The Walking Dead has been gradually expanding their horrifying television universe ever since Rick Grimes woke up in his lonely hospital bed seven seasons ago. Last year the world of zombies hit an even bigger growth spurt when creator Robert Kirkman decided to oversee a spin-off show, Fear the Walking Dead, that would follow new characters through the zombie apocalypse.
Fear the Walking Dead gave audiences an in-depth look at the early days of the deadly infection that would inevitably doom civilization for the first time. The lush woods setting of The Walking Dead was left behind in favor of the concrete jungle of Los Angeles and the coastal deserts of Mexico. Over the course of the past two seasons audiences have become familiar with a new band of survivors including Madison (Kim Dickens), Travis (Cliff Curtis), and Nick (Frank Dillane). While the show centers on them, there have been a rotating door of supporting characters that have been introduced both on the show and in the web series, Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462.
That web series was a striking success as the anthology story both widened and enriched The Walking Dead's mythology. It even managed to garner Emmy nominations, so it's no surprise that a new series is now here. Fear the Walking Dead: Passage had its online debut today and the first episode is now available for viewing on AMC's website. The web series "follows a fearsome survivor named Sierra (Kelsey Scott) who helps an injured woman, Gabi (Mishel Prada), in exchange for an apocalyptic sanctuary.”
Fear the Walking Dead: Passage will feature 16 individual episodes that all clock in at under a minute. The webisodes will roll out much like last year's Flight 462 did, where each episode ran weekly during a commercial break of The Walking Dead. At the end of the season, the short film will be made available on the AMC website in its entirety. The Flight 462 web series followed the passengers of a doomed commercial airline flight which had a tragic outbreak of the zombie infection. The star of the web series, Alex (Michelle Ang), eventually crossed paths with the survivors of Fear the Walking Dead and went on to receive a featured role in the second season.
The first episode of Passage was made available today and features a man in a bloodied Hazmat suit who has walked into a seemingly abandoned military camp. He is then ambushed by walkers, which he dispatches skillfully with a dagger. However, towards the end a lone survivor is revealed and it's unclear to her - and the viewer - if the man is a friend or foe. It's an undoubtedly engaging 50 seconds of storytelling and should serve to pique viewer's interest in the short series.
It hasn't been revealed if any of the characters from the upcoming Passage series will be woven into the main narrative of Fear the Walking Dead, like with Alex's character. Regardless, it seems like the perfect bit of auxiliary programming to assist in world-building and to help fans coast until the return of the series in 2017.
It will be interesting to see if other networks with expansive universes, such as the DC shows on the CW network, will adopt a similar strategy. Crafting short films to introduce new characters into connective worlds is both a great marketing tool and a fun way to keep viewers engaged. It should be a exciting season all around for fans of The Walking Dead.
The first episode of Fear the Walking Dead: Passage is now available for viewing on the AMC website. Fear the Walking Dead returns August 21 on AMC. The Walking Dead season 7 premieres October 23.