More than a poor pastiche, Fear the Walking Dead is starting to become a strong show in its own right, with an interesting set of characters that are compelling to watch.
Fear the Walking Dead has been ambling along slowly but surely, winning over viewers who have been acclimatising to a new set of characters, new relationships and new surroundings within this post-apocalyptic world.
Kudos to AMC, who have successfully strived to make this spin-off series feel as different as possible. The changes have been vast; from a small town sheriff’s deputy to a city of excess and luxury, from sweltering American landscapes to the wide open sea. Although their decisions have been anything but unconscious, Fear the Walking Dead has managed to develop naturally and beautifully up to the midway point of its second season. While in The Walking Dead we only witness the dramatic transformation of Rick with regards to the walkers, all of the characters within Fear clamour for some kind of definition, or explanation, for what has happened and what the walkers are.
Yet, more than anything else with this season, it’s time to stop drawing comparisons. Fear the Walking Dead is just finding its feet, experimenting with new characters as they try to define themselves and find meaning in their new world. The perspective of the younger cast members is exploited, especially in episode 1 (‘Monster’) when Strand (Colman Domingo) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) left behind a boat full of people who would surely die if they were not taken in by the larger vessel. The naivety and optimism of the teenagers is challenged, forcing them to grow up, gnawing at their belief that they can somehow take on the world and win. After all, it’s not their world anymore.
At the point of the mid-season finale we see immense changes, as the core group splits into three, with Nick (Frank Dillane), Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) and Travis respectively parting ways. Travis finally makes the choice between his family and his son – who is deeply effected by the death of mother – while Nick seemingly chooses the side of the dead over the living; Dillane portraying this lost sense of self perfectly. He remains the exposed heart of the group, vulnerable and susceptible to the manipulation of Celia (Marlene Forte). This is definitely the continuation of a brilliant performance supported by an equally capable and brilliant cast.
Bold moves are made to keep it appetizing, and the show feels completely new and exciting with regards to the prospects for the three split narratives. It is the dawn of new horizons, while the restricted Walking Dead is competitively bogged down by rules enforced by fans (and I count myself as among the guilty). Along with Daniel’s flashbacks, Strand’s background was also skilfully revealed. Despite a very short and bittersweet meeting in the present, the relationship between him and Thomas Abigail (Dougray Scott) was both interesting and heartfelt.
The mid-season finale truly raises the bar for the series as a whole, and bodes well for future episodes when it returns in August. The rest of season 2 was good, but the finale was great. An almost supernatural element added a very intriguing layer to the show, with the arrival of Celia Flores in Mexico. Her presence single handedly manages to derail Nick, Chris and Daniel (Rubén Blades), while those less susceptible suddenly became outcasts. Their adverse psychological reactions added exciting new complexities to each of their characters.
Fear is starting to dig deeper, challenging Madison’s (Kim Dickens) maternal instincts, as she finally has to let Nick fall into the clutches of his new addiction; challenging Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) and the love she has for her father after discovering his dark past; challenging Travis to choose between blood and bond; and blurring the lines between the living and the dead with Daniel’s visions and the presence of Celia. Fear is the name of the game, and it has certainly begun to play with the concerns of each of the characters.
Fear the Walking Dead has finally begun to break new ground and explore fresh areas. Structurally the show has been purposefully made different from its predecessor, but its themes remained the same. By launching into unknown territory in terms of what people turn to in their darkest hour, exciting things are certainly afoot. Here, the danger posed by the walkers is not primarily a physical one, as is the case with The Walking Dead, but a psychological one. In this sense, the zombie threat has never been closer to home.
Fear the Walking Dead season 2 returns in August to AMC on BT TV, and is available to buy on Amazon Prime.