I realize that “Fear the Walking Dead” is the show that so many people love to hate. But I myself am just thrilled with it. I’d give the second season a 9 out of 10 for being the show to which I looked forward to the most all week, and for arguably being more enjoyable than … that other zombie show. (Its name escapes me at the moment.)
I suppose it feels smarter than it really is. The pace is slower, there is far more background and context for the story, and I personally feel that there is far better characterization than in its predecessor. (My fellow horror zombie fans strongly disagree, but I always thought that consistent characterization was a problem with “The Walking Dead.”)
As friends and reviewers have pointed out to me, though, it isn’t as smart as it feels. People do dumb things; I’m not sure if it is laziness on the part of the screenwriters or just a lack of good judgement. A typically egregious example is when our seafaring heroes deploy an unwieldy landing party to the beach while literally waiting to be attacked by pirates. Another is the characters’ general apathy about the possibility of infection from blood splatters, from surfaces or from skin-to-dead-skin contact. (We actually see a hero destroy a zombie by inserting his thumbs through its eye sockets into its brains.)
But the show is still damned enjoyable. It has an epic feel. Season 2 opens with a sweeping panorama of a ravaged Los Angeles, seen by a departing boat. We have action by sea and by land, and show visits Mexico. Radio transmissions and the accounts of minor characters further paint the apocalypse broadly.
I actually found the characters identifiable, if not always likable. They just seemed more like real people than their counterparts on “The Walking Dead,” who lean closer to recognizable tropes (the good cop, the kid, the biker-with-a-heart-of-gold, the ninja). The grounded, real-world drama among average, mundane people just made the show’s horror story context more real, and therefore more frightening. (Let’s face it — you and I would probably be far more similar to “Fear’s” Travis, Madison or Alicia than to “The Walking Dead’s” Rick, Daryl or Michonne.)
And I think the subplots and story devices are often just genuinely creepy. The hazards at sea, the boat-to-boat conflict, the outcome of the lighthouse storyline on the dock … a few of the show’s story arcs seemed like they were inspired by the kind of short stories you’d find in the best zombie anthologies. Maybe I enjoyed “Fear” more than other viewers because I like the kind of varying, “situational” horror tales it served up every week. This appealed to me more than the standard colony-vs.-colony stories seen that have grown routine on the show’s progenitor.
All in all, “Fear the Walking Dead” isn’t perfect, but its still a a great horror show.