It’s no secret that the fifth season of Fear the Walking Dead was not received well by viewers. The series forgot what makes The Walking Dead work, repeatedly added characters without killing any off, and took a completely nonsensical turn in its finale. The series has struggled creatively basically since Madison was killed off in the fourth midseason finale, although to its credit, it has tried a few different things. Unfortunately, nothing has really worked, which has been a problem with Fear off and on since the outset.
However, after stabilizing when Morgan came over from The Walking Dead, ratings for Fear the Walking Dead started to slide again in the fifth season, social media chatter was overwhelmingly negative, and some fans even petitioned to have showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg fired.
Scott Gimple, who is the architect of The Walking Dead universe and helps Chambliss and Goldberg run Fear the Walking Dead, addressed some of that backlash with Dalton Ross over at EW this week.
Season 5 was about setting up this journey that these characters are on through there to season 6, and I think people are going to see the relationship between those two seasons. I think even getting to the very end of season 5, the last few moments, really informing that whole season about reaching for benevolence and reaching for sweetness and art and just life and how in the circumstances they’re in, it didn’t work, and how we leave a person that put that forward isolated, alone, bleeding in a dead town …
… This season 5 as a piece setting up season 6 into a truly serialized entertainment, I think people might see the relationship and the journey, why the journey went the way it did. I was so happy with the way that everybody did. I think it really did come together in the end in this really tragic way that we couldn’t have gotten to without the journey that we had been on.
Gimple even went so far as to compare the fifth season of Fear the Walking Dead to the second season of The Walking Dead — the season centered on Hershel’s barn — suggesting that people only ended up enjoying that season in retrospect, and that viewers didn’t appreciate that season until the barn door was opened. Gimple added that season five of Fear the Walking Dead was “always the plan,” which is something I’m not sure I’d want to admit:
I hope that anybody who had an issue with it can see this upcoming season and see how that led to this, because it was always the plan, to tell a story of some serious contrasts.
All due respect to Gimple, but I’m not so sure I buy the explanation. I have heard of filler episodes, and table-setting episodes, but I have never heard of a table-setting season, in particular one that misfired as much as the fifth season of Fear the Walking Dead. As with any series, it’s ultimately more about the journey than the destination, and Gimple is suggesting here that Fear needed to take a 16-hour detour on a gravel road with landmines before it could find its wave to the freeway.
Frankly, that explanation is not particularly respectful of the passion and time that fans of The Walking Dead universe devote to Fear. I think a better response is simply to own up to the the season’s faults and promise to make efforts to improve the series in the sixth season. It is not out of the question, after all, for a series in The Walking Dead universe to have an off year (or two), see: The Walking Dead seasons 2, 7, and 8. That series, however, put in the effort necessary to turn it around creatively, and like TWD, Fear does have a cast of characters very much capable of doing the same.