What's the big difference between AMC's hit series The Walking Dead and its forthcoming spinoff Fear the Walking Dead? Well, the former picked up the story of a zombie apocalypse with lawman Rick Grimes waking to a world where the zombie outbreak has already occurred; Fear the Walking Dead will transport us inside urban Los Angeles, during the days when the zompocalypse was just beginning - a small outbreak in various corners of society, which would one day become a worldwide calamity.
The first teaser for the show played up this intriguing new angle to the world of The Walking Dead, showing us pictures of modern LA in which something undefined (but obvious to us) is very, very wrong. That trend continues with this latest promo, featuring trouble-maker Nick (Frank Dillane) on the run from yet another unidentified threat - one that, again, is obvious to us fans.
On a character level, Fear the Walking Dead follows some interconnected family units (Cliff Curtis as a teacher, Kim Dickens as his guidance counselor fiancée, her two kids (Nick the troubled one, Alicia the "perfect daughter") - the teacher's ex-wife and son, and others), who are navigating their relationships and personal issues, as the end of civilization slowly but surely unfolds around them.
In the promo above, we follow Nick (Dillahane), the college drop-out and (what looks to be) drug-head, who is the troubled son of Kim Dickens' character, Madison, and the polar opposite of his sister, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey). From what is implied in the promo, Nick has been in some kind of flop house or drug house where something has gone very wrong. Whether that "something" is related to the usual hazards of the illegal drug market, or something more supernatural in nature (a junkie zombie rising from an overdose?) remains to be seen.
Here is what Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman had to say about Nick and the relationship with his sister Alicia, when describing the new characters in detail:
Alicia is your atypical teenage girl. She excels at school. She’s on her way to college. She’s very self-sufficient. She’s very self-reliant. She’s kind of the model student and the model child. In the face of that, we’ve got Nick—who is played by Frank Dillane—who is pretty much a parent’s worst nightmare. He has flunked out of college, had a lot of trouble, got mixed up in some bad elements, and is definitely the problem child. And it’s exacerbated for him to be next to this perfect sister who seemingly doesn’t have anything going on in her life that is negative. But that’s not really the case, that’s just his perception.
So you have these two siblings that are very much at odds with each other. They love each other because they are brother and sister, but to a certain extent it’s almost like they are each other’s worst enemies because one is screwing things up while she’s trying to achieve things and get on to the college, and the other one is seeing her as this reminder of everything that he can’t be. So it’s an interesting dynamic.”
Family dynamic in the midst of the apocalypse may (on the surface) seem like a very similar premise to the main Walking Dead series, but the hook of seeing those dynamics working under the strain of an increasingly dire situation - one we know will have no happy ending - is admittedly fresh and intriguing.
When we found characters like Glenn or Michonne, they were already washed in the tragedy of loss and re-baptized as loner survivors who eventually find new family in one another - and even families we saw torn apart (Andrea and Amy; Rick and Lori; Maggie and Beth and Hershel), that loss came in the context of living in a harsh world where such losses are now common. Exploring the first traumatic realization that world we knew is gone - and what that means for the bonds of family in that lost context - is where AMC may offer a good prequel drama to sit on the mantle alongside the excellent Better Call Saul.
Fear the Walking Dead premieres sometime in August on AMC.