With six successful seasons under its belt, it can easily be argued that AMC’s The Walking Dead is the Number One television show in America. It certainly is my favorite. If you’re reading this article, then TWD probably tugs fondly at your heart strings as it does mine. While nobody questions the ingredients that make TWD so successful, I have really struggled to like its sister spinoff show, Fear the Walking Dead.
In its second season, FTWD has put-putted along. By staging the main characters (a blended family with their troubled kids and a rag tag bunch of other survivors) on the backdrop of the Abigail, an archetype Noah’s ark yacht, the show has failed to capitalize on the secret weapon of shocking viewers with what terrible things humans do to each other to survive the zombie apocalypse. At the mid-season break a few months ago, I told myself that if the show didn’t pick up, I would not watch it anymore. I’m now two episodes in from the mid-season premiere two weeks ago and I’ve stayed FTWD’s execution for now.
So what’s changed on the show?
They left the yacht. Hallelujah! Man, that was so boring. While I don’t understand why it took 1.5 seasons to set the stage of their escape, losing the yacht in Mexico and developing storylines on land at the beginning of the apocalypse is definitely a good move that will provide more interesting plot lines for this family to interface with other survivors.
The show has finally begun developing the character’s back stories. FTWD tells the origins of the zombie apocalypse on the West Coast through the eyes of Madison Clark and Travis Manawa, parents of their troubled young adult children Nick and Alicia Clark and Chris Manawa. While we did see the consequences of Nick’s drug-addicted lifestyle wreaking havoc on the family during season one, his physical appearance (good makeup, I guess??) and overall demeanor did not draw me into the show or his character at all. Not only did Nick already look like a living zombie, but he just made me feel like he should be killed off. The entire mid-season premiere two weeks ago focused on Nick. Surprisingly, viewers were treated into an in-depth glimpse of his family life, drug rehab, and other dynamics that helped shape the character. For the first time, I could relate his character. I felt more empathy for his struggle with drugs as a result of the void from having grown up with an absent father. After two more episodes mid-season, I think FTWD is on the right track drawing viewers into the personal lives and backgrounds of this family. Not only is it smart marketing if your show’s target age demographic is 18-49, but I think it’s also good television. At least for me, I began to make more personal connections to the characters.
There appears to be an emergent villain. Cue in classic Star Wars. Good boy gets recruited by Jedi, but turns to the Dark Side and kills his Jedi brothers. Later on, his own son redeems his father. While it’s still too early to tell who the show’s villain will be, there is a darkness developing in Chris Manawa who has already whet his appetite for killing. Chris lost his innocence in season one when he learned his father Travis had to do a mercy killing on his mother after she was bitten. Since then Chris has been on a downward spiral in season two, murdering a tied-up hostage on the yacht and an innocent farmer in Mexico. I hope the show’s writers take this further, eventually pitting father against son with Travis as the desperate father who wants to save and protect his tormented son from becoming a sadistic murderer. Maybe that’s a little over dramatic for season two, but it’s the kind of plot line that could lead to many possibilities for rich character development and heart-gripping episodes over the course of a few seasons.
The jury is still out for FTWD. For now, the show can remain on my TiVo’s scheduled list of programs to record. I’ll keep watching as long the show continues on this path.
By day, Gerry is a senior learning specialist working for a large healthcare company. By night, he freelances as writer, photographer, and Arrow-in-training.