At First Glance: “Fear the Walking Dead”

Getting excited about a spin-off show is never an easy thing to do. Some look great, when based on the trailer, and go on to be superb or just plain enjoyable all around. Others, and this leads to fast cancellations, just suck. You wanted to stick with it but just knew you couldn’t. It was that bad.

The upcoming AMC Studios series “Fear the Walking Dead”, looks like it’ll give us back something that’s been largely missing from the original series these last few seasons and then some.

This zombie drama series stars Kim Dickens (“House of Cards”, “Gone Girl”), Cliff Curtis (“Last Knights”, “Gang Related”), Frank Dilllane (upcominng “In the Heart of the Sea”, “Sense8”), Alycia Debnam-Carey (“The 100”, “The Devil’s Hand ”), Elizabeth Rodriguez (“Power”, “Grimm”), Mercedes Mason (“Ana Maria in Novela Land”, “Anger Management”), Ruben Blades (The Counselor”, “Safe House“”), and Lorenzo James Henrie (“Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2”, “NCIS: Los Angeles”).

The series is created by Robert Kirkman and Dave Erickson (“Marco Polo”, “Believe”).

It is expected to debut on Aug. 23, 2015 on AMC.

Ever since hearing about this getting a pilot commitment, I’ve been both skeptical and excited. I love most things dealing with outbreaks and zombies, maybe both at the same time. However, I did feel that this was not really a series that needed to exist. If they wanted us to know what caused the outbreak and the dead to rise, they could’ve told us early on in the original series. It’s just a quick way to ride on the name recognition of an existing show, like some others in the past have done. Now having seen the first full trailer that debuted at this years Comic Con even held in San Diego, CA, I’m officially over the fact that it’s a spin-off. The only thing I hope is that it’s just as good, if not better somehow, than “The Walking Dead”. Not much to ask for.
Outside of the zombie lure, I’m pretty much pulled in by the casting choice of Dickens. After the success of “Gone Girl”, in which she plays a detective, I was just on the look out for other projects she’d be part of. I think sometime before it was announced she’d be in this show, it was announced she’d be showing up in season three of Netflix’s “House of Cards”. She ended up killing it as Kate Baldwin! I was amazed and glad that she had this role, especially after Kate Mara and Constance Zimmer both played different types of journalists. I hope she gets to come back a few times next year. Anyway, it’s these two roles, and a few others I’ve seen of hers, that has me looking forward to this show.

As for the other cast members, I’m okay with them being chosen. I haven’t been exposed to much of what they’ve done. Curtis and Rodriguez are the only two I’ve seen anything that stood out to me of their work. Curtis has “Runaway Jury” and Rodriguez has “Orange is the New Black” and guest spots on “Grimm” which I actually enjoyed. I guess the others will just have to convince me through what they bring as these new characters.

Based off of the trailer, we’re going to get a lot of familiar elements. Scares, action, suspense, and (not really an element), zombies, or whatever they decide to name them in this series for awhile. As I said at the beginning, this series is looking like it can actually give back some of what the original show doesn’t have much of anymore. Scares and surprises.

I’ll make this fast. One reason “The Walking Dead” works is that it’s very character driven. It also knows how to use suspense and scares effectively and ultimately give us one hell of a ride in any given episode. Very much like “Battlestar Galactica (2004)” managed to for four seasons. But, especially with this last season, I’ve found myself more or less bored and annoyed with “The Walking Dead”. The first half was set over a few days, and led to the most obvious midway ending I’ve ever seen. Not many surprises or progression of the story overall. The second half did better, but not by much. It moved too slowly and had too many irritating characters. It lacked a lot of thrills, which aren’t needed always, but shouldn’t be missing as much as they seemed to. By the time the season finale ended, which also bored me, I was heading toward abandoning this show.

Getting back on track, and the reason I mentioned “The Walking Dead” so much, is that the trailer for this new series, seems like I can finally watch a show that will build suspense and offer scares, which was some of why I tuned into “The Walking Dead”. The fact that this show can scare me in new, and hopefully slightly different ways, has me excited.

The last thing that has me excited, for some reason, is that this is a series that will basically begin with following one family and then throw them into the chaos that follows. Yes the original series has a family and family like unit in it, but that’s not the same thing. Rick had to find his wife and kid first. Here we’ll get to spend time with them before the world goes to hell in a hand basket. That’s interesting. See the dynamics one moment, then see them change drastically because of unknown and confusing events the next. Lots of drama can be had from this.

While most of the time I roll my eyes and groan out loud at the stupidity of a spin-off, this time I’m not. I’m much more excited for it. There’s a lot that this show can do and become, which is far more than just a prequel series to a wildly popular one. It can establish itself as a major player in some ways. That alone makes this show worth a few goes. Oh, and the flesh eating zombies! Can’t forget about them.


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