AMC will try to expand the universe of its hit show The Walking Dead by premiering Fear the Walking Dead this summer. The spinoff will jump back to the beginning of the zombie infection outbreak - only this time we trade the rural lands of the southern U.S. for the urban center of Los Angeles. In that setting, we follow interconnected family units (a teacher, his guidance counselor fiancée, her two kids, his ex-wife and son, etc.), who are navigating their relationships as the end of civilization slowly but surely unfolds around them.
Despite early skepticism about the concept (AMC making a shared universe out of its most popular show), Fear the Walking Dead's concept has shown more and more potential as details have come to light. And according to Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, Fear the Walking Dead will be more than just a spinoff or prequel; it will use time to its advantage, in order to enrich the overall mythos of the Walking Dead universe.
Here's what Kirkman told EW in regards to why Fear the Walking Dead is a good concept, worth exploring:
"...If you think about the way a zombie outbreak would happen, it would happen very organically. It would be happening for a while behind the scenes. In pockets of civilization, there would be news stories that didn’t really make sense and didn’t seem connected. And that’s kind of where we pick things up. There are a lot of things on the news, there’s a lot of chatter and paranoia and concern. And yet the vast majority of the population is ignoring these things and talking about their daily lives, and that’s kind of where we pick things up. And things ramp up very quickly from there.”
This is a fair observation: The original Walking Dead TV series (and comic, for that matter) had protagonist Rick Grimes literally asleep (comatose) throughout the initial zombie outbreak and subsequent fall of civilization, awaking to a world overrun with the dead, 28 Days Later style. Flashbacks on the TV series have shown some of the panic and chaos that ensued when society cracked apart - but as Kirkman points out, the initial breakdown (Dawn of the Dead style) is something we have yet to witness.
Last year, FX's The Strain took a similar approach to vampirism and found success - and Fear the Walking Dead has the added advantage of being able to tie back into the events of the main Walking Dead series. Or does it?
In regards to how the two shows will connect with each other (or not), Kirkman revealed that Fear the Walking Dead will be a lot like Better Call Saul in how moves through time, functioning as a prequel and interquel:
“I will say that I don’t consider this show to be a prequel to The Walking Dead, because there will be a point where a certain episode of this show will line up with season 2 of The Walking Dead, and a certain episode of this show will line up with season 3 of The Walking Dead. So we will be progressing through time to the point that we do pass the initial days of the outbreak. But how fast it is that we get there? That’s just going to have to remain a mystery.”
Better Call Saul positioned itself from the start as a series that is set after the events of Breaking Bad, but spends the majority of its time looking back on events that occurred before Breaking Bad took place. There are hints that Saul could also eventually explore events occurring during Breaking Bad, making it a prequel, interquel, and sequel. From what Kirkman describes, Fear the Walking Dead could have the freedom to do something similar, but there are two big differences, and they are geography and character interaction.
Saul stays relevant by keeping focus on established Breaking Bad characters in the midst of the larger prequel story, showing how early interactions between these characters (or their respective backstories) helped shape the Breaking Bad characters we know and love (or love to hate).
Fear the Walking Dead will be set far apart from the characters of the main series, so new people like school teacher Travis (Cliff Curtis) and guidance counselor Madison (Kim Dickens) won't be making contact with Rick or Carol anytime in the foreseeable future - something Kirkman makes clear in the full EW interview. Be sure to read it in full.
Fear the Walking Dead premieres in summer 2015 on AMC.