Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1 created by Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman (AMC, Circle of Confusion, Symbound, Valhalla Entertainment)

Starring Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Sandrine Holt, and Colman Domingo.

I Know Too Much

It’s odd to know more about a show’s universe than the characters do. Structurally, most stories—whether on the page or on the screen—provide the rules for engagement. These cues let the reader/viewer understand the kind of story they are perceiving and they set expectations for what lies ahead.

These rules point out the hero and the villain. They suggest what you should find funny and what should be serious. And, they dictate expectations for how the characters ought to interact with the world.

When the creators-that-be consider spin offs, the most difficult aspect of launching something new surrounds how to establish a set of rules within a pre-existing universe. When Fear the Walking Dead touched the airways, the creators needed to consider two types of people. The majority of its viewers enter this experience with multiple season’s worth of knowledge about its environment from its forbear, The Walking Dead.

And yet, the creators must also consider how to express this story on its own merit. Surely, a small percentage of viewers arrive without The Walking Dead as a baseline, and future viewers may or may not have reference to its originator.

Stark Contrast

Adding to the difficult, Fear the Walking Dead sets itself in stark contrast to its predecessor. Where The Walking Dead begins in the aftermath of the cataclysmic events, Fear the Walking Dead brings its viewers to the start of it all.

Set in Los Angeles, Fear the Walking Dead launches its story before zombies emerge as a global epidemic. The pilot, in fact, situates the walking dead in the periphery. Outside of a beginning shot of a potential patient zero, the undead represent potential rather than kinetic danger.

Family Dysfunction

The story revolves around a dysfunctional family. Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) operates as the protagonist. A high school counselor, she is dating her colleague Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis). Madison’s children represent the archetypes of adolescence. Her son, Nick Clark (Frank Dillane) is a junky. As the first to view the walking dead, his warnings fall on deaf ears, rationed away as the paranoia of an addict. On the other end, Madison’s daughter, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Clark) is a brilliant student patiently awaiting her opportunity to study at Berkley.

On Travis’ side, his ex-wife Lisa (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and his son Christopher (Lorenzo James Henrie) are estranged but Travis still holds them dear.

As society begins to break around this family, they must face the impending new normal, and learn the rules of zombies. Are they salvageable? Or must they be killed? Is this a sickness that’s contagious? Is it something deeper?

When the military arrives, the questions become more problematic when notions of security and trust come to the forefront.

Foreknowledge

Aside from its plot, the odd part of Fear the Walking Dead resides in my previous knowledge of this universe. Knowing more than the main characters about zombies and what must be done can create difficult watching. You see characters approaching the undead trying to reason with them and as a viewer, you know bad things are going to happen but the main characters don’t.

Nevertheless, the character development and setting from Fear the Walking Dead make it a strong show worth watching. It’s much different than The Walking Dead and that’s a good thing.

Verdict: 4 out of 5

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