AMC’s award-winning series The Walking Dead has spawned a devoted worldwide following and crushed viewership records year in and year out. Now in the middle of its seventh season, the show continues to follow up the success of Robert Kirkman’s critically acclaimed comic book series of the same name. Going into its sixteenth year, TWD has raised the bar for comics unrelated to superheroes, and has been a consistent best seller for Image since its introduction in 2002.
All this undead success has led to variations on the franchise, and AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead tops that list. A departure from the formula that has propelled TWD to its stellar heights, FTWD has struggled a bit in terms of popularity since its debut in 2015. Fans expecting a carbon copy of Rick Grimes and his group have been disappointed, and many viewers have tuned out on the zombified spinoff altogether. The show continues to soldier on, however, and will enter its third season in 2017. For fans of the Walking Dead franchise, FTWD remains another integral piece of the continuity that has turned an entire genre on its ear.
Here are 15 Reasons Why You Should Be Watching Fear The Walking Dead.
The premise of The Walking Dead is a chance to examine the human animal and how it reacts and adapts to a scenario like this. A female guidance counselor approaches the predicament very differently than a male police officer, yet somehow they end up in similar places. Fans of the spinoff series should never expect to see a different cast of characters reacting to a situation in the same way that Rick Grimes and his group does -- and this is a good thing.
The overarching theme of TWD is that the characters who survive will change and evolve over time, and may soon be completely unlike who they were when introduced. By this standard, Fear The Walking Dead is able to stand on its own two feet, as opposed to just being a rehashing of ground already covered by its parent show. The depths to which Madison Clark is willing to go in order to protect her son takes her to a very different place than where Rick Grimes winds up in his efforts to do the same thing.
The Walking Dead franchise so far has been predicated on a small group of people trying their best to survive in a world where the dead have risen to consume the living. At first, it was enough that something had happened, and these were the people viewers were introduced to in order to tell the tale Robert Kirkman was spinning.
In the decade and a half since, the world has outgrown the microcosm of Rick Grimes and his group’s struggle to find a safe haven. More is needed, and Fear The Walking Dead not only reveals fragments of the early days of the outbreak, but also sets the story far away from the relatively rural climes of Georgia. Other tales set in the world of The Walking Dead have had backdrops ranging from murky swamps to a nondescript storage facility. What remains constant is each iteration’s contribution to the greater whole, forcing the readers and viewers to experience the entirety of this world the same way the various characters are…one piece at a time.
The cornerstone of Robert Kirkman’s vision of a world overrun by reanimated corpses is that the stories don’t lie with the walkers. It’s the people that have managed to survive the undead outbreak that make this world compelling, even to the most devoted lover of zombie fiction. The various flavors of humanity, each with their own moral compass and backgrounds, set the stage for an endless array of stories as diverse as the people themselves. The stories range from the characteristically tragic, to stories of courage, tenacity, and triumph of the human spirit. Those last few tend to be in rather short supply, but they do exist.
The character of Nick, heroin junkie and possible pre-cursor to the Whisperers, is an excellent example. The first character to be introduced in FTWD, Nick goes from being a burden and an endless source of misery to his family to a decent, resourceful leader and an important player wherever he ends up. This sort of ongoing character progression is integral to the Walking Dead franchise, and a big reason to tune in.
Much has been made of Fear The Walking Dead’s failure to live up to the enormous standards set by its predecessor, but this is a bit unrealistic in terms of expectations. No one foresaw the blockbuster potential of a “never-ending zombie movie” format before it happened. For FTWD to hit numbers on par with TWD out of the gate would have been akin to catching a bolt of lightning in a bottle...twice. Having already successfully expanded his brand with an award-winning game series, it was only natural for Robert Kirkman to want to move even further outward into his zombified world.
The results have been solid over the course of two seasons, as it's become the third most-watched scripted show on cable. The only downside? The number one series on that list, The Walking friggin Dead, averaged over 3 times as many viewers in its sixth season as FTWD did in season 2.
On its own merit, however, the spinoff has shown strong overall numbers, as devoted fans of the franchise continue to tune in. For his part, Robert Kirkman has stuck to his guns and told the story he wants to tell, relying primarily on his vision of this world. Given how far that vision has taken him, it’s a pretty safe bet to make.
It’s not hard to reconcile a show about the end of the society as we know it delving into real world problems, and FTWD does so very effectively without being heavy handed or tone deaf. The portrayal of the blended family structure of Travis Manawa and Maddie Clark resonates with people whose families have been fractured by divorce and separation. Meanwhile, Nick Clark’s solidly middle-class heroin addiction shines a spotlight on the all too real results of a spectacularly ineffective war on drugs in the U.S.
As society begins to erode, the clinical indifference of authorities and the military to the fear and suffering of American families is chillingly portrayed. From the rounding up and unconstitutional incarceration of drug addicts, the mentally ill, and the infirm, right down to the FEMA-like internment camps at the end of season one, the picture of a country in the grip of martial law is painted in vivid and terrifying detail.
The cast of Fear The Walking Dead boasts a roster of talent that reads like a who’s who of solid supporting cast members over the last ten years. Prolific actor Cliff Curtis plays the intense and conflicted Travis Manawa, a man trying to do the right thing by both of his families. Curtis has played a variety of roles from an environmental scientist to Pablo Escobar, across a wide range of genres. Multi-faceted Grammy Award winner Ruben Blades has been (was??) compelling as the enigmatic Daniel Salazar, a small business owner and devoted father haunted by a tragic and violent past. Blades is a long time entertainer with credits on the big and small screen, in addition to having won multiple awards as a recording artist. Actor and playwright Colman Domingo plays the mysterious Victor Strand, a hard nosed survivor whose own humanity plays at odds with his inclination to look out for number one and number one alone. Domingo is a veteran of the stage and screen and has worked with a litany of A-List stars over the years, garnering critical acclaim wherever he's gone.
One thing is certain: this series is not lacking in for onscreen talent.
As is the case throughout the TWD franchise, the women of Fear the Walking Dead comprise an irreplaceable facet of the show all their own. The female characters on the show always manage to get it done, taking charge and pushing forward with tenacity as the men look about themselves, confused and unsure. Kim Dickens leads the way as Madison Clark, the spinoff's strongest parallel to TWD’s Rick Grimes. The 51-year-old is a renowned character actor who has featured in several major projects, including House of Cards, Gone Girl, Sons of Anarchy. Dickens may be the show's leading lady, but she's certainly not the only standout female performer in the cast.
Swedish fashion model Mercedes Mason plays the naïve shrinking violet, Ofelia Salazar, a woman evolving before our eyes in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Mason has held a number of roles, from an Afghan woman in 2009’s Red Sands to the lead character in the cult favorite horror sequel, Quarantine 2. Danay Garcia, who portrays fan favorite and resident badass Luciana, is a welcome addition to the show, and it certainly doesn't hurt that she shares fantastic onscreen chemistry with Frank Dillane's Nick Clark. As the Colonia storyline continues to progress, look for more screen time for the Cuban-born dancer/actress as the remnants of La Colonia look for a place to call their own.
American Movie Classics, as it was once known, was at one time a channel that catered to older viewers who wanted to see vintage movies and period piece cinema. In the time since its more humble beginnings, AMC has rebranded itself as a channel where cutting edge serial dramas play alongside popular movies from bygone days. The channel established itself in 2007 with the critically acclaimed Mad Men, a show that is regarded by some as the opening salvo for the new golden age of television. AMC’s programming is now directed at attracting the all important 18-49 year old demographic, to the chagrin of most basic cable entertainment networks.
Fear The Walking Dead fits perfectly alongside the likes of the network's other hit series like Preacher, Into The Badlands, and the holy grail of cable programming, Breaking Bad. The Walking Dead is a cornerstone in the empire AMC has built, and Fear The Walking Dead continues to be an integral part of its brand.
For true Walking Dead aficionados, FTWD represents another piece in a world that grows richer in depth and character development as the years pass. Fear The Walking Dead: The Alien has now been released, and closes several holes in the continuity while continuing to expand the TWD universe. To date, the world of The Walking Dead exists in comic book, prose, TV, webisode, and video game form, all with varying levels of continuity adherence.
With so many in-universe stories running concurrently, series and even format crossovers are always possible -- and welcome. Several have already occurred, like when the dearly departed fan favorite Glenn Rhee showed up in the first season of Telltale’s eponymous video game before leaving for an uncertain future in Atlanta. Episode three of the game series, “A New Frontier” introduces a new family while building on the continuity of the entire series, and its on sale now for XBOX ONE and PlayStation 4. The world of the undead just keeps getting bigger.
Having appeared in every bit of two episodes, Tobias may actually be the most popular character in FTWD to date. First introduced to audiences as just another chubby, nerdy teenager trying hard to not be noticed, it quickly becomes very clear...Tobias gets it. Early on in the series, Maddie Clark has to intercede to keep Tobias from being expelled, and she promptly confiscates the knife he's been carrying for protection. Lincoln A. Castellanos' portrayal of the wise beyond his years Tobias made him a fan favorite even with his very sparse on-screen appearances. He knows what to do, and has been thinking, planning and acting long term for what appears to be several weeks prior to his introduction. He knows what's coming and tries to warn Maddie, even if she doesn't believe him right away.
Maddie gets her first zombie kill to save Tobias' life, and when viewers last see him, he's promising Maddie he'll be okay and moving on. There's has been talk of Tobias' return to Fear The Walking Dead in the not so distant future, and if he does return, it should be very interesting to see what has become of him.
Fear The Walking Dead’s depiction of Los Angeles during the earliest days of the viral zombie outbreak are compelling. Some characters completely ignore what’s happening in front of their eyes as their city burns and their loved ones fall. Others go to ground well before the violence, having already recognized what’s coming. The steady increase in incidents and subsequent rise of the infected plays out just fast enough to keep the viewer engrossed.
By the time the danger becomes too big to reasonably ignore, and people realize the danger they’re actually in, it’s too late. Once the military moves in to re-establish order at the point of a rifle, formerly independent Angelinos are suddenly all too happy to observe a curfew and let their own weapons be confiscated as L.A. goes dark. The efforts by local authorities to contain the horror of the infection are minimized throughout the story, in favor of focusing on the startling quickness with which L.A. falls.
One of the valid complaints in terms of The Walking Dead is that people who have invested time in reading the book have a clear advantage over those who only know AMC’s show. This is where Fear The Walking Dead holds the upper hand, as it isn’t based on any particular event of the primary continuity. This allows FTWD to chart unknown ground, such as what happens when you get to international waters trying to escape the outbreak and mass unrest.
While fans patiently wait (and hope) for Daryl Dixon to enter the main continuity of the Image comic, Andrew Strand or Nick Clark are every bit as likely to make a pass through the storylines of what is now a substantial primary comic continuity. Additionally, now that it has been firmly established that the outbreak is happening in other parts of the world, it can only put everyone on equal footing regarding spoilers going forward.
The Fear The Walking Dead storyline allows for opportunities to learn more about the cause of the outbreak, along with insights into what the virus actually is and how to combat it. Even with all the content surrounding The Walking Dead brand, there’s still precious little information regarding how the infection actually originated.
While conspiracy theories abound, only Robert Kirkman knows for sure what the singular event was that caused the epidemic. Captain Kirkman insists it’s really not important what caused the outbreak; what matters is how it forces the characters to adapt and change, for better or worse, to what has happened to them. Outside of (non-canon) Walking Dead episodes from season one that focus on the Center for Disease Control, very little has been created to explain how this virus was released on the world. Even so, there have been hints dropped in FTWD, and fans of the franchise can look forward to more glimpses in the future.
The visual differences between TWD and FTWD are significant; for instance, the walkers in FTWD are radically different from those of TWD. Series co-creator Dave Erickson (pictured above with Kim Dickens) takes pains to ensure that the walkers are much closer to being fully human, having not decayed nearly as much in such a short period of time. This changes the dynamic of the violence dramatically, as the violent crime so common in any major city takes on a much darker cast.
The creative team also wanted to really nail the fall of a huge metropolis in a way that could never have worked in TWD’s rural Georgia backdrop. The glitz and glamour of L.A.’s perfect setting and perfect people is deep in the background of FTWD, which focuses more on the working class families of the City of Angels’ suburbs. In the words of Executive Producer Adam Davidson:
I never saw the L.A. I knew represented on screen—it was always glamorous, glitzy, Beverly Hills, people with perfect features. When I walk out the door, I see cracks in the asphalt. When I was growing up, Santa Monica was not a place you went to; what is now the 3rd Street Promenade is where derelicts lived. High schools looked like prisons. My take on the show is, this is a flawed world to begin with. People are struggling to get by, sinks are broken, nothing works, we all have these aspirations and we’re stuck here. And now you’re going to add zombies to all of this?
There is a palpable buzz going on among diehard fans of the Walking Dead franchise regarding the next installment of the fledgling spinoff. Perhaps despite themselves, people have grown to care about the unique West Coast characters and sensibilities of Fear The Walking Dead. A show that gets closer to finding its groove with every episode, FTWD is remaining true to the vision that Robert Kirkman developed. The idea of a “zombie movie that never ends” is intriguing and open to endless interpretations and takes on the subject.
The prevailing rule of the TWD universe is that no one in this world is ever really safe, and death can come for anyone at anytime, regardless of the role they played. Fans of the brand are anticipating the aftermath of the violent, painful climax of last season. How will Travis and Maddie gather up what’s left of their lives and their love and move forward? The side stories with Nick and Ofelia are getting better as they go, and Victor Strand remains a random element capable of doing anything at anytime. The wild card of the Walking Dead franchise has unlimited potential, and we can't wait to see where the spinoff takes us in 2017.
Are you a fan of Fear The Walking Dead? Do you have a compelling case for non-show-watchers to hop on board? Tell us about it in the comments, and stay with Screen Rant for more information regarding season three once a released date is confirmed!