident.

Daniel Salazar, in fact, may be the perfect metaphor for how this show has changed since Dave Erickson’s run in the first three seasons and the Once Upon a Time guys’ run the last two seasons. At the end of season three, Strand shot Daniel in the face and left him for dead. In season five, that same Daniel bonds with a teenage girl over some music and reconciles with Strand because Strand saved him from a long walk with a horde of zombies. That’s where Fear is at right now.

Fear desperately needs another speech, not between the characters, but between Robert Kirkman and the showrunners, who need to be reminded again about what makes The Walking Dead great.

Additional Notes

— As for the plot of this week’s episode? The crew rebuilt their plane, but still needed a propellor to get it to operate. Strand and Charlie found Jim Bob’s old air balloon and flew a propellor to them. However, the air balloon crashed in a field surrounded by radioactive zombies. Meanwhile, the nuclear power plant is about to suffer another meltdown, so Grace uses the generator at the truck stop to stave off the meltdown and give everyone a little more time to get out of the area. Elsewhere, Dwight and John’s search for Sherry runs into a dead end.

— The end of the episode, at least, provided a glimpse of The Walking Dead spirit when Alicia decides to cut through a zombie roadblock interconnected with intestines so that she could reach the kids before the nuclear meltdown. It often feels like Alicia is the only character on the show who actually belongs in the greater The Walking Dead universe.

— Next week’s episode looks better in at least one respect: There’s a lot more zombies involved.

— This clip from next week’s episode is also interesting in that it appears that Althea is going to return to the CRM supply to fetch some fuel.