When it comes to spinoffs, change is key. Yes, adhering to the original in some way, shape or form is vital to keeping viewers comfortable, but shows still need to establish a reason for being unto themselves. Otherwise, why would we watch instead of sticking with the original? After a brief, largely disastrous first season, “Fear the Walking Dead” seemed to be getting the hint. Ads for the second season have emphasized a change in venue; one unique to the spinoff and the original. Yet after sifting through the first two episodes of Season 2, it’s clear taking to the ocean is the only change the writers were willing to make.
One of the big problems with Season 1 was how quickly it moved from zombie-free to zombie takeover. Possibly the only advantage the prequel series had going for it, in terms of an original focus, was the chance to explain where, why and how this outbreak started. And while it’s fine that we don’t get to know Patient Zero, seeing it spread could have been handled with a little more grace and originality than what was provided. Worse yet, even though they sped into the terrifying zombie hordes, “Fear the Walking Dead” didn’t leave us with much to fear. It was actually pretty dull. Which makes what happens in the first two episodes of Season 2 all the more baffling.
We’re a spoiler-free zone here at Indiewire (if you want spoilers, look to our episode reviews), but I can safely report not a lot goes down in the first two hours of the new season. Fleeing on a giant yacht may seem like novel concept in the zombie horror genre (or at least for “The Walking Dead”), but the decision to separate the extended family of Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) also has the unintended side effect of slowing the show down even more — and not to delve into any pressing questions about the zombie outbreak. It’s just slow because talking and fishing are pretty much all you can do when you’re drifting around the ocean.
While talking to a stranger in Episode 2, Travis is pressed into a discussion over whether the zombie outbreak is the planet’s response to humans trashing it over the last 100 years. Props to the creators Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman for finding yet another meaningless metaphor to stack on top of a zombie story, but I have to agree with the stranger when he quickly admits, “I’m not telling you anything new.” And that goes for everything that’s happened in eight episodes of “Fear the Walking Dead” to date. While the sin of familiarity could be forgiven if the series matched the exciting highs of its sister series, the series’ lack of identity is only compounded by its lack of urgency. The only thing to fear is “Fear” itself. And by that, I mean boredom.
For a look back at Season 1 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” check out the below…