May 032016
Photo Credit: Richard Foreman/AMC

Photo Credit: Richard Foreman/AMC

If you are a Walking Dead fan, Fear the Walking Dead has mostly been the ugly step-sister.  A number of problems have made the show less than thrilling, and probably only the immense popularity of its parent show have kept it on the air. (It’s been renewed for a third season.) However, it’s finally getting its sea legs (ha!) and has become worth watching. Fear the Walking Dead still has problems, but it’s also gotten pretty interesting, and definitely much more exciting.

Professor Spouse really enjoys the show, and doesn’t want me to be so negative about it, but I don’t know how to sell you on the improvements if I don’t start with what’s been wrong.

As you may recall, I quite liked the series premiere. A few things happened, though. First, the pacing was slow. What finally clinched it for me was when I missed an episode due to business travel, and Professor Spouse told me I didn’t have to catch up—just watch the next episode. Nothing much happened. At the same time that nothing much was happening, the collapse of the world happened so fast, and so much in the background, that the interesting promise of a prequel—that we’d see a bit-by-bit incursion of “the infected”—was never realized. Second, we spent a lot of time with not one, but two mopey teenagers. It’s my impression that mopey teens are the weak spot in many, many shows (see: Homeland), yet writers keep giving them to us, and Fear the Walking Dead gives us two.

Finally, the main characters, Maddy/Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) are simply not people that anyone will ever root for. Ever.

So what’s right about the show? Because I’ve painted a pretty bleak picture. Well, the last two episodes of season 1 introduced Victor Strand (Colman Domingo–that’s him in the picture above), and he’s charismatic in spades, interesting, and kind of scary. As season 2 has progressed, Maddy and Travis have shown themselves to be capable of being real pricks, but they act like they’re so morally upstanding and they agonize over the prickitude, so basically it’s not fun. But Strand is an unapologetic, happy-go-lucky, don’t-fuck-with-me prick, and he’s pretty great. Daniel (Ruben Blades) is also an interesting character. Nick (Frank Dillane), who started as the series’ best character, was useless for a while but is great again. What works is when these people toughen up and understand the world they’re in. What doesn’t work is when they whine and whimper and yet manage to survive anyway. What’s terrible is when they toughen up and then complain about how wrong it is to toughen up.

What’s very right at the moment is that the characters are figuring out how to survive, and watching people getting smart is great. The visuals are strong, and new characters are being introduced. The pacing has picked up. I recommend checking an episode out—on the DVR, I guess, because Game of Thrones is much more likely to be spoiled on social media by Monday morning.


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