AMC’s The Walking Dead is a wildly successful and incredibly popular TV show that draws ratings comparable to Sunday Night Football, which used to be unheard of, especially for a cable program. It’s made zombies in mainstream culture, and, of course, gifted us with a spin-off, as AMC tries to replicate the winning formula. Fear The Walking Dead, which debuted in August with a six episode first season, is set across the continent from the original, trading in rural Georgia and the surrounding states for the suburbs of Los Angeles, right on the day that the apocalypse began. But while The Walking Dead is a hit show headed into its sixth season, Fear The Walking Dead seems like it might have hit a few roadblocks along the way. While people have watched the new show in droves, hoping for a repeat performance, the show they’re watching seems far inferior to what we’ve seen from its progenitor. In fact, we’d go so far as to call it a bad show, especially in comparison to The Walking Dead, and here are a few reasons why we think that way.
5. The Characters Are Unremarkable
Quick, name some characters on The Walking Dead. If you’ve watched the show at all, you can probably name a half-dozen or so without thinking, and you could identify them if you saw them. Even in a show where your favorite character could be dead by the next episode, they still took the time to make everyone a memorable character with easily identifiable traits that help viewers connect with them. Now try the same trick with the cast of Fear The Walking Dead. Do you even really remember anyone’s name, outside of Strand (and he wasn’t even addressed by his name in the first season)? Could you identify the army lieutenant who was supposed to be in charge of the safe zone if you saw a picture of him? Did you notice that he wasn’t one of the soldiers who escaped the library before they spelled it out for you? Sure, you can call them by their dominant traits, “the drug addict”, “the whiny son”, “the mom”, “the immigrant guy who tortures people”, but we’re at the end of the first season, we should at least know everyone’s name, right? Everyone knew who Rick Grimes was from the very first episode, but how many people likely don’t even know that one of the main characters on Fear is named Travis?
He’s the torture guy. Don’t feel bad, we forgot his name until we read a recap too.
4. The Plot Is Moving At A Glacial Pace
The first seasons of both The Walking Dead and this new spin-off are six episodes. In the first season of the original, Rick woke up in the hospital after the apocalypse, met Morgan, traveled to Atlanta, met more people, escaped the city and found his family as part of a group of survivors, went back to the city to try and rescue Merle, returned to fight off a zombie attack, decided to go to the Center for Disease Control, managed to get inside the secure facility, had a relaxing episode where they learned a bunch about the apocalypse and zombies, and then escaped the CDC just before it exploded. In short, they accomplished a lot in just six episodes. In Fear, most of the first two episodes were spent as if it weren’t even a show about the impending zombie apocalypse, just a typical family drama. Finally, they escape a riot at the start of the third episode, and then…they spend the next three episodes just sort of hanging out in their homes, basically wringing their hands while doing nothing. Remember how much people hated it when the original show spent most of the second season on an idyllic farm in the middle of nowhere? There was still more plot development during that story arc than has happened thus far on Fear! The show only had six episodes to grab viewers and make them want to see more of the exploits of these people trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, and they used that time to play Monopoly and help a drug-addicted son with his withdrawal symptoms instead.
3. Where Are The Zombies?
They can talk about the zombies being the setting and not the stars of The Walking Dead all they want, but a significant part of why people watch the show in record numbers is because on a weekly basis, there is the looming threat of someone getting torn apart by the undead. By moving Fear The Walking Dead back to just before the start of the apocalypse, you can justify the lack of zombies for a bit, but we’re at the end of the season and the zombies remain mostly a theoretical threat as opposed to anything tangible. It’s actually possible to count the number of zombies that have been shown through the first five episodes without running out of fingers, and while the sixth may very well open the gates of hell (or at least that packed arena full of walkers), Fear‘s zombie presence is still going to come in well below the average for a single episode of its parent program. Atlanta was over-run with hordes of zombies, and it has half the population of Los Angeles, where Fear is set. Just from a pure numerical perspective, it’s unbelievable that there aren’t masses of zombies all around that safe zone on a daily basis.
2. It’s Just Delaying The Inevitable
While it was an interesting experiment to show off the fall of civilization from the first day of the zombie apocalypse, it turns out that the actual slide is pretty slow and kind of boring. The reason why it’s happening so slowly should be as obvious as it is disappointing: once society ends for good, Fear turns into exactly the same show as the original, with a band of survivors trekking through a devastated wasteland full of both the undead and the untrustworthy living. It’s logical that the show runners would want to put off that fate as long as possible, but at the same time, we know that everything that’s happening right now on Fear The Walking Dead is futile. Civilization will be destroyed, the dead will walk the earth, the survivors will end up scattered in the wilderness, and we already have a show that’s been doing that for a few years now. As long as Fear resists becoming a carbon copy of its predecessor, it won’t be unfavorably compared to it. The only problem is, if something doesn’t happen soon, viewers may not stick around long enough to make those comparisons.
1. It Should Never Have Existed
Was the world really calling out for a spin-off to The Walking Dead before the original show is even close to ending? Part of the reason why The Walking Dead was so successful is that there simply weren’t any other zombie apocalypse shows on television. They cornered the undead market, as it were. But are there really enough people who just don’t get enough of the genre that can’t be satisfied by the show that already exists to justify a second show? The other, and possibly more crucial, part of The Walking Dead‘s success is that it’s based off an existing product, the hundred-plus graphic novels that formed the jumping-off point for the show. Certainly, the TV show has departed wildly from the comic book canon, but it has still mined it for story ideas where possible, even in the upcoming season. Meanwhile, Fear The Walking Dead has no such safety net, the show is being made up as it goes along. There are no characters or stories from an existing source that we can anticipate showing up in the streets of LA. When viewers have a lack of faith in the original show, they can at least fall back on the hope that better things are coming thanks to potential comic-aided material. Fear The Walking Dead can’t provide that hope, and given what we’ve gotten so far, it’s hard to believe that it’s going to get any better.