Since the get-go, AMC’s “Fear the Walking Dead” has been dealing with its own uphill battle. How do you create a spinoff based on the network’s biggest series, while also introducing new characters in a new environment with a whole new story? One would assume a nod or reference to “The Walking Dead” would help, but the network has been solid in their stance that there will never be a crossover of the two worlds.
So, with just the zombie outbreak at hand — using the same Robert Kirkman story rules — AMC tapped executive producers Gale Anne Hurd and Dave Erickson to run with the story. Needless to say, the first season didn’t perform the way they had hoped.
And why would it? With all the dystopian carnage transpiring on “The Walking Dead,” audiences were dealt a pre-apocalyptic story set in a completely different locale with characters that weren’t as dynamic. How does one make audiences root for Madison (Kim Dickens), Strand (Coleman Domingo) or Travis (Cliff Curtis) when they are no match for Daryl (Norman Reedus), Rick (Andrew Lincoln) or Michonne (Danai Gurira)?
Well, AMC may have a trick up its sleeve. In the above featurette teasing the upcoming Season 2B episodes, the group is fractured. While they are all searching for a new place to call home, the deeper element that may make these episodes stand out from the pack is the focus on each individual character as they deal with the elements on their own. It’s this story device that had audiences gravitating towards Nick (Frank Dillane) from the very beginning.
As the group has traveled, their world has grown bigger. And according to Hurd, this will offer greater possibilities moving forward. “Now that the world has expanded, we can tell greater stories, we can explore different communities and there are now not only more infected,” Hurd says.
Aside from the character development fans have seen throughout the Kirkman comics — and accompanying on-screen trials as they’ve played out on “The Walking Dead” — the regular introduction of new environments and characters have helped in keeping the series from becoming stale. Of course, those new details usually bring new challenges with them.
“In order to survive, the stakes are even greater,” Hurd continues. “Now that they’re on shore, we get to see how suited to this environment they are. People will resort to much more violent measures. Some rise to the occasion and some fail.”
That last statement is intriguing as this is the crux of who these people are. As a group, their identity existed in the teamwork — or lack thereof — in surviving the society crumbling around them. But individually, will they turn out to be a Daryl or a Sophia?
“It’s exciting visually and from a narrative perspective because I think we get to explore stories and characters that we are not accustomed to seeing,” adds Erickson.
While it’s intriguing to watch Nick seek out his own unique refuge, it’s the splintering of the group that should help the audiences further connect with these characters. The intriguing and engaging elements will probably play out the best when Madison, Nick, Travis, Strand, Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) face their demons separately, on their own terms. Because, really … how else will fans be able to really connect with them?
After-all, “The Walking Dead” began with viewers following Rick as he discovered the decrepit state of the world around him. The closest we got to that level was with Nick’s drug-induced discovery of a walker in the pilot episode.
And while that was thrilling and frightening in its own right, there is still a lot more character work to be done before the “If Nick Dies, We Riot” t-shirts are made.
“Fear the Walking Dead” returns Sunday, Aug. 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.