Let’s be honest, Fear the Walking Dead has its issues. It’s unfair to compare it with its companion series The Walking Dead because the older TV show has had years to fine tune its characters and stories. Nevertheless, Fear the Walking Dead has been received in a pretty lukewarm fashion by critics and fans alike for being slow moving, illogical, and bloated with contrived TV family tropes.
The Walking Dead spinoff/prequel certainly does have potential — there are glimmers of hope within the show that should be expanded upon to salvage it. From radical, unrealistic ideas to simplistic mini-solutions, here are some thoughts on what can be done to improve Fear the Walking Dead.
12. Don’t be Afraid of the Reset Button
The most radical option is for the showrunners to admit defeat and start over. That entails getting rid of all the characters and existing premise, starting fresh with the knowledge of what worked and what did not.
So what would a new Fear the Walking Dead be about? How about a sequel set decades after The Walking Dead where a new fragile civilization arises from the ashes of the apocalypse? The walkers have to decompose and die off eventually, right?
Granted, this will likely not happen because of the negative publicity that would follow. The show will have a stigma of failure, which is difficult to overcome. Besides, the likelihood that a reboot will succeed is not guaranteed and it would be prohibitively expensive. Perhaps it would be best to conclude the series and launch a new spinoff down the road.
11. Become A True Prequel
Being that Fear the Walking Dead is a prequel to the series from which it was spun, the show should act as a prequel. Meaning that the foundation for the mythology of The Walking Dead should be established and explained. How did the dead become reanimated? Why did efforts to contain the walker outbreak fail? These are nagging questions from many fans. The only clues we have to date come from the first season of The Walking Dead with the episodes “Wildfire” and TS-19,” which guest-starred Noah Emmerich as Dr. Jenner, the last living scientist at the Center for Disease Control. In those episodes, viewers were fed tidbits of the outbreak. It was fascinating and provided some answers, as we eventually learned that every person upon dying will become a walker, bitten or not.
Granted Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead, refuses to attempt to explain the walkers, but a prequel calls for it. We may not like the answer (Midi-Chlorians anyone?), but at the very least we will have some kind of explanation.
10. Show More Of The Initial Walker Outbreak
The biggest disappointment with Fear the Walking Dead was with how the show glossed over the initial outbreak. Viewers saw some of that in the second and third episodes, but in the fourth episode, “Not Fade Away,” there was a time jump of over a week, and by then the walkers (or infected, as they are called in Fear the Walking Dead) were rampant with the military already frayed.
This was a missed opportunity. We should have seen more of how the government reacted to the walker outbreak, how law and order so quickly gave way to chaos and anarchy. Supposedly, the show wants to examine how the walker apocalypse affected a family, but we had that in The Walking Dead’s early episodes with Rick Grimes dealing with his wife and son. We do not need to see this again. Fear the Walking Dead could show us the efforts made by the government to stop the walkers, aside from the mostly unseen firebombing of cities. It would give the series more scope and build upon The Walking Dead’s foundation. Speaking of which…
9. A Wider Scope Is Needed
On that note, to differentiate Fear the Walking Dead from the original series, the TV show should cover the impact of the walker apocalypse in different locales, different countries. Think of the fantastic Max Brooks novel World War Z (the one Brad Pitt kind of made into a movie) which gave readers a true sense of a global zombie apocalypse with its vignettes that took place all over the world. Fear the Walking Dead could attempt this, and there are hints of this happening already as the characters are making their way to Mexico. The Flight 462 webisodes showcase how this can be done.
Of course, a limited TV budget won’t be able to show epic battles against walkers like in World War Z — or the same sort of exotic locations. But one thing Fear the Walking Dead has going for it is that this season the characters are very mobile. They travel from place to place in the Abigail, Victor Strand’s yacht, and are meeting different people along the California coast. Right now, the characters are trying to make their way to a supposed safe haven in Mexico, but we all know they will not find refuge in Strand’s getaway. There are other places worth visiting before the yacht runs out of gas.
8. Make Victor Strand The Lead Character
The minute Victor Strand made his first appearance in the first season episode “Cobalt,” it was clear that he was a rich character to savor. Mysterious, pragmatically dark and charismatic, Victor Strand — who is played perfectly by the relatively unknown Colman Domingo — is a scene stealer thanks to his ambiguity. Either villainous or an uneasy ally, Strand is a true anti-hero, and his character is on the verge of becoming the series’ breakout star.
Just like with the Fonz, or Urkel and even Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead to an extent, Stand could easily take over as the lead character in the show. He just draws attention and makes viewers forget about the so-called leads with their overwrought family drama that doesn’t have a place in the walker apocalypse. Even his background before the walker outbreak as shown in the recent episode “Blood in the Streets” was much more interesting than what was currently going on in the rest of the episode.
7. Wanted: Menacing Villains
Among the many things that makes The Walking Dead stand out are the memorable villains, from the Governor to Negan and the Saviors. The bad guys on that show are truly, brutally, twisted, and they’re right at home in a world gone mad. Fear the Walking Dead could use some noteworthy villains on the level of a Negan, or even the residents of Terminus.
To date, the only villains to appear on Fear the Walking Dead were for the most part unremarkable. Some cliché military types and a bunch of young pirates who took over the Abigail in the episode “Blood in the Streets” left viewers unimpressed. Those young punks were a mean lot, but they weren’t too bright, and their adult leader Connor was far less imposing. You know that the show’s villains are in trouble when Strand comes off as more menacing than a gang of wannabe pirates who were quickly dispatched by the end of the episode.
6. Bring Back Tobias
One early breakout character that fans are still clamoring for is Tobias, played by Lincoln A. Castellanos. Tobias appeared in the first two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead and was instantly popular with viewers. Regrettably, unlike Strand, who is now part of the TV show, Tobias disappeared after the second episode “So Close, Yet So Far”.
That was a lost opportunity for the TV show. In his brief appearances, Tobias demonstrated that he had a worthwhile head on his shoulders. He was one of the few people that knew that something was off as the outbreak began and was preparing for the fall of society. Tobias was aware, of course, due to his monitoring of the Internet with chatter of dead corpses coming to life, but even now that that tool is gone, he could still prove useful. Despite his youth and inexperience (he had trouble killing an infected high school principal because his knife was too small), Tobias won over many viewers who hope that Fear the Walking Dead is not done with him. He’s no badass like Strand, but he’s an everyman through and through.
5. Guest Appearances By Characters From The Walking Dead
It is the oldest and surest way to bring in the viewers — have the stars from a parent TV show make a guest appearance in a spinoff to help guide the way. Countless spinoff TV shows use this ratings gimmick, even favorites like the Stargate TV shows and the Star Trek spinoffs. Memory recalls that the Klingon Worf, formerly of Star Trek: The Next Generation, joined Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in an attempt to boost ratings.
Seriously, as tried and proven is that formula, it would probably be stretching believability if Daryl Dixon were to show up in Fear the Walking Dead. That’s because both shows take place on opposite ends of the North American continent, with modern-day transportation no longer operational. Yet, being that this TV show is a prequel, it may be plausible to have an appearance by one of The Walking Dead characters, like say, Eugene Porter, who for all we know hails from the West Coast and began his odyssey to Washington, D.C. in a place where Fear the Walking Dead could conceivably go.
If Supergirl and The Flash — shows that air on different networks (for now) and don’t even take place in the same universe — can crossover, a TWD character making a special appearance might not be so crazy.
4. Travis Needs To Get With The Program
It is obvious that Travis Manawa isn’t Rick Grimes. Even though Rick was thrown for a loop initially after awaking from his coma in the pilot episode of The Walking Dead, he quickly adapted to the harsh new world. Rick struggled and continues to do so with his eroding morality, and that’s what makes him so interesting as a character. Travis on the other hand, seems indecisive and meek by comparison.
This was done to differentiate Travis from Rick Grimes of course, but it’s detrimental to the character himself. Part of his story arc is the slow realization that the way of doing things in the old world no longer apply — and that includes decency and morality. It’s an admirable way to explore the character, but viewers have grown impatient with a man who has to be pushed into a corner in order to do what is necessary to protect his family.
3. Ditch Alicia Clark
Fear the Walking Dead suffers from being saddled with tepid family drama. Entire segments are spent on Travis trying to talk sense to his rebellious teenage son or Nick Clark looking for drugs. But the worst offender in the family histrionics has to be Alicia. Whiny, bratty and dangerously naive, Alicia is the stereotypical teenage damsel in distress who only serves as a plot device to get her family members into doing something dangerous. Viewers haven’t experienced a more annoying teenage daughter who constantly put others in harm’s way since Kim Bauer in the first few seasons of 24.
What’s baffling is that despite everything that has occurred, Alicia is still so gullible. For example, on board the Abigail, she revealed on a radio details about her situation to a complete stranger. This came back to haunt her big time in the aforementioned “Blood in the Streets” pirate episode — where their yacht was boarded by a group that included the young man she was speaking with. She is a clear liability, and needs to be tossed overboard at once.
2. Nick Clark Needs A Makeover
From the old man clothes, to the straggly long hair, Nick Clark is possibly most disliked character in Fear the Walking Dead. No disrespect to Frank Dillane, the actor playing Nick, but from the very first episode, Nick was an unsympathetic loser that we could not wait to see turn into one of the undead. It was baffling why the producers wanted to focus so much screen time with this nebbish young man as he tried to score his next hit amidst the walker outbreak.
By the end of the first season though, the series tried to show that there was more to Nick than we thought. Strand took him under his wing because he saw that Nick was a survivor type, someone who would excel in the new world. Recent episodes have tried to present him as more likeable, but at this point, his evolution needs to be kicked up a notch. Baby steps are being taken, though — at least he finally ditched the old man jacket?
1. The Writing Must Improve
Fear the Walking Dead has many issues that have kept people from embracing it like they have with The Walking Dead. But, the heart of the problem with the TV show are the scripts. It is true that at the start of the outbreak, people would be ignorant regarding the dos and don’ts with walkers or the infected. They would not be as up to speed as Rick and his people. Thinking about it, it seems as if the producers decided to base a TV show around the clueless citizens of Alexandria before Rick’s arrival.
The result is a frustrating viewing experience more often than not. We have to sit through scene after scene of characters doing the dumbest things, behaving illogically when they should be in survival mode. For instance, in the recent episode “Ouroboros,” Nick approaches a pit that has a walker trapped at the bottom. Being the idiot that he is (you think this guy is a survivor, Strand?), he stands right at the very edge of the pit, which of course crumbles, causing him to fall into the pit.
In the very same episode, Daniel Salazar, supposedly one of the more badass characters, fires his gun at a horde of walkers — as if he had an unlimited supply of bullets — rather than simply high tailing it back to his boat. Strand keeps harping on the need to avoid people on the seas, yet the lights on the Abigail are kept on at night, a surefire way to attract attention. The list just goes on from there.
If we’re supposed to start actually rooting for these characters to survive (twist theory: Fear the Walking Dead was intended to be a mini-series all along, to show off a group that didn’t remotely have what it takes to survive in the world of walkers…the passengers aboard Abigail are not long for this world), they need to wise up sooner rather than later, and that falls on the writers.
On the whole, Fear the Walking Dead has promise, but it needs to work on the characters and scripts. There are signs that it is trying to stand out from its predecessor. The webisodes about Flight 462 were a good, non-linear way to show what else was going on in the world, as were Strand’s flashbacks. The TV show should take advantage of it being a prequel and open up the world of the walker apocalypse.
Those are just a few thoughts on how to improve Fear the Walking Dead. Do any of you have other ideas on what can be done? Leave your comments below.