The Walking Dead is one of TV’s most popular shows; even if you’ve never seen it, it’s likely you know at least one person who loves Daryl. There’s something about a zombie apocalypse that has millions of viewers coming back every week, but if Halloween shows us anything, it’s that sometimes people love to be scared. The Walking Dead (TWD) certainly delivers on this, such as in season five, when we saw a man being eaten in a revolving door. Finally, our fears were confirmed: revolving doors really are evil.
The show’s popularity has led to one of American television’s favourite things: a spin off. Fear The Walking Dead (FTWD), the most creative title ever to hit the small screen, began 23rd August. Set in LA, the opposite side of the country and with fewer annoying accents as TWD’s Georgia, FTWD is the beginner’s guide to the zombie apocalypse.
The new show follows Nick, a drug addicted teen, and his family: his sister Alicia, his step-father Travis, and his mother Madison, who makes some of the worst decisions you will ever witness. This show is not for the gore-loving viewer of the original show. This show is for those who care about whether or not Nick will get clean, whether Travis and Madison will make it in this crazy world, whether Alicia will get to college and live her ambiguous dream. There aren’t walkers around every corner in FTWD. Yet.
TWD is clearly a show about the aftermath of a horrific zombie, or “walker”, apocalypse. The whole of the US is infected, civilisation has fallen, people are killing for food, etcetera. But its prequel is the beginning, showing the population’s disbelief at a virus which makes people come back from the dead. In this way the show lends itself to heaps of dramatic irony: “this will all blow over”, “it’s not like it’s the apocalypse”, and other such exclamations. TWD cannot wink to the audience in this way after it’s killed most of its original cast.
One of the great things about TWD is its reality. Take Daryl’s brother Merle for one, a horrible racist who sided with the bad guys from day one. These people exist; just because it’s the apocalypse, doesn’t mean everyone is going to love each other. TWD shows not just fighting between humans and zombies, but humans with humans, and the terrible lengths we will go for survival. We’ve seen cannibalism, sacrifice, and worse, as society breaks down. This pessimistic perspective is also present in the spin-off. While considerably less violent, FTWD is full of twists and surprises that will make you fairly embarrassed to be a human being.
So far, FTWD includes no references to TWD, and as of yet, it doesn’t even give us any clues to how the whole crisis began, and may end up being a Eugene-esque cop out. What it does show is a family trying to survive when people are eating each other and rioting outside their door. There is romance and heartbreak and sibling bonding, meaning the show feels like a family drama -with zombies. For TWD fans, it’s an interesting look into the origins of the virus, and another zombie fix. For new viewers, it’s a straightforward plot with plenty of conspiracy and no prior knowledge required.
Now the first season of FTWD has finished, the sixth season of TWD has just begun.
This premiere has been highly anticipated due to the shock ending of season five; no spoilers, but there was a big sword involved. We saw Rick starting to become hostile towards those around him, and honestly quite scary, something the show hasn’t really gone into since he literally bit someone’s throat out a few seasons ago. Morgan’s question of “Rick?” in the finale upon seeing him kill while drenched in blood, as well as Rick’s “do you have any idea who you’re talking to?” in the season six trailer, bring in questions about Rick’s changing identity.
Has he become unrecognisable, or finally crossed a moral line he cannot come back from? Perhaps Rick will now replace the Walkers as the real threat to the group. This season has the potential to be scarier than any other; two groups of our favourite characters, both wanting what’s right, fighting for nothing more than safety and using the walker-plagued terrain to do it in.
So who is the real enemy in this world – the walking dead? Or ourselves? A scary thought – just in time for Halloween.