Fear the Walking Dead improved its quality so much through 2017, it exceeded its sibling series and AMC's original zombie drama, The Walking Dead, for the first time.
With The Walking Dead in the midst of adapting the action-packed, fan-favorite All Out War story, it is still no match for the masterful most recent season of Fear the Walking Dead. Fear took advantage of Dave Erickson's final season as showrunner to be the best of the two AMC zombie shows in 2017 and it was an all-around team effort. For that, Fear the Walking Dead deserves to be recognized.
Starting its third season, Fear the Walking Dead shocked fans by eliminating a character many thought would be leading the series. Cliff Curtis' Travis fell from a helicopter and off of the show, propelling it forward and allowing growth within the entire Clark family he had married into. Madison and her kids, Nick and Alicia, were allowed to emerge as the leader of the series with no confusion as to who the show's main protagonists are. The door was open for Kim Dickens to take charge of the series and the Madison Clark actress did just that.
Still, the "no one is safe" mantra developed by The Walking Dead would be constant throughout Fear's third season.
Then, the AMC series went where The Walking Dead used to go: it tackled dramatic issues which fans can relate t, whether or not they have encountered the issues themselves or know someone who has. Where The Walking Dead brought family drama, the issues of cheating, and racist characters (such a Merle Dixon) into the mix early on, Fear the Walking Dead took a similar route at a very relevant time.
Enter the new Broke Jaw Ranch location and Fear the Walking Dead fans are introduced to a slew of conflicted characters; some of the new faces are peppered with racist or sexist opinions, making them villains with valid reasons to be kept alive. Other newcomers are do-gooders unfit for this world. It was a brave move at a time where such topics dominate headlines and the wrong line of dialogue can make writers appear to have a misinterpretation of current events. Fear the Walking Dead, however, never missed a beat -- it only raised the stakes, built the characters, and spawned a couple of compelling, genuinely interesting turf wars.
Ironically enough, The Walking Dead is in the midst of a turf war as well. Negan and Rick have been at each other's throats for nearly two years now. The story has been unfolding since Negan's Saviors first appeared in a post-credits scene following the midseason 6 finale. Fear the Walking Dead, however, told a similar tale with a terrifying villain who goes on to become an ally (Michael Greyeyes' Qualetaca). In the same season, the Broke Jaw vs. Native American was resolved and a new territory feud broke out with a biker gang. Though that bout may not be over, a satisfying, adrenaline-pumping Season 3 finale for Fear told enough of the story for it to conclude there or be expanded upon when the show returns with new showrunners this summer.
All the while, another new character polarized audiences with shades of Jon Bernthal's Shane. Daniel Sharman's Troy Otto certainly wasn't sleeping with anyone's wife, nor was Shane showing any shades of Troy's racism, but both characters appears to have the right ideas about how to survive the new apocalyptic world. Sharman's character polarized fans. Would he kill the Clark family? Would he kill the Native American army? Was he developing a romantic relationship with Madison? All of the questions surrounding his character created a genuinely interesting and unpredictable narrative, prompting viewers to question whether or not they can support his efforts. Better yet, fans who did support Troy, questioned themselves for whether or not that was acceptable!
Among the returning characters, each gained significant traction among fans for a key reason: acceptable growth. Nick Clark's journey made sense. Alicia Clark evolved from a scared high school student into a post-apocalyptic warrior. Ofelia Salazar attempted to do the same, becoming a fan-favorite character packing an epic twist upon her return only to be claimed by the classic Walking Dead bite fate. Victor Strand was as flashy as ever while manipulating and conning his way toward survival. Daniel Salazar all but became the Hispanic John Wick. Jeremiah Otto stood out as a figure or dangerous power in need of dethroning. Every single character was fun to watch, root for or against, and follow in their survival efforts.
None of the show's moments stand above Alycia Debnam-Carey's moment in the sun when her character was forced to rescue the surviving members of the Broke Jaw Ranch community. The actress known otherwise for her role on The 100 put her acting chops on display when Alicia made the difficult decision of putting down those who had been bitten and barely made it out of the Broke Jaw bunker herself.
Fear the Walking Dead took risks in its third season and killing Travis was hardly one of them. The show aired the first entirely Spanish episode early on, marking one of the best single episodes of either Walking Dead series.
Furthermore, Fear the Walking Dead may have one distinct advantage over The Walking Dead, allowing for some moment to be more exciting. Those watching the sibling series have no certain expectations while the flagship series is often accurately based on Robert Kirkman's source material. Each new moment and episode in Season 3 was packed with unpredictable turns, emotional character-driven moments, and thrilling climaxes.
"If I'm being completely candid," Fear Season 3 showrunner Erickson told ComicBook.com, "Season one was season one. It was six episodes. We were trying to edge up toward the moment close to where [The Walking Dead's] Rick [Grimes] was gonna be coming out of his coma. Just in terms of timeline, you know, so there was a lot of story to bite off, and we needed to be somewhat ambitious and accelerate, and that's why we had a time cut between episode three and four. That really dictated the narrative to a certain degree." The rest of the cast agree with Erickson's sentiments and have thus given their leader proper credit.
All things considered, Fear the Walking Dead wins the title of best zombie show in 2017. The series is one of the most exciting shows of the year, featured brilliant writing, well-directed episodes, and brave risks which ultimately paid off. In fact, Fear the Walking Dead's most recent season is an absolute marvel when compared to its previous season.