'Fear the Walking Dead' Is Better Than It Should Be

Matthew Donnellon

Image: AMC

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Spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead.

Fear the Walking Dead returned Sunday night.

The Walking Dead offshoot is punching above its weight. At first glance, it looked like nothing more than AMC trying to wring more dollars out of their juggernaut series.

And that’s kind of how it started. I didn’t think it was particularly interesting in the beginning. The slow breakdown of society we were promised wasn’t handled well, and they mostly didn’t seem to know what they were doing. All signs pointed to simply making another version of The Walking Dead. I was afraid they were taking the NCIS approach.

This was not the case.

Yes, it started similarly but it managed to evolve into its own thing. It was a family trying to try and stay together during the apocalypse. It also didn’t have nearly the cartoonish villainy its counterparts had. (Not that I mind really. I love the outlandish live action comic book the original Walking Dead has become.)

The show came back from its mid season break with another strong episode showcasing everything that’s gone right this season.

Perhaps the best decision was to bring Morgan, played the spectacular Lenny James, over from The Walking Dead, which was smart as there were already too many players on that show. Morgan’s quiet introspective story didn’t quite fit with the bombastic All Out War storyline. Instead, they moved him to a show almost centered on individual stories.

The aesthetic works too. This show feels inherently different. It’s quite the change of pace from its parent show. Instead of straight adventure/horror, Fear, at least season 4, is a zombie western. The music, the camera work, even the characters make it feel closer to a a Clint Eastwood movie than Night of the Living Dead. Having grown up watching westerns with my grandfather, I appreciated the old still shots.

To complete the western mode, they added a cowboy, literally. Garret Dillahunt plays John Dorie, a six gun wielding lawman wandering the country looking for his lost love. He, along with Morgan, have a quieter presence on the show and they make a good pair.

But he’s not the only new addition. Maggie Grace plays Althea, the post apocalyptic journalist recording everyone’s stories. Her reaction is priceless when Morgan tries to tell her about the Saviors, the King, and the tiger. She also offers insight into just how crazy The Walking Dead has become.

The main cast is there, too. Overall, I think the actors are better on Fear. Which is good, because the group had to essentially play two different characters when Morgan, Al, and John find Victor, Luciana, Alicia, and Nick are in rough shape. Madison is missing, and all signs point to something terrible happening.

Even the villains were good. They were bad, but not over the top, and there was nary a baseball bat in sight. I could easily see a group that just waited for communities to die. As we’ve seen in both shows, societies don’t last long.

Perhaps its greatest achievement is making the zombies, or walkers in TWD parlance, scary again. In the other show, they’re simply masticating pieces of scenery. Here, they are threat. Mostly because the groups have stayed small, and the lack of safe havens, but the fear is still there.

The midseason premiere captures all of this. The characters deal with the fact that Madison is dead, Nick is dead, and they have to keep going. Morgan, ever the counselor after battling his own demons, seeks out Alicia trying to help her. Lenny James is perfect in every scene, and I’ve been a fan of Alycia Debnam-Carey since she was a child queen on The 100, and they both nail it.

I’m interested to see where the show goes from here.

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Matthew Donnellon is a writer, artist, and sit down comedian. He is the author of The Curious Case of Emma Lee and Other Stories

Detroit, MI
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