As of right now, The Walking Dead spinoff Fear the Walking Dead is only two episodes in, with another episode on tonight, and all I can say is that I love it. I love this show. I adore nearly everything about it. Right now, I even think it’s better than the original. I’m sure my opinion is somewhat influenced by the fact that Rick isn’t in it, but for the moment, all I can say is that Fear the Walking Dead is great. Of course, “great” is not “perfect”. Somehow, the show managed to kill off all three of its Black characters in the course of its first two episodes, certainly a questionable writing choice that left me shaking my head in disbelief. Other than that, Fear the Walking Dead has a really diverse cast, and that is only helped by some really good acting.
Taking place right at the start of our walker apocalypse—I wonder if anyone in this show will ever feel the need to use the word “zombie”—our characters are still going about their normal lives, completely unaware that shit is about to hit the fan. Madison Clark and Travis Manawa are trying to build a family together with their children. Madison’s original husband died years ago, leaving her alone with two kids, while Travis and his wife ended up divorcing. Though Travis still wants to build a working relationship with Chris, his son, Chris pretty much resents him and prefers living with his mother. Chris also resents Madison’s children, Alicia and Nick, to whom Travis is rather close.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to build a family together when your own son hates you and your step-son is a drug addict, but that doesn’t stop Travis from trying. Nick is the only non-minority character on the show. He’s male, white, and given that he has a girlfriend, most likely straight. But his character is a welcome change from our usual cishet white guy protagonist. Nick isn’t strong or assertive—he’s weak and vulnerable. In the course of our two episodes, we see him break down, cry, go through withdrawal, and generally be an all-around mess. It’s not the type of character I normally think about as a protagonist, but I’m certainly interested in him. This type of character is also really important. It shows us that male characters don’t have to be strong all the time, that they are allowed to show their weaker sides, and that maybe sometimes they should. Nick’s character tells us that it’s okay to not be typically masculine. We also learn through Nick that the Clark family probably has other issues than Nick’s drug problem. Nick, for his part, refuses to live at home and instead stays on the streets, even though Madison would gladly take him back in, and he also seems to trust Travis as his parent more than he trusts Madison.
His sister, Alicia, gets the short end of stick in terms of characterization thus far. Right now, we don’t know a lot about her. She is more or less the golden child—she gets perfect grades, is mature and responsible, and she doesn’t do drugs. Despite Nick also being really intelligent, he has a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to Alicia. She’s not a complete fuck up. At the same time, though we see that both Alicia and Nick care greatly for each other, she resents everything about him. Despite the fact that she has done everything right with her life and has a bright future ahead of her—apocalypse notwithstanding—it is Nick who gets all the attention and is showered with love and affection at every turn. We haven’t gotten to know Alicia all that well beyond her resentment of Nick, and the story could certainly do more to develop her. I would love for these issues between her, her brother, and their parents to be explored more in the future.
Fear the Walking Dead is nowhere near as fast-paced as its predecessor, and the narrative relies on us already being aware of the impending doom to build suspense. This gives the show more time to develop its characters and let us get to know them, which I am totally okay with. When The Walking Dead first aired, it was, after all, the characters which drew me to the show. I think it does a lot better handling human nature and how people would act and grow during an apocalypse than most other apocalypse stories out there right now. As such, I expect the same from Fear the Walking Dead.
Things are just now starting to get bad, and all our main characters are attempting to leave town. They still believe that all this will blow over, and who knows, maybe for them it will. Maybe they’ll be able to establish their own Alexandria-like sanctuary, or maybe they’ll be stuck on the road like the Atlanta survivors.
The only thing I’m not really excited about is the potential love-triangle between Travis, Madison, and Liza, Travis’s ex-wife. As of currently, Travis went to fetch Liza and Chris so they could leave town with him and the Clark family, but now they’re trapped in the middle of the city with no way out. While I’d love to see Travis able to build a better relationship with Chris and see him and Liza at least get along, I already adore Travis’s relationship with the Clarks. I also generally hate love-triangle stories because they’re normally filled with pointless drama. This was one of the reasons I hated Shane and Lori—besides the fact that, like Rick, I thought Shane and Lori were horrible people.
However, if Fear the Walking Dead goes this route, maybe the show will just give in and let us have a polyamorous relationship between Travis, Liza, and Madison. That is the best I can hope for in this situation, but I have my doubts that the show will actually go there. Regardless, for the moment, Fear the Walking Dead has been a joy to watch. I can only hope the show keeps it up for the future episodes.