Genre: Drama, Horror, Thriller
Cast: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Colman Domingo
In its first season, ask Fear the Walking Dead faced a difficult task The prequel series to The Walking Dead began when the virus — that turned human beings into walkers (read: zombies) — was just starting to spread. Because of that, case the drama’s first episodes started out slowly but the show has really come alive recently and the Fear the Walking Dead season 2 is turning out to be a vast improvement over the original season.
At the end of season one, stuff the main characters took refuge in a boat captained by the enigmatic Victor Strand (Colman Domingo). Surrounded by walkers, the characters didn’t know where they were going. They just knew they weren’t safe on land. Much of season two’s first half has taken place on the boat and the survivors have seen dozens of people who are stranded at sea.
In an interesting way, such scenes have set this show apart. On The Walking Dead, finding survivors is oftentimes a rare occurrence. On this show, it’s more routine and the situation has set up an interesting dichotomy. Strand, the owner of the boat, wants to reject anyone screaming for help. The show’s main protagonist Madison (a commanding Kim Dickens) wants to help alongside the noble Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis), her handyman fiancée.
Not yet as desperate as the characters on The Walking Dead have become, many of these characters don’t yet realize how dangerous the world around them has become.
The other characters on the boat include members of both Madison and Travis’ families. Lorenzo James Henrie stars as Chris, Travis’ rebellious and possibly disturbed son who is mourning the death of his mother. Frank Dillane and Alycia Debnam-Carey play Madison’s two children, Nick and Alicia. Also on the boat are the tough-minded Daniel (Rubén Blades) and his kind-hearted daughter Ophelia (Mercedes Mason). Many of these characters suffered tremendous losses in the first season and are now forced to rely on people —strangers many of them — to stay alive.
The show’s creators Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman have really kept the scope of this season smaller, much to their credit. By keeping the characters on the boat for so long, a sense of paranoia and ennui has set in and created conflicts that aren’t related to the zombie apocalypse. An added level of depth here comes from the fact that before we saw these characters before the outbreak. We saw them as flawed individuals living in the LA area and dealing with their own issues.
Dillane, who is a real standout here, is a prime example of that. Before the outbreak, his character was using drugs and wasting his life. Put into this dangerous situation, his potential is becoming fully realized (several characters have approached his mother telling her how “special” he is). The first season has really grounded his character and allowed him to grow exponentially here.
Travis, on the other hand, was an angry teenager even before his mother was killed in the season one finale. He’s grown in the second season but into someone who is more damaged and vengeful than he ever was before. His anger in the first season has metastasized into something much darker.
When it launched, Fear the Walking Dead didn’t really have to introduce viewers into this crazy world. Viewers were already aware of the situation because of The Walking Dead. This spinoff just had to build its own environment and embrace new characters and a new overall vision.
While the first season faced some tough growing pains, the second season has embraced this tragic new normalcy and in doing so, has found its footing.
Review by: John Hanlon