Just ahead of the August 23 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead AMC has released the first three minutes of the series online. The footage focuses on Nick, an apparent drug addict, as he not-so-wisely calls out for his lost (girl?)friend while wandering through a creepy, empty squatter’s haven of an abandoned church. The taster does little more than set the mood for the series – dark, despairing, and lonely. It’s reminiscent of Georgia right around A.D. zombie apocalypse: week 2 at the start of The Walking Dead. Don’t be fooled though, Robert Kirkman, creator of both shows, has said this tale will be very different in look and feel from it’s predecessor. In fact it’s not a prequel, sequel, or any kind of crossover with The Walking Dead, this isa fully realized stand-alone companion series set in Los Angeles in the early days during the birth of the zombie apocalypse.
Kirkman talked to IGN about the ways they worked to distinguish this new series, “We wanted to it stand alone story-wise and character-wise. We wanted it to have its own corner of the universe. All of that extended to what our visual take on this show would be, […] a big portion of that came from Adam Davidson, our director for the pilot of Fear the Walking Dead. He was able to come in with just a unique vision of Los Angeles as a city, but also bring a very different flavor.”
New viewers may be able to distinguish between the series but even casual viewers of The Walking Dead will have a hard time not making comparisons. The first character we meet in Dead? Rick. The first character in Fear? Nick. Promotional trailers for Fear show Nick fleeing the building into the sunshine, similar to the way Rick left the abandoned hospital in the early moments of th Dead pilot. Where Grimes entered into a war zone though, Nick emerges into a bustling, everyday Los Angeles where zombies are still the stuff of campfire stories. And that is where Kirkman hopes the series diverge; while Rick Grimes and company fled deeper and deeper into isolation and defense, Nick and family will be veritably inviting the new-born walkers into their midst.
Fear will follow the families of high-school guidance counselor Madison (Kim Dickens) who is Nick’s mom, and her boyfriend Travis (Cliff Curtis), an English teacher. As the two are focused on blending their families, managing kids and exes, and only occasionally paying attention at work mutterings begin in the high-school’s hallways about strange happenings. Early episodes highlight how slowly adults catch on – well, those without the benefit of six previous seasons of the undead anyway.
That’s where skeptics are holding out on Fear the Walking Dead even before its premiere. The series creators have already gone public that the show won’t reveal the source of the plague so critics wonder if watching characters react to things viewers are already in the know about will be enough. Nick, your girlfriend is bending over something and chewing. Don’t stop and talk, just back away quietly and get out of Dodge you fool! And the first time someone shoots a zombie in the chest I guarantee Twitter will light up with “Head shot!” tweets.
Diehard Walker Stalkers have always loved being grossed out by Dead’s zombies but Kirkman’s descriptions of less decayed, more human walkers indicate less gore, more character drama is the plan for Fear. “All the intricacies and struggles that come from that family dynamic, and setting it against the fall of civilization in the face of the zombie apocalypse, just makes things that much more interesting. That’s one of the many things that allows these two shows to exist together without any kind of overlap.”
There may not be overlap but will there be enough that is new and fresh? AMC thinks so; it’s already ordered a second, sixteen episode season of Fear the Walking Dead. The show premieres on AMC Sunday, August 23.