AMC’s runaway hit The Walking Dead has spawned a spinoff that will take place during the same zombie apocalypse, but on the other side of the country. The much anticipated Fear the Walking Dead, which premieres later this summer, might adhere to the same general plot of The Walking Dead, but its setting, casting, and narrative promise a very different view-point on the same devastating plotline.
First of all, Fear the Walking Dead will be a prequel, set at the very beginning of the zombie apocalypse (before Rick Grimes woke up). Much of the plot will deal with how the characters and the government deal with seeing living corpses for the first time, and the efforts to contain the outbreak as the plague spreads. As far as character development goes, emphasis will likely be placed on moving past the traumatic experiences of initial contact with the infected, and the inevitable mass exodus from densely populated urban centers as the virus begins to spread.
The setting will also be drastically different. While The Walking Dead takes place in and around Atlanta, the new show will be set in Los Angeles, providing a welcome change in scenery. It also seems likely that there will be more Latino characters in the mix, as well as the potential for celebrity cameos, similar to Bill Murray in Zombieland, which would provide the show with an injection of humor.
Then, of course, there are the zombies themselves. In the early days of the apocalypse there will be no hordes of mindless, rotting, shambling cadavers. Instead, we will see people at the time of transformation, and witness their transition from living to undead. This is bound to be an intensely emotional process for our characters, full of heartbreak and sorrow, as they watch their loved ones slip away, unaware of what is happening or why, and with no cure available. For an audience that already knows the specifics of how the plague works and what is to come, it will be a frustrating and disheartening experience. One of the keys to the writing will be striking a balance between life saving acts of heroism and overwhelming grief that is sure to consume some characters.
While we know little about the characters at this time, early press says many of them will be young adults. This choice serves two purposes: it helps to connect with the show’s target audience, and it gives us a perspective that differs from The Walking Dead‘s cast of mostly older adults and children. These characters will be far from helpless, yet we can also expect them to be brash, impulsive, and overly emotional about their situation.
A spinoff in any medium is a tricky balancing act. Care must be taken to retain some of the tone and themes from the original work, so as not to risk losing too large a portion of the fan base, but intriguing new ideas and narrative threads must be introduced that differ sufficiently from the previous stories to pique viewers’ interest and build on the established following. Fear the Walking Dead seems poised to capitalize on the current zombie craze, and with some fresh storytelling concepts and creative ingenuity, should be able to establish itself as another staple of prime time adult drama for AMC.