Fear the Walking Dead: Is This the Way the World Ends?
By Alexa Day
I’ve spent two weeks trying to figure out why I can’t get into Fear the Walking Dead.
I mean, I love the original TWD all to pieces. I’ve hung up on people when their phone calls threaten to overlap with those precious first few minutes of the show. I treasure my Twitter time with the rest of the viewership. My iPod is jammed with music from the show and the promos.
I worship Richonne and I do it proudly.
TWD has moved me (“It’s for you”), shocked me (“Look at the flowers”), cracked me up (“Motherdick“), and generally filled me with hope for the future of television.
So I really wanted to enjoy Fear the Walking Dead. For one thing, it was going to get me through the long, long summer hiatus until Season Six of TWD starts in October.
Looks like it’s going to be a long six weeks.
On the bright side, I’ve figured out what the trouble is. I guess there are going to be spoilers, if that matters to you.
In theory, Fear the Walking Dead should work the way Titanic worked.
I know. Bear with me.
We all went to see Titanic despite the fact that we know how the story ends. Right? I think we did that for two reasons. Either we wanted to see what James Cameron did with such a large-scale disaster from an artistic perspective, or we wondered what would become of the characters we’d come to care about. Or both. Both is another option.
Fear TWD should have similar appeal. We already know that Fear TWD‘s civil unrest and confusion will end with the zombie apocalypse. I know I started watching in the hope that the folks who brought us TWD would bring the same artistic firepower to the beginning of the end. But I also know that the only way to keep folks watching is to give us characters we care about.
Sadly, Fear TWD is falling short on both counts.
I was under the impression that Fear TWD would show us how the apocalypse started, but it’s pretty clear that the infection has taken a pretty solid hold of society before the first episode starts. We are now two episodes in, and we still don’t know what actually caused the zombie apocalypse. (My guess, though, is something to do with the flu shot.) We have no Patient Zero. We just have fewer zombies. If you spend any time on Twitter during TWD, you know that fewer zombies is not the way to hook fans.
The larger problem, though, is these characters.
TWD works so brilliantly because it’s a story about the sort of people who would never have met each other in the pre-apocalypse, each of whom has become a completely different sort of person in the aftermath of destruction. Add in the larger questions of how far people will go when faced with the collapse of their civilization. What you get is something deep and powerful — characters asking themselves and each other who they were and who they are with none of the distracting nonsense of 21st century society.
And then, of course, we get plenty of zombie-related violence on top of that. You know, just to keep things moving.
Fear TWD has given us a blended family drama. That’s right. We’re going to face the zombie apocalypse with teen angst, angry exes, and a harried mom trying to hold it all together. If someone made TWD into a Lifetime movie, this would be the result. Two hours of “Stop it! Don’t you say that to him! Because I’m your mother! Get down from there! Don’t touch him! That’s not what the custody agreement says! He’s not answering my phone calls! Just because! I hate you! You promised!”
It’s enough to make a person cheer for zombies. Yes, they are relentless undead killing machines who will cheerfully tear you into bite-sized pieces with their hands before cramming you into their decaying gullets. But they aren’t whiny, pouty bundles of high-voltage family resentment.
The worst part is that better choices are available.
During Sunday’s episode, two of our super-troubled teens are trapped indoors (Nick is going through withdrawal and his sister Alicia is in the role of Responsible Sibling/Caretaker). A moment before, we hear that the family across the street has planned a birthday party for a nine-year-old girl. We know that the little girl’s parents don’t expect anyone to come because everyone seems to be sick lately. We also know that another neighbor is looking very unwell.
What happens at the party? We don’t know.
How long did that unwell neighbor hold out before this mystery illness finally finished him? We don’t know.
How did he get into the house across the street? We don’t know.
Did the birthday girl make it? We don’t know.
Here’s what we got instead. “I don’t care! You let Mom do it! I’m going anyway! I hate you! We all know what you need!” We get to spend this part of the episode watching Nick sweat, vomit, and complain his way through withdrawal instead of actually watching the genesis of the zombie apocalypse. His sister isn’t even interested; why should the rest of us be?
Fear the walking dead? We haven’t really seen the walking dead. We did get to see a genuine L.A. police riot, but (forgive my cynicism) haven’t we kind of seen those before?
Anyway, if the next episode isn’t much more engaging, I’m going to have to find another way to wait out the summer hiatus. I didn’t sign on for a weekly dose of Anxious Moms Yelling and the Teens Who Love to Hate Them. I came to see the world shuffle slowly to a stop.
Is anyone else barely hanging on to Fear TWD at this point? Join the rant in the comments.
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