Fear the Walking Dead Season 4

(warning, extremely long post ahead)

Okay, I know plenty of you have checked out of The Walking Dead "franchise" entirely (and with very good reason), and won't want to hear what I'm about to say, but I'm going to do my best to pitch this to you: Fear the Walking Dead is a good show.

It was a good show last year, too (although definitely not without its flaws), finally coming into its own after two middling-at-best seasons that made the show feel like nothing more than the blatant cash grab that it was. Still, there was a lot to be worried about coming into season 4. Primarily, the departure (sacking?) of showrunner Dave Erickson, and his replacement with two guys best known for writing for Once Upon a Time, not to mention the looming spectre of newly-promoted "Chief Content Officer" (whatever the fuck that means) Scott Gimple hanging over the whole thing. It was entirely possible that Fear would lose the things that set it apart from the original show and become plagued by the same old problems, and seeing a Gimple co-writing credit on this episode before it aired was not a promising sign.

Granted, all of that could still happen in the future (and it's why this pitch isn't aimed at Jim and A.Ron; they've been through enough bullshit with The Walking Dead, and now they're free - I don't think the commentators here telling them to cover Fear quite realize what they're asking of them). But at least based on this first episode, it's laughable how good this show is compared to the original - seeing them back-to-back like this only makes the difference between the two even more stark. The direction is better, the writing is better, the editing is better, the acting is better, the staging of action scenes is better. Morgan finally works as a character again, sliding nicely into the "guy with a troubled past who just wants to be left alone" role, and letting Lennie James remind you that he's actually a great actor when he's given decent material. Garret Dillahunt (who's as great as you'd expect him to be) and Maggie Grace (who I never liked on Lost, but does good work here) play new characters who are outlandish, but never feel forced, and have enough personality to make their quirkier traits work.

But the episode saves its best (and potentially riskiest) move for the end. Devoting the entire premiere to Morgan and the new characters initially just seemed like a way to make the transition between shows smoother, and to ease in Walking Dead fans who haven't watched this show in years (or at all) by not front-loading the season with characters and plotlines that require prior knowledge of the show. But then Morgan, John and Althea are ambushed by most of the original main cast of Fear the Walking Dead, and everything falls into place: by spending an entire episode framing these three as the protagonists, it allows for the re-emergence of the Clarks (plus Strand and Luciana) to naturally play as the appearance of villains, without feeling forced. Erickson even talked in interviews after he left about how his overall plan for the show was to gradually turn Madison into the villain - there was plenty of groundwork laid for it in season 3, and it looks like the new showrunners haven't abandoned that idea. The concept that the original protagonists of the show have, over the course of the two-year time jump, become the bad guys is a bold, fascinating move for the show, and miles better than the endless "if we kill them, we're as bad as them" hand-wringing and zig-zagging that we've endured for eight seasons on The Walking Dead. I hope that the writers have the guts to fully commit to and follow through with this idea, as there's some great storytelling potential there.

It doesn't all work - the bit at the start where Jesus, Carol and Rick successively visit Morgan in the garbage people's old hideout is especially clunky, and is probably where that Gimple co-writing credit came from - but overall, this was a fantastic premiere, far, far better than anything The Walking Dead has turned out in years, and if you're looking for a good zombie show and wrote off Fear in the past, I highly recommend giving it another shot - this new season is a quasi-reboot, so you can jump in here without too many worries. There's still plenty that could go wrong here in the future, but right now, Fear the Walking Dead is a good show.

Comments

  • lengmolengmo RTP, NC
    I'm reserving judgement but so far I'm a little concerned how cartoonish the new characters are compared to the old.  The new ones each have a signature weapon and some giant quirks.  And a SWAT armored truck with trick machine guns is the most ridiculous thing to appear on FTWD ever.

    Whereas on FTWD seasons 1-3, the leads' personalities are their defining traits.  None of them have signature equipment because stuff gets used up, taken away, or left behind as it would in any other prolonged disaster.
  • edited April 17
    @lengmo That's a fair concern to have, although I'd argue that Strand's introduction back in season 1 was at least as quirky as these two. Personally, I don't mind quirks in this kind of show if the writing and the acting combine to make the characters feel lived-in and vaguely plausible, which I think it does here, especially in Dillahunt's case. Like I said above, still a lot that could go wrong in the future and this is only one episode to go off, so we'll see how it pans out over the rest of the season.
  • HatorianHatorian Dagobah
    I watched it cuz it was tied to the finale for TWD. I LOVE Dillahunts character and actually might continue watching just for him. They did more with his character in 2 minutes they they have done with some characters on TWD in 8 Seasons. 
    SomeBiscuit
  • edited April 17
    I stopped watching originally 3 episodes into Season 1.

    I tuned into the Season 4 premiere because of how many good things I heard about Season 3 and really, really enjoyed it. About halfway through the episode I forgot about the Clarks entirely, so when they show up at the end I legit “Holy shitted.”

    Maggie Grace’s character is endlessly fascinating to me. The idea that someone is traveling the land and documenting the apocalypse as a journalist is right out of World War Z, which is my favorite zombie-related property ever. Plus, her armored SWAT van with the hidden machine guns is badass, even if a little silly and inconvenient, what with her always needing her targets to be standing on the driver’s side of the vehicle (unless she has more on the other side and we just haven’t seen it yet).

    I’ve always wondered why nobody ever seemed to heavily modify the vehicles in the main show. If this universe is just going to act like gas lasts forever anyways, then we might as well get some cool-ass Mad Max style vehicles out of it.

    And Dillahunt’s character was excellent. Funny and likeably loyal, and a real-ass Texas gunslinger to boot. I’ll be interested to see how different they make a zombie Apocalypse in Texas feel to a zombie apocalypse in Georgia/Virginia feel. There is more wide-open land, there are more guns, there are more horses, etc. My real question is what becomes of the gas and oil production? Is that something that still exists here? I imagine old-style Oil Barons making a comeback would certainly be a thing.

    I’m definitely going to check out the next couple episodes, and if I like them the same I’ll probably go back and check out Season 3, since everyone says that’s pretty good too.


    SomeBiscuit
  • lengmolengmo RTP, NC
    S4E2:

    An improvement over last week. The Vultures are their own thing, even if they've come to some of the same ideas used by other groups in other places. Mel the Vulture was telling the truth when he said settlements have a predictable arc, at least so far in this universe. I like how the show is emphasizing that at this point in the ZA, lots of places have been picked clean; adds urgency to everything else if food, etc. is not in the next building. The Evie St sign was an amusing touch.
  • (imo)..The 1st episode of FTWD for the new season is actually ep.17 of season 8 of TWD.

    Watch it, you'll understand what I mean.
  • edited April 23
    The Vultures are definitely a fairly unique spin on the usual brand of TWD villain. Mel's pitch is vaguely similar to the sort of thing a Negan-type might say, but "you're fucked if you stay where you are, either join us or we'll just wait for you to die and take your stuff anyway" is an interesting twist on the existing formula. That said, they could easily move into more standard villain territory in the future, given that they must have done something bad to present-day Nick, Alicia, Strand, and Luciana.

    Speaking of, looks like I jumped the gun a bit last week on my "the Clarks are the real villains at this point" theory, although I still maintain that we could easily be headed down that road in the future. Either way, this is another strong episode of an incredibly solid show. It's not amazing, and it's not reinventing the wheel or anything, but it's...just very good, in a way that makes it even harder to grasp why The Walking Dead could never maintain a consistent level of quality for more than a few episodes at a time, even in its better years.

    I do find it funny that season 4 of The Walking Dead opened up with Farmer Rick, and now season 4 of Fear is giving us Farmer Nick. Not that Fear isn't executing this plot well - Nick being severely traumatized due to nearly dying in the dam explosion is a character motivation that makes logical sense and generally works - just thought it was an interesting coincidence.
  • Bah, last season was such a step up from any TWD season and this one has Gimple's ham hand prints all over it. I can't believe they brought out the damn  "NOW" title card from Season 5. Or "hey remember how the internet though Enid was a Wolf? We shoulda done that so.."  Are they really just stealing random ideas from the highest rated season of TWD just because it was the season with the highest ratings?
  • @Byrdie I mean, I'm enjoying this season so far (in case you couldn't tell) but you're absolutely right about the "NOW" card. I hated those when TWD pulled it, and I hated it here too. Thankfully it's a small part of the episode.
  • I'm still in the same camp as @SomeBiscuit. This show is 10x better than TWD has been in ages. Ep 4x01 with Dillahunt meetings Lenny James + the journalist was so good. The time jump with Madison and crew was also good because it attempts to live in a post-Apocalypse, rebuilding our world POV. The Vultures gives me a little pause. With any luck, Gimple won't ruin it. 
    SomeBiscuitjtmy92
  • I've been pestering people about Fear since the end of S3. The back half of S3 was seriously some of the best and intense character driven zombie action I've ever seen. Yeah, even out of EVERYTHING in the main series.

    I really really enjoyed the premier. The back and forth betrayal / save / betrayal / save between Morgan / Cowboy guy / Journalist lady was perhaps a bit too cute, but overall I think it worked well, and was better than anything we've seen from TWD in years.
  • cdrivecdrive Houston, TX
    We're caught up now.  I liked episode 2 more that episode 1. Episode 1 was damn near ruined by all that exit interview BOWLSHIT at the start with Jesus, Carol & Rick.

    Okay...the Vultures' little Trojan horse kid...did that little brat release those weevils?  Fuck those guys if they did.  I think they did.


  • @SomeBiscuit I actually am enjoying this so far to be clear. I just have found several ideas lifted straight out of that season 5/6 run of TWD that had high ratings (videos testimonials/Enid-Wolf/"NOW"/Weevils imagery = ants on cookie imagery/Saviors + Wolves= Vultures). IMO the characters in FTWD have been built over the past two seasons (esp  S3) well enough that the show remains pretty good in spite of these things. I'm not even saying nor convinced that these things will turn out poorly it just irks me that this thing might be getting gimpled when it had just gotten good. Both episodes have been strong thus far in my opinion I just have this baggage from so much bad TWD that gets transferred over when I see shit like that. For instance *Now title card hits "FUCK!"
    SomeBiscuit
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