Fear the Walking Dead

Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC
Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

When The Walking Dead first premiered on AMC in 2010, I wasn’t really into the whole zombie thing. While I had certainly seen movies like 28 Days Later and Shaun of the Dead, they weren’t my typical go-to when I was in need of a scary movie fix. My coworkers, on the other hand, were a completely different story and after hearing them rave about the show, I decided to check it out. I valiantly gave it eight episodes – all of season one and then some of season two – but the show was just too dire for me.

Fast forward five years (several more viewings of Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, and Warm Bodies; a full season of iZombie; and a zombie panel at Awesome Con) and it’s safe to say I’ve been converted… mostly. The original AMC show hasn’t made it onto our DVR, but its spin-off Fear the Walking Dead has become a surprise favorite.

As someone who enjoys psychological terror more than gory horror, I had a feeling FTWD would be more up my alley since it serves as a prequel of sorts – the show is set in Los Angeles at the onset of the zombie apocalypse (The Walking Dead, which is set on the East Coast, begins sometime after the end has come and the world as we know it has been overtaken by “walkers.”) I assumed, of course, that there would be some blood and guts – this is a show about the undead after all – and there certainly have been, but not to the same extent as its predecessor… at least not yet.

So far, the events of FTWD have been told through the lens of a blended and dysfunctional family. There’s existing tension between the current and former spouses, and the three children involved in these unions are described on the show’s Web site as “resentful, escapist, and strung out.” After surviving a few tense nights in separate sections of the city, they all end up in the same house, and the close quarters only serve to exacerbate things. Then, the military moves in and sets up a quarantine zone around their neighborhood, but of course, all is not as it seems. (Note: I know this is a gross over-simplification of the show’s many plot points, but it does give you a general picture of the premise without any spoilers.)

While Paul Tassi, a Forbes contributor who clearly follows The Walking Dead, has argued that FTWD is “just doing a paint-by-numbers recreation of the earlier seasons of The Walking Dead,” and that “there is no shocking twist anymore…the military is doing bad things and this safe zone is not the paradise it seems to be,” it is all new to me and I am loving it!! In fact, I’ve fallen in love with the show so much that it has made me consider beginning over with the original.

People who have watched The Walking Dead since the beginning may agree with Tassi’s assessment, but if you’re new to the series, I highly recommend starting with the spin-off. It’s less gruesome – which is a huge plus for me – but more than that, I like the fact that they are taking the time to show us how the world falls. That sounds a bit odd, I know, but I’ve found that it’s made me think about our hyper-connected world a lot more and has prompted some serious conversations in our house about how we would fare in an emergency situation. It’s an interesting thought experiment and has shown that we could probably be a little more prepared, regardless of what’s shambling down the road.

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