Fear the Walking Dead? Or Does Rick Grimes Have Another Mouth to Feed?
The mashup of a guidance counselor and a divorced English teacher doesn’t scream ‘power couple’. And it doesn’t need to, but it doesn’t say ‘survivors’ either. In the pilot of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead we are invited into this couple’s life as they try to make their relationship a family at the cusp of a zombie apocalypse. It’s the Brady Bunch with a gritty, modern day, George A. Romero twist. Imagine Marsha waking up in a shooting gallery and you’re there. Oh how times have changed!
Challenges for FTWD
The series has challenges to overcome. The challenge as described at screenrant:
“The biggest hurdle for Fear the Walking Dead will be establishing itself as a series that’s different enough from The Walking Dead that it’s warranted, but also remain similar enough that the series’ huge fanbase will tune in. It’ll be a tricky line to toe, but with many of the same creatives from The Walking Dead involved with Fear, it should be able to achieve that balance.”
That’s not it. No.
The challenge is to make me care about this family. I don’t and I’d be fine if they died. And I am not alone. I didn’t get any buy in. I didn’t get the opportunity to care. The challenge is to develop the characters at the risk of dragging the plot. Elisabeth Vincentelli of the New York Post says,
“The first two episodes are creepily suspenseful — they’re great examples of how effective a slow pace and a moody atmosphere can be.”
So the challenge is to get buy in for the characters. Dysfunctional family of underdogs lead by a pair of struggling academics isn’t enough. Fans of the franchise are going to tune in. FTWD, don’t abuse that.
Take a lesson from the Master, Stephen King.
I say, let it drag. I’ll hold out. Stephen King, the master of horror, will not even get into the main plot of a story until about 100 pages in. He knows the key to great horror is character development. He knows if the reader embraces his characters, then the reader will experience fear when that character faces the inevitable horror ahead. A perfect example if this is the pilot of The Walking Dead. We were introduced to this new world through Rick’s experiences and we were bonded to him through them. We discovered the apocalypse with Rick. His family became our family. FTWD is asking us to adopt a new family. But there is this huge divide, we know what is going to happen and they don’t. As Vincentelli says, “viewers are always a step or 10 ahead of the ‘FTWD’ characters.” We really just want to know details of how the apocalypse came to be, this family is just incidental.
Art imitating life imitating art
I am hopeful. I really like the opening to the pilot. I love that the season is picking up at the beginning before everything went down. In the opening scene Nicky wakes up to an apparent Zombie-Land. He was looking for his friend Gloria. As I watched I expected a flashback to “the real world”. I thought to myself, wasn’t this supposed to start before the outbreak? Then Nicky gets hit by a car. Good citizens come to his aid and the camera pans up to reveal “the real world”. I love this scene. it reminds us that art imitates life and life holds true horrors. I was awed by the similarities between the scene of a zombie apocalypse and an abandoned building overtaken by addicts.
Best case scenario is this spinoff is the first of many (so hoping for this), just like Law & Order and CSI. Worst case, it is the newest member of the family depending on Rick Grimes for survival.