With their spin off show, Fear The Walking Dead, there are two main things the writers are doing wrong. One is pacing. The other is rooting. Both are important, but if you root someone to your characters, then making mistakes such as pacing can be forgiven, as we see in The Walking Dead.
Pacing is the rhythm or momentum of a story, or really how those things feel. Like in life, when you're having fun, time flies. When you're bored, time moves like a molasses wave.
Rooting is showing a character in such a manner that the reader cares about that character. We saw this in Harry Potter with the murder of his parents, and when his aunt and uncle forces him to live under the stairs, do all the chores while they dote over his cousin Dudley, then Rowling further rooted us by showing Dudley receiving 38 presents, while Harry drawing himself a birthday cake on the dirt floor.
Excuse me while I cry my eyes out.
Fear The Walking Dead had two seasons, and the story takes place around a family right at the moment the zombie apocalypse begins to engulf the planet. The first half of the season felt like a molasses wave that had been in a freezer for a thousand years. From my point of view, the writers ran into a couple of major issues. One, the characters have never seen a real life zombie, and the show never makes mention that zombies were ever part of the popular culture like it is in real life. So the characters have to learn how to deal with these monsters, which is fine. The other issue is that we the people in the real world watching these fake people in the fake world already know how to deal with real zombies of the fake world. Uh what? The parent show has educated the audience about zombies and how to dispatch them. And that can mess with the pacing of the spin-off show. Big time.
The writers of Fear chose to actually show the family learning how to deal with zombies. But zombies weren't yet the prolific monsters we're used to. So there were barely any within the first few episodes, which meant realizing what they were let alone learning how to kill them took a really long time. It was painful to watch.
The writers could have taken a page from The Walking Dead where Morgan Jones educates Rick, the main character, in the ins and outs of the walking dead. But that wasn't necessary because Fear already had a way of educating the cast. There was a scene where a live newscast shows the police being forced to finally shoot a dead man walking in the head. This could have been the vehicle to educate the cast and get the story moving forward, asking questions like what would you do when the world you know and love falls apart. But that didn't happen. So the writers had to slow things down.
Cue filler. It's filler time. Filibuster. Phili steak sandwiches with no meat.
This brings me to their issue of rooting. To us, the educated audience, seeing these people bumble their way slowly down the dark alley of this world makes them look stupid. And it's hard to like stupid people, hence the rooting problem. The family is also dysfunctional, but there's nothing redeeming about the characters themselves.
They're not like Walt White from Breaking Bad. Having being diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, Walt decides to make and sell meth to not only pay for his treatments but to provide for his family after his death. That's a righteous dude.
Back to Fear, eventually we run into a character named Daniel Salazar, who actually has depth. And some redeeming qualities. He has a barbershop and hides his family inside it while the streets of LA are consumed in a riot. The cast finds the shop and convinces Salazar to let them in and wait it out. He questions their motives, fears for the safety of his family, his ailing wife, but also keeps a strong guard against revealing too much about himself and seems way more prepared to deal with the end of the world. Unfortunately, Salazar feels like he wasn't meant for anything more than a supporting cast member.
Because the audience isn't rooted to the main characters, meaning we don't care for them, we become impatient when it comes to the pacing. In other words, we're forced to wait for them to catch up to us. Story should lead us into mystery, into love, into enlightenment. Instead we're looking at our smartphones waiting for something to happen.
To help illustrate my two main points about Fear, I've found one favorable and one unfavorable review. It's not the reviews that are important, but the reactions by the commenters about the show.
Here's a link to a favorable review. Here's what one commenter said:
"i thought they did a fantastic job actually. especially the kid who portrayed the addict & i was on the edge of my seat a couple times through out the show!"
So through a 90-minute pilot, that person was on the edge of their seat twice. And that's good? For a zombie show?
Here's another review with mixed bag reactions from commenters.