What a turn of events.
Much like a lot of people, I was highly intrigued at Fear The Walking Dead’s premise and gave it more than a fair shot. It didn’t take long to become clear that Fear The Walking Dead wasn’t actually going to be about the beginning of the apocalypse and it was really just an attempt by AMC to air two versions of The Walking Dead per year. The first season wasn’t great but it was enough to warrant giving the show a look in season two but from there, it’s like I’ve watched two completely different shows.
The first half of Fear The Walking Dead’s second season was arguably the single worst show I’ve ever watched in my entire life. Every episode was terrible, the writing was mediocre, the pacing was horrendous, mediocre storylines and character arcs were repeatedly shoehorned in and none of the characters were even remotely compelling. Every episode was genuinely awful and it was frustrating to get through. I forced myself to last until the midseason finale but I distinctly remember multiple episodes where I was ready to just straight up stop because the show was so bad. I mean, Nick randomly deciding that the zombies aren’t actually dead and leaving his family was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen in a show. This all culminated in what was an abysmal midseason finale and I stopped watching the show.
Fast forward to a couple weeks ago and I’ve heard quite a bit about how Fear The Walking Dead’s third season has been off to a pretty good start. It wasn’t a lot to catch up on so I pulled up a chair, sat down and caught myself up. Quite frankly, I’m stunned. It was like the production team for this show finished the midseason finale and said, “Well this show kind of sucks, let’s make it good.”
The midseason premiere to open the second half of season two was weak but the show has actually been pretty decent since then. Pretty much all of the issues that plagued the first half of the season were gone. I’m not saying it’s the greatest show I’ve ever seen, but it was more than good enough to continue watching. And it hasn’t slowed down in season three. I still don’t really know how strong many of the characters are but they aren’t turning me off of the show like they did in the first half of season two. Honestly, Fear The Walking Dead is in a really good place right now and I actually kind of think it’s better than The Walking Dead at this point.
Fear The Walking Dead had a massive opportunity this year. The seventh season of The Walking Dead was absolutely abysmal. Everyone I know that watches the show has either completely lost interest or straight up stopped watching. The only reason I’m still watching it is because they’re coming up on the best arc in the comics and I want to see how they ruin it before I quit the show. All Out War, in my opinion, is a natural conclusion for the series and that’s where I’m stopping. But in the mean time, I’m watching a terrible zombie show and there’s one right here that can assume its place.
Outside of season length (ten episodes > sixteen episodes), my biggest issue with The Walking Dead is that it refuses to tell multiple storylines at the same time. Instead of packing multiple storylines and character arcs into one solid episode, it’s separated into two very weak episodes and it completely destroys the pace and development of the show. Telling something in sixteen episodes that you should be able to tell in ten episodes is bad. Fear The Walking Dead doesn’t do that and it automatically makes the show better than it would be if it did. You just can’t tell a compelling story through bottle episodes and plodding storytelling (do we really need an entire episode for Tara to meet a new group that has guns?). In Fear The Walking Dead, the group is split but we never go multiple episodes without knowing what’s going on with one part of the group.
When you look at both of these shows, everything pretty much looks, feels and sounds the same. But one of the biggest criticisms of Fear The Walking Dead is that its characters aren’t great compared to the characters we love in The Walking Dead. Now putting my Alycia Debnam-Carey bias aside here, that’s obviously true. We love characters like Rick and Glenn but it’s hard to really care what happens to characters like Madison and Strand. The source material is one thousand percent the reason for this. Fear The Walking Dead feels shallow because it doesn’t have an already good foundation to build off of but it’s also not tied down and it can freely do whatever it wants. The Walking Dead has a foundation to build on in its comic series but it has no clue how to put it together into a compelling season of television anymore. The source material is really giving both shows strengths and weaknesses, at this point.
At the end of the day, neither show is particularly great. The Walking Dead is still raking in viewers for the time being but I think there’s a very real possibility that it’s about to go completely off the rails. Fear The Walking Dead won’t get you out of your seat, but it’s been a worthwhile show to watch. The Walking Dead feels like a grind to get through while I actually look forward to Fear The Walking Dead now. There’s a reason that Fear The Walking Dead’s ratings are on the rise; it’s halfway decent. If you can get through the first half of season two, it’s not a bad watch. I just don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Fear The Walking Dead is surpassing The Walking Dead right now and I never in a million years thought I would say that.