Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The West Coast Zombie Apocalypse, or Thoughts on Fear The Walking Dead, Season One

First Seasons on AMC are always short, 6-episodes proof of concepts or market tests, which I find disrespectful from both an audience and a writer perspective.  It always appears as if the studio doesn't have enough confidence in the show to find an audience, and even less faith in the viewers actually enjoying it.  That’s no way to run a business.  But that’s how it is and even Breaking Bad started with a 6-episode run.
The inherent problem is you can’t tell much of a story in six episodes; you’re pretty much limited to introducing characters, setting up conflicts and preparing for the next season, which should be considered a proper Season One.  It’s best to consider these AMC First Seasons as a miniseries or an extra long TV movie where you have to wait a year to see what happens next.
Fortunately the wait is over for Season Two of Fear The Walking Dead.  I’ve made my opinion known on The Walking Dead, time and time again, and yet I still keep watching this franchise.  Why?  For you guys, of course.  This blog needs readers and views and the Internet is coco for zombie-puffs.  And why lie, I love zombies, what’s not to love?  It's the humans I have problems with.
Much has been written of the slow start of Season One, how long it takes to ramp up and get to the good parts, AKA The Zombie Apocalypse.  But upon second viewing, what the audience doesn’t realize is that this is the good parts, it will all go downhill from here.  While this series is a spin-off it should be viewed as a completely different show with new expectations.  This is the West Coast zombie apocalypse, it’s filmed in LA and the landscape and the people that inhabit it will inspire a different narrative than the East Coast.
The riot and LAPD protest is grounded in our present-day reality and the zombies mixed in with looters was a brilliant conceit.  Here’s a crowd of humans creating chaos in the city with a zombie minority, once the walkers take over that ratio will shift dramatically, but the chaos will if anything, increase.
There are hints on the Internet, conspiracy theories and an inherent trust of “the authorities” by the main characters, but the main theme of this franchise has always been how fast civilization falls apart and the tenuous threads that keep us following the rules and coloring within the lines.  There are strong leads with Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Ruben Blades Barber with a dark past, and Colman Domingo (what a cool name) with an even darker past.  We see each character disbelieving the evidence in front of their eyes and coming to grips with the new reality in their own way.  The speed, or reluctance in which they accept the new paradigm becomes a hallmark for audience frustration and likeability.

Nick, played with a sketchy junkie charisma by Frank Dillane, who you may remember as Tom Riddle, continues the Walking Dead’s tradition of casting Brits as Americans (Andrew Lincoln was born in London and starred in Love Actually 2003).  He sees the first zombie, and of course nobody believes him.  His heroin addiction can be seen as a metaphor for why we keep watching this franchise.  We know it’s no good for us and it brings us no joy, and yet we keep tuning in, hoping for something different.  Or maybe not different, maybe just more.  That’s also junkie behavior.  We’re addicted to zombies and misery, and AMC is happy to keep that train going until we jump off.