Fear the Walking Dead is set to be AMC’s next big flagship show that will cement the network as a serious contender to HBO for quality TV programming. Thanks to the original Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, AMC is already often mentioned in the same breath as the cable network and good for them. Both Breaking and Walking did really well, and maybe Fear will keep that ball rolling. But, since this is a spinoff, they need to learn lessons from the source material. Walking Dead may be well liked, but it is flawed. If AMC wants to rise above, this is what audience need.
This seems self evident in a show about the Walking Dead, but tell that to AMC’s The Walking Dead, now heading into season 6 and basically turning zombies into the film equivalent of a dash of pepper. They add spice here and there but are entirely mundane. There is no sense of fear any more except in the rare instances when the show offers up a massive horde of zombies and the characters seem stuck with no way out. And even then, it’s been established so many times that one person with a steak knife can stab so many dozens of zombies in the brain and get away unscathed it’s barely tense at all.
It’s been often said the Walking Dead isn’t a show about zombies, it’s about the humans in that situation. No. No it’s not. Do you know what is a show about people? Grey’s Anatomy. The Beverly Hillbillies. Matlock. Pick one. Pick a dozen. None of them ever had a zombie and no one ever expected those shows to be about zombies and that was an agreement between show and audience and it was fine. Walking Dead, and now its spinoff, both have “walking dead” right in the title so you better make that goddamn show about zombies. Don’t pull this crap that it’s about humans. It’s about zombies. If it was about the human survivors, everyone would expect a hell of a lot better and more believable writing. Looking at you, Rick’s terrible and thankfully dead wife. But that does lead us to the next point…
Understand Human Nature
For 5 seasons now the Walking Dead has absolutely had no idea what humankind is like. It’s stunning. You and I probably both know nothing about how we’d react in a zombie apocalypse, but we don’t need to. What we need to do is look at literally any massive disaster in the history of mankind. Any situation even remotely on the same scale as what happens in Walking Dead be it a massive disease outbreak or war. What do the survivors do? They do not do anything that anyone in Walking Dead does.
In the face of disaster, humankind immediately, and you can see this literally everywhere on earth throughout the entire history of mankind, so it’s super easy to research, we immediately rebuild. It always happens. Unless a society is completely destroyed, they rebuild. They elect leaders, they provide the basics of life such as food, water, shelter and in the case of zombies, basic defense, which we noted in the last entry is as simple as a steak knife to the face. The zombies are not so terrible a scourge as to continually force mankind down to some bestial, nomadic state. That doesn’t make sense.
Humans band together and help each other a lot more than they kill each other. You kill each other once you’ve built separate societies. Again, you can see that in history. Once you’re secure, once you have your teachers, your breadmakers, you shoe makers, your fishermen and all that, then you look down the river at the other guy and wonder if you’re safe or not. But by and large, we’re smart enough to know that if in our group we have no one who can fish and we meet a man with a fishing pole, we don’t kill him. We invite him in. He’s valuable. Instead, the Walking Dead presents nearly every single group of strangers as sadistic madmen with few exceptions. How anyone that the show hasn’t been following survived the last several years is inexplicable.
The Walking Dead insists, every season, regularly, that tyrannical rule is the only functional choice for mankind in a sticky situation, which is probably the most cynical thing you’ll ever hear in your life. The American dream can’t exist in the Walking Dead universe because everyone there is kind of an asshole. But that’s really not human nature. That’s aberrant human nature. They need to cut that out in fear the Walking Dead. And they also need to…
This basically ties both of the last two points together. The Walking Dead craps on reality all the time. The new show needs to get back to that sense of absolute dread that would have to exist in the world, in everyone, when they’re confronted with actual corpses walking around. And then, once that dread is present, try to make the hungry, virtually undestroyable corpse an actual threat.
If small, malnourished children and the elderly are able to use sharp sticks and garden tools to dispatch zombies then you may as well not make a show about zombies at all because who cares? The zombies in the Walking Dead are not a realistic threat to anyone anymore. They need to be in Fear the Walking Dead. Especially now since the show is telling you to be afraid of them. Give us a real reason to fear them. Make them the realistic threat they should be.
Not everyone who picks up a gun is a sharpshooter after their third shot. It’s much easier to make that happen in TV and movies, but realistically, with limited ammo, how much time could anyone realistically spend learning to shoot the brain? And stabbing the brain of an attacker, how easy is that? If a full sized man, unbound by fear of self-preservation because he’s dead, attacks you with the goal of biting you, any part of you, could you win that fight with a knife before he bites you? Really?
The characters and the zombies need to work in a real way. They need to think, or not think as the case may be, in a way audiences will not mock mercilessly on Twitter after the show is ever and critics won’t roll their eyes at week after week. Ball’s in your court, AMC. Make it happen. Fear the Walking Dead premiers August 23rd.