AMC has struck ratings gold with The Walking Dead. It’s tremendously popular, popular enough for a popular post-episode gush-fest talk show. And, starting Sunday, popular enough for a spinoff: Fear the Walking Dead debuts on August 23, and it’s set in Los Angeles, right as zombies are starting to appear. The series focuses on a central family of mom, stepdad, son, and daughter. We know the zombies are coming, and things are gonna get real, real bad; they, however, do not, because in keeping with all zombie literature, no one has ever heard of zombies. (Unlike, say, vampire literature, where people generally have heard of vampires.)
FTWD is its own show, and while you don’t at all need to have watched The Walking Dead to follow along, the shows share similar appeal; it’s hard to picture being hugely interested in one and not the other. But FTWD has five whole seasons of The Walking Dead to look at — and, most important, learn from. What should Fear the Walking Dead fear about The Walking Dead? Oh, a lot.
The walkers may be undead, but emotions are still alive!
The characters on TWD have endured unbelievable hardship, and it’s made them all pretty wooden and unemotional; they have to protect themselves, and signs of weakness can get them killed. FTWD does not have this problem. Let the feelings flow like everyone is sitting on Oprah’s couch; give us the full confusion and horror one might experience during what seems like a plague. Maybe even more important, show us the joy and creativity people still experience and seek out, even during the dawn of the zombie apocalypse. That’s what separates us from them!
Let someone — anyone! — have a good idea at some point.
We know no one is going to solve the zombie crisis. But that makes it even more important that the proposed solutions seem viable, since all the tension will be in how the ideas fail, not whether they will. In the Ricktatorship, every idea is a garbage idea, but in East L.A., who knows.
Don’t have Carl.
Probably the most important lesson TWD can impart is that the existence of Carl is terrible and should be avoided at all costs. Emerging Teen Carl is less bad than Wandering Child Carl, but still.
Do not skimp on the gross zombie-slaughtering.
This could also be called “dance with the one that brung you.” TWD could be an hour of barn-raising and making apple butter as long as there was some zombie-killing. And it’s not strictly a volume game: That one little-girl zombie is much more memorable than the dozens of walkers who tried to, say, raid the prison. Bonus points for additional significance of who the frothing beast was; additional bonus points for unconventional weaponry. We can all shoot a gun, but can we all weaponize a spatula?
Humor is allowed.
One of the ongoing frustrations on TWD is how monotonous it can be. The characters develop in the exact ways you’d expect, and the dialogue is frequently tedious. That’s why Carol, Michonne, and Glen stand out so much: They’re capable of at least occasional glimpses of humor and brightness, even among the bleak circumstances. FTWD is obviously not going to be a laugh riot, but a little more texture than its predecessor would be nice.