Does popularity really mean something is good? The Walking Dead audience could organise into a world conquering army in a matter of days and colonise the planet before Hallowe’en but despite its mass popularity – it often has periods of genuine good drama mixed in with some attempt at being clever with character-led exploration pieces. It’s had an even balance of success when it’s tried to be Mad Men with brain eating, with season four’s aft end having some really strong character-building episodes that showed the series was strong enough to delve into some strong themes. But this clashes with its attempts to try and fit in the odd action sequence and zombie set-piece. The blood-thirsty audience hoping that someone dies means that new characters don’t get fleshed out and longer lasting characters feel more and more invincible.
It’s also had periods of the pace chugging along like a snail. Again, the second half of season four covered something the show’s managed to do in the space of one episode in the past, yet the viewers came back. It thus confuses me why the pacing would be an issue for some people in Fear The Walking Dead; as it’s main focus on the slow decline of society was intriguing as the world descending into zombie-apocalypse in West Coast sun and yellow colour filters was a nice change from seasoned zombie hunters and the odd moral crisis. The containment of the populace in quarantined areas was logical in a “the military are idiots when zombies attack” line of thinking; as is the realisation that the world has changed. In fact, whilst this potential the show has is great; the execution of the concept falls.
The biggest crux of it all was how the show handles the conclusion of it’s first “phase”. The season finale finally brings zombie rush people were waiting for, character tensions at a head…and it falters. The characters fighting off zombies on a massive scale for the first time should’ve been exciting – yet instead they scramble around in what appears to be some dodgy editing. It’s hard to see what’s going on, it doesn’t feel tense at all and whilst it was inevitable that the characters would have to cope with stuff like this, it just doesn’t feel right.
The scene does lead into the climax of the season, which deals with closing the Madison/Travis/Liza triangle. It’s at this point you realise the show hasn’t really delved much into the relationship between them bar snide comments and conversation in which Liza tells Madison to kill her if she turns. It falls to Travis to save Liza from turning – but there’s just something that doesn’t feel right. It feels half finished.
Whilst I’m hesitant to keep referring back to the older brother, TWD at least dealt with Shane at the end of season two, allowing for longer periods of development in the break down of his friendship with Rick. I can’t help but feel as if the extended family nature of the ensemble that was set-up has been squashed away here for zombie angst-porn. Liza’s fate was inevitable (and indeed it would probably be possible that Elizabeth Rodriguez was due back on the set of Orange is The New Black) since the family unit would be the “big five” of Madison, Travis, Chris, Nick and Alicia, but there’s the lingering doubt of “was that it?” by the time the event happens. It didn’t feel earned, it felt a little cheap.
Do I believe Fear The Walking Dead gets a little bit of stick for not having massive action beats involving zombies? I do. Mainly because on the evidence shown by the finale the show doesn’t do it very well. A second season of fifteen episodes bodes well in terms of AMC’s confidence in it, but as the characters drive off out of Los Angeles, the question remains: what’s stopping it from morphing into a clone of the original show but just in a different city? Perhaps the show needs to delve and find it’s own identity of what exactly it wants to achieve differently from what we already have. Season two will be the real test here. Only time will tell…
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