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The Major Strength In ‘The Walking Dead’ Is The Biggest Weakness Of ‘Fear The Walking Dead’

The second episode of Fear the Walking Dead, “So Close, Yet So Far,” continued to build on the first episode, introducing a few more characters, increasing the chaos quotient, and providing a few more zombies. However, you’d think that Fear the Walking Dead would’ve learned from The Walking Dead‘s mistake in not killing off black characters so quickly. Consider the fact that the last three major zombies have been black: Cal (the drug dealer), Matt (the boyfriend) and Artie (the principal).

That quibble aside, however, Fear is doing what we expected it to do: It’s taking us back to the early days and showing us how one group of Los Angeles residents are coping with an oncoming apocalypse, although no one — except Tobias — realizes yet that an apocalypse is coming (and please, please let Tobias return). Nick’s still contending with withdrawal pains, which mirror the symptoms of a walker before it changes; Madison is trying to relieve his symptoms; Alicia is dealing with the fact that she had to leave her boyfriend to die; and Travis is apparently out collecting new cast members, having gathered his ex-wife and son together with the Salazar family in a barbershop.

Nevertheless, the fact that FTWD is doing what we expect it to do is making it somewhat inert. While I appreciate what Fear the Walking Dead is attempting to do — bring us closer to these characters as they navigate the oncoming zombiepocalypse — the payoff won’t arrive for awhile, and perhaps not even until the second or third seasons. That’s because The Walking Dead‘s greatest strength is also the biggest weakness for Fear the Walking Dead.

Namely, the zombies.

Zombies are a threat in The Walking Dead, of course, but they’re a peripheral one. It takes watching only two episodes of Fear to appreciate how exceptional TWD really is. We take it for granted now, but there really is something terrific and original about a series set in a zombie apocalypse that makes the humans the most dangerous threat. We’ve learned from five seasons of The Walking Dead not to worry too much about the walkers themselves. They’re still deadly, but it’s the other humans who pose the biggest threat; the zombies are dangerous most often by virtue of those malevolent humans who use the walker situation to their advantage.

Fear the Walking Dead provides us with an occasionally engaging origins story, of sorts, but it also feels like a step back in time in terms of storytelling. The Walking Dead has had to move beyond the walkers to keep us engaged, while Fear the Walking Dead is circling back to the baseline. It’s like how The Walking Dead circled back around and rebooted the Governor’s storyline only so it could return to the conclusion it robbed from us the first time around. Fear is circling back to pick up those storylines that The Walking Dead skipped over, but it’s become increasingly apparent that there was a good reason for skipping over them: Because we’ve already seen that story in dozens of zombie movies. Fear is simply extending it, and, with two episodes under its belt, it feels very much like a story that could be told in half the time.

In other words, we’re still waiting to get to the good parts, the parts where the walkers become background noise and these characters — who hopefully we come to love — have to contend with threats beyond the walkers. Because, right now, Fear feels like we’re going back to read the opening chapter of a book we’re already halfway through. We know what’s coming next. Let’s just get there already, because we don’t know what comes after that.

Random Thoughts

— Is Tobias the Glenn character, or the Morgan character who is going to come back in season five all buff and start mowing down zombie ass with his walking stick?

— I do understand that zombie fiction does not exist in The Walking Dead universe, so walkers are a new phenomenon to these characters, but how long does it take to catch on? I mean damn, Madison: You know a bunch of dead people somehow escaped a drug den in a church; you saw one guy take a bullet and get run over twice and continue to get up; and still, you’re approaching the clearly zombified principal and telling him that you’re going to get help? Are you dumb in the brain? I’ll be really happy when these characters start incorporating the word ‘RUN’ into their everyday vocabulary.

— Also, will these characters please just sit down for five minutes and talk to each other? Share some information and put some pieces together. Poor Alicia is straight-up clueless. She thinks her boyfriend has a bad case of the flu; that her neighbors are getting too rowdy with each other; and that her family is crazy. That’s because her mother and brother won’t tell her what’s going on. They just keep shouting, “Stay away! Stay inside!” Maybe next time, TELL HER WHY.

— In The Walking Dead, we’ve already spent so much time dealing with main characters who are separated, I’m a little annoyed that we’re already having to deal with Travis and Madison splitting up and having to find their way back to each other, a process that will probably take much of the season.

— The cop collecting all the water? He knows what’s up. That probably means many in the law enforcement community know a little about what’s going on. My advice? Get a friend who is a cop or in the military (in fact, I think that Shawn Hatosy will join the series soon in just that capacity).

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