The term ‘spin-off’ in the television landscape is certainly something of a double-edge sword. Some prove incredibly successful breaking away and cutting their own mark from their flagship show (Cheers to Frasier, Breaking Bad to Better Call Saul), while others ultimately dilute and weaken the appeal of the franchise, often leading to a lackluster conclusion (Joey, any of the CSI spin-offs). Now on the heels of arguably the biggest show on the planet, AMC tries their hand again at a companion spin-off show to The Walking Dead with Fear The Walking Dead, a prequel series of sorts that takes place during the time Rick Grimes was in his coma during the initial zombie outbreak and set in a suburban Los Angeles location.
Developed by Dead creator Robert Kirkman, the six-episode first season follows a blended family trying to hold together during the chaos of the undead epidemic and along with a second Spanish family, they struggle constantly with inner family turmoil, addictions, military restrictions and of course the unreasonable events unfolding in the world before their very eyes. The series is cast quite well with a collection of veteran actors; Kim Dickens (Gone Girl), Cliff Curtis (Blow), Rueben Blades (Predator 2) and young newcomers who play the children.
In much the same vein as The Walking Dead`s first season, Fear is a relatively slow-burning series over the spread of the same number of short episodes (Season 2 will stretch to a larger fifteen in total). While the first four episodes play very ho-hum in the grand scheme of things by focusing a lot on the characters`personal struggles, the final two episodes is unquestionably where Fear finds its footing and hits its stride as the circumstances grow increasingly more out of control and significant characters begin to fall prey to the zombie ramifications.
While the show is not near as gripping as its flagship show, it is nonetheless interesting and engaging enough to continue along with the concept of treating it as a companion-piece. It does have quite a few flaws though, certainly packing is an issue, not all the acting is stellar and the story really lacks a strong sense of emotion (even bordering on soap opera style). On the plus side, the Los Angeles does work well and one of the interesting aspects of this series that we don’t really get in The Walking Dead is how some very real inner city problems work their way into the events (Nick’s drug addiction and the anti-police brutality riots being the two most obvious examples). There’s potential to further explore that unique aspect of the show further down the road.
Fear The Walking Dead is presented in a 1.78.1 widescreen ratio with 1080p high definition presentation and the series looks very solid throughout. The picture consistently offers nice depth and color reproduction has a nice, natural feel to it. The series’ English language Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix sounds excellent. The track offers fantastic bass response and a really tight lower end, which you’ll notice when you feel the impact from every bullet fired and every punch thrown. Dialogue is nicely balanced and the quality of the sound in this set is highly impressive.
There are only two extras in this set (included on the second disc), the first of which is a featurette called `A Look At The Series` which is just basically a quick piece that gives us a rundown of what the series is about and what the intention was behind creating a prequel to the flagship series. The second supplement is `Inside The Characters Of Fear The Walking Dead`, a featurette that just simply examines the main characters in the series. The set is questionably light on bonus content, hinting at an upgraded edition most likely down the road.
Fear The Walking Dead is a good companion piece to The Walking Dead but it is quite far from outstanding…yet. The show offers some unique perspectives and setting changes that make the events interesting to watch unfold, but it still has plenty of kinks to work out if it plans to get as good as its parent counterpart. As a whole, the Blu-ray edition is a satisfactory, just above-average offering. It`s technically very efficient, but light on supplemental material (which the previous Blu-ray sets of The Walking Dead have in spades). Worth a look for sure if you`re a fan, but all others may want to begin with the original series first.