In order for Fear to work, we have to be able to get real invested in these character’s struggles, that’s not happening. The characters are all coming to terms with the existence of zombies, still struggling with the idea of killing just one, and whether or not a zombie truly has no humanity left. The problem is that while realistic this angle isn't compelling since we’ve already seen the first few seasons of The Walking Dead along with every other zombie show. Watching characters stress out over whether or not to kill their zombie neighbor is mind-numbingly boring, frustrating, and something we have seen a hundred times over. “I don’t want you to make a mistake you can’t take back.” One character says to another, wasting our time. As the audience, we already know a good clean headshot is the only way out of this, and watching this family figure it out for themselves at a zombie-shambling pace is not only tedious but also hard to sympathize with.
Another issue is the general structure of the show: a normal family dealing with the apocalypse. We already have that on The Walking Dead, where just about everyone is a normal person trying to get by. Sure Rick and Shane are cops, but that just means they have a gun and some training, they still have zero formal roles in this apocalypse. The writers had a chance to put a brilliant twist on the zombie genre, by selecting an already engaging premise that could stand by itself as a good drama, and then throw in zombies. With that in mind we’ve come up with our ideas for what the show should have been.
Scenario 1: What if Rick Grimes wasn’t in a coma?
Now this wouldn’t be Rick, that story is written. But what if someone like Rick, maybe a Sheriff, was followed in the onset of the apocalypse? Someone who has more on the line than just getting their family the hell out of dodge or blindly following the military. Someone who has to make real decisions for people or their whole town while unrest grows and they don’t know the full story. Previously The Walking Dead has touched on the background of characters like this with the Reverend Gabriel or the mayor of Alexandria. But it would be an intriguing new angle to see the demise of society through the eyes of a character who has a solid place within it, highlighting some of the impossible choices they must make that affect their small community.
Scenario 2: Government bodies dealing with the outbreak
A well done political show inherently has some compelling drama; leadership on a large scale is no easy task. But what if Fear put a twist on that genre by giving us political show set during the first signs of the apocalypse? Take the typical American political drama and amplify it with the threat of outbreak, or perhaps follow UN representatives from a variety of countries as they deal with the unthinkable scenario of the dead coming back to life and eating the living all over the world. We would get to witness the shifting status quo as the world goes to hell and all these nations struggle with putting aside old rivalries for the greater good, all the while still trying to ensure the security of their own nation in the coming apocalypse. Which countries would rise to the occasion and cooperate for the greater good and which would be crippled by ineffective leadership and old grudges? This would have been a unique twist on both a zombie thriller and a political drama that may even have given us something closer to the layered, macro view many of us wanted from the adaptation of World War Z.
Scenario 3: A Journalist trying to understand what’s unfolding
Going in the opposite direction of the previous two scenarios where we focus on people in a position of power, what could also be interesting is focusing on someone whose job is to question the people already in power. A journalist is still a member of the people, so to speak, but a new version of the “civilian” character we haven’t seen before—someone whose profession is to seek out the truth and find real answers to the tough questions that people are asking. This scenario could examine how dangerous these questions become when the stakes are so high. The journalist could seek out doctors, military, and civilian officials in an attempt to understand the events unfolding and probably encounter some meaty ethical questions along the way. Say the character encountered some unflattering information about certain military practices used to contain the outbreak: should he or she bring them to light, or would that information turn an already on-edge public against their protectors, making the situation even more difficult? This scenario could also provide a breath of fresh air for the zombie genre: this journalist could be young and have no significant family members around. Instead of focusing on protecting their loved ones, this character's motivation could be a desire to tell the truth even as society crumbles, straying away from the constant family melodrama that sometimes drives these shows.
Unfortunately none of these more intriguing concepts are the show we got. Our view is that Kirkman and co made some critical mistakes in the earliest planning stages that doomed this series to the biggest cable premiere of all time. Ok, so people are certainly watching Fear the Walking Dead, but the producers had a chance to tell a really interesting side-story here, set in a universe we already care about, and instead have created a show that while not horrible, is a creative disappointment that feels about as fresh as one of the zombie-corpses roaming the streets of LA.