Saturday, October 24, 2015

Robert Kirkman's Fear the Walking Dead Awesome Show, Great Job!

Right off the bat, I want to let you know this is probably going to be spoiler laden. I'm going to talk mainly about the spin-off Fear the Walking Dead and it's older sister The Walking Dead proper to a lesser extent as well, so there. Consider yourself warned.

Lame title or not, I believe Fear the Walking Dead was a great show, Maybe even better the The Walking Dead was ... there you go. You can leave now.

Seriously though, having just finished the 6 episode miniseries I've got to say it has the potential to be better than the original show if given the chance to get as far into the sunset of humanity it's counterpart in the south has.

First, let me fill you in if you haven't seen either show... The Walking Dead is based on a comic written by Kirkman following a Georgia sheriff's deputy Rick Grimes who wakes from his coma to find that the dead won't stay dead, and the world has gone to shit because of it. 5 years later, the group led by Rick has lost countless members, suffered harrowing experiences and nearly lost their minds and humanity. Fear the Walking Dead however is set just as the world is about to end with a new group of people in probably the worst place to be in the event of the zombie apocalypse: Los Angeles.

Now, if you've been paying attention at all (in the last decade especially) the zombie apocalypse seems to follow the same patterns and story notes. I believe that's why the genre as a whole feels a touch saturated. The characters always seem to do the same shit, and because they obviously don't know what we do, seem to make the same dumb mistakes over and over. They refuse to believe it's happening, then they fail to kill an undead loved one, the whole group is compromised, they hole-up in a mall. they fire a whole bunch of bullets, attract more zombies, get trampled by a herd, make a failed attempt to escape, get eaten alive. All zombie movies follow this plot line or some variation thereof. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

The Walking Dead in both it's forms are no exception to this rule. After all, in order for us to really identify with these characters we need to see them experience their shock and disbelief as their world crumples around them, see them make dumb mistakes and get brutally punished for them. Where TWD has a great advantage as a zombie story over it's movie counterparts is it continues on. The characters learn from their mistakes long enough to make new ones. The story goes on so long that the group is put into situations unfamiliar even to us, and this is what keeps us invested.

The first season of FTWD being only 6 episodes long, and catering to an already established audience, it has a chance to really speed up the whole process of establishing their world. Let me elaborate.

In FTWD we are confronted with zombies almost immediately. At first accounts of human eating monsters are hand waved away. Then a character who seems to only be on screen because he knows what we know warns ominously of what's to come is ignored as well. By the second episode however all parties are well aware of the danger they are in and make attempts to leave.

Then there's the denial that what appears to be undead cannibals isn't, but they're just sick people who can be treated back to humanity, TWD's second season spent it's whole time on that goddamn farm suffering to this lame plot point. FTWD only has one character fall prey to this deadly delusion, but it's his story ark to reconcile those 6 episodes. He's not collecting them in a fucking barn like a bunch of rabid animals for an entire 16 episode season.

A short episode list also gives us a couple really good characters, and by "good" I mean "competent". Truth be told all the characters are good, in that they're well written and acted, but only a handful seem to know what's going on and how to act appropriately. The character I mentioned above; a teenager who's been paying attention to reports of the dead walking online and is already mentally prepared for the end of the world before the main cast of characters even realizes they're in danger, an old El Salvadoran man who has no compunction about harming or murdering others to protect the ones he loves, and a real bastard of a man with a ruthless streak and a voice like Keith David but smoother. We're guaranteed to see more of two of them in the coming season and I couldn't be happier, their pragmatism is going to prevent another debacle like Hershel's Farm.

Another reason FTWD has an advantage over TWD is it isn't based on a comic book. This is true even to people who dont read the comics. Though some might say the comic book is better then the book, this isn't the point I'm making. The point is if you're developing a TV show around a property that's already established on another medium but hasn't concluded yet you're going to run into problems. Either you diverge wildly from the source material or you add filler (Damn you Hershel's farm!). FTWD doesn't have to do either, there for it can be as fast paced as it needs to be without worrying about running out of comic book.

TWD is one of my favorite shows, if not my absolute favorite. It has an amazing cast of characters and a world rich with experience and narrative tension, especially after season 3. I just feel that given it's fast-paced six episode mini-season format and it's lack of narrative ham-stringing, FTWD could very well surpass it's parent show.

That's my opinion, bitches.
Big Mike.

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