“Fear The Walking Dead” is to “The Walking Dead” what “Law & Order: SVU” is to “Law & Order.” It’s another series in the same universe but with its own scenarios and characters. It’s unfortunately taken three years to find its footing, despite its very good ratings. It packed with it a great cast of Cliff Curtis, Kim Dickens, Ruben Blades, as well as a ton of diverse side characters, but still never quite took off as a strong tale about the apocalypse. Now with its soft reboot and a new cast the series is better than ever, in spite of the audience kind of dropping it by the wayside. Regardless, season four was a huge step up for “Fear the Walking Dead” and I hope season five continues down this path with an even better, stronger villain.
5. The Family Drama is Gone—for the Most Part
The big angle in the first three seasons was that we were going to watch how a mixed family that mostly resented one another would get along in the zombie apocalypse. We were supposed to see how this dad and his son would mix with his new wife and her two teen kids, one of whom was an intense drug abuser. And then… well, it all went nowhere; especially with the baffling decision to split up all of the characters the middle of season two. I mean… the point was watching them work together and they barely shared screen time. In either case, the disassembly of the family was a relief.
4. It Ended the Pretense of Being a Parallel Tale/Prequel
“Fear” was originally sold to us as a parallel tale/pseudo-prequel where we not only saw how an urban setting would collapse, but how society collapsed in the face of the zombie apocalypse. Then that angle was dropped during season two when they pretty much did nothing but trot out allegories about immigration, and class warfare, never quite sticking to the premise. Now that the writers have fast forwarded the timeline, making the “Fear” group’s tale travel alongside the Grimes storyline, it’s so much better.
3. Cutting Out the Dead Weight
Pretty much all the dead weight was completely chopped off in the end of season three. All of the unlikable side characters, and boring locales, and unnecessary conflicts were all tossed away. Not only did “Fear” reset itself, but the characters of Madison, Alicia, and Nick also kind of reset. They also got rid of the Salazars who the writers never figured out what to do with, anyway. Ruben Blades’ depiction of Daniel Salazar was great, but Morgan fills the psychotic quotient fine. Also all the build up of Nick learning to use the dead’s guts to camouflage himself literally amounted to absolutely zip. Especially now that Frank Dillane asked to be let go from the show, and his character was killed off mid-season.
2. Morgan Jones
Morgan is one of the bigger successes of the “Walking Dead” TV series. Where in the comics he was a crucial plot point for Rick Grimes, who later became a side character who kind of just died and faded from memory, Lennie James injected such humanity in to him, it was tough to not want more Morgan. On “The Walking Dead” he had a wonderful storyline about a man who lost everything, and tried to keep his humanity in the face of sheer savagery. On “Fear” he’s a man thrust in to Rick’s position as a leader. He’s a samurai who found his clan, and he now has something to keep him fighting and living.
1. It has a Focus, now
The first three seasons have so much meandering and loose plot threads, it becomes very distracting almost immediately. First it’s an urban tale about inner city rotting, then it’s a sea bound apocalypse tale, then it’s set on a beach home, then a Mexican ranch, then a pirate ship, then it explores themes about immigration, then there’s a war for water, and then a big long boring battle between ranchers and Native Americans. Granted the episodes of Alicia strugglng to stay alive in the bunker with lack of oxygen were excellent. The new “Fear” stripped all that away and now has one beam like focus with a clear cut journey, characters we can root for (save for Madison and Nick, both of whom I will sorely miss), and the inevitability of crossing over in to “The Walking Dead.” It’s been a great, albeit imperfect, season and the show feels fresh. I hope the series can continue carving out its own niche in this universe.
I also still want to know what happened to Tobias from season one.