Author Topic: Fear The Walking Dead (Season 1 - 2015)  (Read 568 times)

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Re: Fear The Walking Dead (Season 1 - 2015)
« Reply #30 on: September 30, 2015, 05:34:03 pm »
ya, pretty spot on...

5 Big Problems With 'Fear The Walking Dead'

I write about the intersection of entertainment and technology.

Here are five big problems with the show that need to be resolved if AMC wants Fear the Walking Dead to survive a second season.

(Read my review of last night’s episode here.)

1. We need to actually see the breakdown of civilization, government, and communities.

The entire premise of Fear the Walking Dead was to give viewers a glimpse of the zombie outbreak from Day Zero on. In The Walking Dead we awaken with Rick Grimes in a hospital already lost to the living. Major cities like Atlanta have long since fallen. In the spinoff we’re supposed to see the in-between stages from the earliest days of the outbreak.

That’s how Fear the Walking Dead began. We saw a bunch of weird incidents, police protests, riots, and the very rapid social entropy that one imagines would accompany this sort of undead outbreak. But very quickly, and very suddenly, all that was tossed into the trash. The military showed up and we fast-forwarded into an ad hoc police state with no glimpse at what was happening in the world around our main cast of hapless survivors.

This isn’t the show we were promised. If anything, this is an interesting premise for the next season, but for the first season I expected to see a more gradual breakdown of civilization. I was hoping we’d see our heroes actually start to fight to survive—going out into the insane city to get supplies, or attempting to make a break for the desert but running into standstill traffic and being forced to hoof it through an urban center rapidly devolving into intense danger.

I’m honestly not sure if it’s too late to fix this issue. Madison’s little adventure into the no-man’s-land revealed nothing but death. Between the infected and the military, there’s not much left of civilization to break down—unless the show dumps the entire cast and shows us a new city devolving into chaos each season. It’s not like we’re very attached to these characters. Which brings us to…

2. The main characters are really boring and stupid.

The characters in The Walking Dead can do some godawful stupid things sometimes, acting like puppets for the show’s writers lamely moving from one scenario to the next not because that’s what they would actually do but because that’s what the plot demands of them.

But they’re so much worse in Fear the Walking Dead. Outside of Daniel Salazar—AMC should find a way to get actor Ruben Blades into The Walking Dead instead—there aren’t many characters that actually deserve to survive. Madison and Travis are so slow on the uptake, it’s amazing they’ve made it this far. Nick is a junkie. Alicia is woefully underdeveloped in general.

In fact, I’d say the Salazar family is a much more compelling bunch than Travis and co. I’d much rather watch a story about Daniel and Griselda and Ofelia, but they’ve been largely relegated to secondary figures. I’m worried that Daniel is being used more as a catalyst for Travis and Madison’s growth than as a major character in his own right.

There’s no way to quickly or easily scrub the cast, however. So the writers need to do something they’ve never done before: Write the stories around the characters and not the other way around. Give these people real motivations, flaws, and conflicts and quit making them say and do stupid things unless you really want them to be stupid.

This leads to a secondary problem: We know that the zombie apocalypse is coming and we know that these are undead monsters that want to eat human flesh, but the characters don’t. In drama, we can’t help but place ourselves in the shoes of the characters we’re watching. When it works best is when we find ourselves asking “What would I do in this situation?” and not finding a ready answer. Good drama often means tough choices, morally complex conundrums, and so forth. But here we simply have characters acting ridiculous as the world crumbles around them, and since we’re all so used to this zombie parable, it’s bizarre to see characters react as though they’ve never even heard of such a thing, and it becomes very hard to empathize.

In a couple weeks when The Walking Dead airs, we’ll see a bunch of hardened, battle-ready survivors in a tense and compelling universe with morally complex dilemmas at every turn. But here, we have to watch a ragtag group of idiots keep making mistakes while we know better.

This might work if the breakdown of society was more gradual or if the characters were more sympathetic. Alas, such is not the case.

3. There’s too much fluff even in a plodding, slow-paced show.

Not every minute counts in Fear the Walking Dead. Too many minutes are spent on bad dialogue or forced drama. Compare this to a show like The Americans where almost every scene has its place, builds tension, revolves around real character motivation, internal conflict, emotion.

This is why the show feels too slow even as the plot takes massive leaps forward. There are so many scenes that feel like filler, even in a season that’s just six episodes long. The best moments have been the revelations of Daniel Salazar, or the weird jail monologue that the newly introduced Strand made last night. Meanwhile, the family moments between Madison and her kids, or between Travis and his son Chris, all feel horribly forced. Actually, Alicia and Chris playing dress up in an abandoned neighbors’ home was quite a lot better than most of the family interactions up to this point.

And maybe this will get better as events unfold and things heat up. Travis’s inability to shoot an infected in a distant building was a pretty good moment of tension, marred only by our growing dislike of Travis (or frustration/annoyance with Travis. He’s pretty likable still.)

This is a show in desperate need of an editor’s scalpel. Every moment needs to count. Every line of dialogue, every shot.

4. There’s not much fear here.

The Walking Dead has some scary moments but mostly it’s at its best when it’s showing us an all-or-nothing fight for survival. Rick and co. against the world. There have been some good frights, some moments where you jump out of your seat, but mainly the show has gone for gruesome or action-packed.

What I had hoped for in Fear the Walking Dead was a move toward more traditional horror, with a real sense of growing dread. And there have been one or two moments like this. The neighbors’ yard with its creepy garden was a great set-piece for a horror film/TV show. So was the junkie church.

Unfortunately, neither were very well utilized. We got our scene or two and moved right on. I want the fear to linger. Even just the neighbor chasing the woman across the street (who we knew had a young daughter) was a great foundation for a very scary episode, but it was just glossed right over.

The lack of dread, horror, fear and fright in this show is a huge problem. I mean, horror movies often have really dumb characters but manage to be scary regardless. I think if Fear the Walking Dead was truly scary, we could probably forgive its stupidity problem.

5. When The Walking Dead comes back on, the gap between the two shows will be even more apparent.

Along these lines, we can’t help but make comparisons between the spinoff and the mother-show. The Walking Dead has plenty of problems, and even shares a few with Fear the Walking Dead. But who would you rather watch for an hour each Sunday? Rick and Glenn and Morgan and Michonne? Or Travis and Madison and Liza and Chris?

Meanwhile, The Walking Dead has already given us a glimpse at this violent, deadly world and its violent, deadly people. We’ve seen hordes of zombies, evil cannibals, a crazy Governor, and the weirdly peaceful Alexandria. The survivors have been through insane conflicts, barely escaped grave peril countless times, and are all on the verge of serious mental breakdowns.

Unless Fear the Walking Dead gives us a very different kind of character drama, I’m not sure how it’s supposed to compete. And it does need to compete—and compliment—the flagship. It can’t afford to live in its shadow, or constantly be barraged by unkind comparisons to The Walking Dead.

That doesn’t mean it has to be just as good. AMC’s Better Call Saul is a spinoff of Breaking Bad, and one season in I can say with great certainty that it’s not nearly as good as Breaking Bad. But it never suffers in comparison to that show. It’s a good show on its own merits, with strong writing and great cinematography. The acting is excellent, and the characters and stories are all entertaining—a smart mix of sad and funny and absurd. Better Call Saul doesn’t need to be as good as Breaking Bad. It just needs to be good on its own merits, a show that exists in parallel to the flagship, not in that show’s shadow.

Unfortunately, Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t manage this. It’s trying too hard to be the same kind of show, telling the same kind of story, as The Walking Dead—only worse, with less interesting characters and a more tedious story.

How to fix this? I’m not really sure at this point, now that the first season is almost over and the premise has been thoroughly lost in the process. What we have now appears to be yet another story about the aftermath of the apocalypse. Our characters will survive—well, not all of them I hope—and become their own ragtag group of survivors gradually hardening to a hard world, only this time in the heat of southern California rather than the heat of Georgia.

Believe in Yourself
Because the rest of us think you're an idiot.


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