As AMC heads toward its summer premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, everyone involved in the series has been quick to remind us that it’s “very different” from the original The Walking Dead. No, it’s not the same thing at all, they keep telling us, as though reading from AMC scripted talking points.
But the truth is that it is quite a bit different. Yes, it takes place in the same universe, and yes, the events in the prequel happen while Rick is in his coma (at least, in the beginning), but Fear the Walking Dead is hitting upon different emotional terrain. Remember how grief stricken Morgan was that he had to kill his wife in the pilot? Or how upset Hershel was about killing all the walkers in his barn, because he was still under the misconception that they were people? Take that and multiply it by 10.
That’s the emotional basis of Fear the Walking Dead. There’s more uncertainty about the infection. There’s more uncertainty about what becomes of the infected, and because they still look very human, it’s far more difficult to kill them because it doesn’t feel like killing a zombie. It feels like killing your wife.
Fear the Walking Dead sounds like it’s going to be a lot more depressing, according to showrunner Dave Erickson in an interview with TVLine:
It’ll differ in so many ways … [It’s about] the anxiety and anticipation. We don’t go, for lack of a better term, full-zombie. There’s a bit more of a slow-burn to the story. We don’t get to a point where we’re actually in a full-blown apocalypse until much later in the show. [Fellow EP] Robert [Kirkman] wanted to really dwell on what it’s like to [commit] a violent act — especially in our world, because it’s so early, and our walkers are fresher and far more human. It’s [emotionally] difficult to kill them, even when somebody’s coming after you… In terms of emotional tension, when we put one of our characters through a moment where they have to commit some brutality to defend themselves or others, they’ll suffer for it.
Basically, Erickson says, Fear the Walking Dead is about this family in Los Angeles slowly coming to realize “what Rick came to realize in the [Walking Dead] pilot; these people are not people anymore.” Expect to see a lot of people being forced to kill their loved ones or, worse, refuse to kill their loved ones and succumb to their infections. It sounds harrowing, and brutal, and hopeless.
I can’t wait!
What you should not expect, according to Erickson, is faster zombies (though, they may have some more physical strength since they’re earlier in the decaying process). There are also no plans to do any crossover episodes with The Walking Dead because, as Erickson says, “Geography is an obstacle, and frankly somewhere down the road it will become an even greater obstacle.” Likewise, the series will not deal with the government’s efforts to contain the virus, or explore the origins of it. That will remain a mystery.