When AMC started making the Walking Dead spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, the new series was set up to be a little different. The draw was to see the epidemic from the very beginning: how would a modern suburban – and dysfunctional – family deal with the world transforming around them, and how would they adapt and possibly survive the new “normal?” It was a great premise, and proved to be entertaining even when it had some trouble finding its footing on occasion.
Season 2 Fear the Walking Dead has a shift in pace and tone. It starts to cut out what the producers and writers of the series felt didn’t quite work, while also fixing some of the perceived shortcomings of the show. This becomes more apparent in the second half as the characters wind up in Mexico. Audiences are given the chance to get to know the characters a bit better and meet some new ones as well, and the viewer quickly sees how people are often more of a danger than the actual zombies in this modern-day apocalypse.
In some ways, Fear the Walking Dead begins to resemble The Walking Dead more by the end of Season 2. For fans who were so frustrated with Season 7 of the latter show, given how it started and progressed, Fear the Walking Dead was a more satisfying and consistent experience, and a lot of that has to do with how the characters have grown and developed in the new series. Whereas Rick was clearly identified as the main character in The Walking Dead, viewers may be hard-pressed to pinpoint a singular protagonist in Fear the Walking Dead. Thankfully, the story has progressed to the point where three characters have become integral to the continuation of the story, and while there are other important characters with major roles to play, Madison Clark, Nick Clark, and Victor Strand have the best odds of surviving.
Madison, a former guidance counselor, is an intelligent, caring, and at times pragmatic character. She is the mother of Nick and Alicia, and is in a relationship with Travis Manawa, who has a son named Chris. She is fiercely protective of her family, and a driving force for the series. Her son Nick has a troubled past, and is introduced as an addict, as well as the type of person who makes bad choices. However, in this new world, circumstances have given him the ability to thrive. Aside from being able to look after himself, he also shows the ability to care and be empathetic to others.
Victor Strand is introduced late in the first season, and his past remains a mystery until the veil is lifted in Season 2. Strand is shown to be a very interesting and complex character, one with ambition. He can be ruthless, unsympathetic, and very much a businessman in his dealings. As the story goes on, one begins to understand his motivations more, and with the way the character is portrayed it’s hard not to appreciate him. The nature of this Victor runs very much counter to the way that Travis is portrayed.
These three characters naturally play off other significant characters, with Travis, Alicia, and Chris creating the greatest impact. While Travis is important, he represents a more human face in these changing times. Both Travis and Alicia are not nearly as well-equipped to handle what is going on around them. They serve a reminder of the world that they all used to know, and ultimately end up having to make choices or take actions that diminish certainties that they once had. Chris, on the other hand, ends up becoming symbolic of humanity gone wrong. He embraces the radical and chaotic in a land that has become lawless, bloody, and violent. The story arc involving Chris comes to an end in second season, and it allows for the story to take a dramatic shift.
In many ways, Season 2 is a crucible of sorts for the group. They have been split up, forced to confront their inner demons and adapt. However, as soon as the group is split, there is momentum ensuring that they could and would somehow come back together. The family, plus Strand and others along the way, continue to define their roles with each other as well as in the new world around them. They escape L.A, sailing South, eventually landing in Mexico before ultimately deciding to go back North. The end of Season 2 is well done in the sense that Fear the Walking Dead works out a lot of the issues that had plagued the series from the beginning. While it is only natural to make comparisons between spinoff and original, FTWD is now strong enough to stand on its own merits. It also means that the series can be less encumbered, able to tell more compelling stories in the zombie-filled world.
AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead certainly has a better pace this season than what we’ve previously experienced.
The start of Season 3 picks up almost right where Season 2 left off. Nick and his group have made it to the US-Mexico border, and find themselves under fire by a group of militants. Madison, her daughter Alicia, and Travis are still trying to track Nick down, but seem to be on the right path. Despite Madison and company being in the hands of the militants, it doesn’t take long before viewers realize that a family reunion of sorts is close at hand.
Like all things in this new reality, what appears to be too good to be true often is. The militants split up the family so that they can be processed. Troy meets them and takes an interest in both Madison and Alicia, and while at first he is charismatic, appearing more than willing to help, viewers quickly see a much more disturbing side of this new character as they witness how people like Travis, Nick, and others are being handled.
Fortunes can turn on a dime though, and it isn’t long before the protagonists in Fear the Walking Dead gain the upper hand. In a tense situation, they meet Troy’s brother Jake who quickly becomes an ally and helps defuse things between Madison, Troy, and the rest of the militants. Viewers quickly gain the sense of how much more sympathetic he is compared to his brother, but before long, in a world increasingly populated by zombies, they are all forced to move on and venture towards where the militants are based. It is there at a ranch that they meet the father of the two boys – as it turns out, the new group is a band of ‘preppers’ who were focused on getting ready for the end of the world.
The father, Jeremiah, and the two boys seem to have their share of problems and issues, many of which are largely hinted at in the first few episodes of Season 3. They should serve as an interesting contrast between Madison and her family, a group that has already been hardened by the trials they have experienced up to this point. While it is unclear how long they will be all staying at the ranch, there is already a large level of distrust between the them and the survivalists. Depending on how things progress, these two families could end up being unlikely allies, or people facing off on opposite sides. Everybody has their own motivations and agendas.
AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead certainly has a better pace this season than what we’ve previously experienced. It starts out with plenty of action, and the characters are better prepared to meet challenges head-on. Ultimately, how they act as a family now will guide how others will react against them. Viewers will be greeted with more than a few surprises as they sit down to watch Season 3, and many will likely be satisfied with the direction the show seems to be taking. Fear the Walking Dead will remain familiar for fans, but it still offers a different and varied story experience than that of Rick and his crew. In the end, that isn’t at all bad now, is it?
*images credit AMC