What is going on? Comment sections, headlines, and tweets about Fear the Walking Dead are turning into overwhelmingly, almost unanimously positive sentiments! How bizarre...
The AMC series kicked off its third season a few weeks ago, returning to the Mexican/American border in the wake of a Season 2 cliffhanger which left the separated group's fate unsure. Luciana had been shot. Nick lead La Colonia to slaughter. All the while, Madison, Travis, and Alicia were out searching for the lost Clark boy -- and don't forget the missing faces which included Victor Strand, Ofelia Salazar, and Daniel Salazar.
What started off as an often dull, slow burning entry to the zombie apocalypse fans had already fully embraced on The Walking Dead quickly transformed into a straight up survival series by the final few episodes of its second season. The most complained about character, Chris Manawa, was brutally killed triggering his father Travis to finally snap and embrace the world around him. Finally, Cliff Curtis gets to let loose and play a hardened, ruthless survivor on this show like we all know he can! It's what we have all been waiting for!
Wrong! Enter: Season 3 of Fear the Walking Dead.
Travis is escorted through a military compound where he shows just how tough he has become by surviving a gauntlet of infected and saving his group from a twisted new militia. He's finally taking charge -- until a stray bullet rips through his body and sends him falling from a helicopter in the first five minutes of the Season 3 premiere's second half. What!
While the new and improved Travis will be missed on Fear, it is easier to look at the loss optimistically. Finally, Fear the Walking Dead has a clear cut lead in Kim Dickens' Madison Clark. To top it all off, by the end of her first full episode in charge, she delivered a very Rick Grimes line, promising to conquer her family's new location should the current occupants try anything.
This leads to the best and most intriguing part: the people of Season 3's Broke Jaw Ranch location don't look like they are going to try anything despite being introduced as apparent villains. Where The Walking Dead introduces group after group which will try to kill Rick, fail, and get recast as a more intimidating group, Fear has taken a group which appeared to be the foe and turned them into allies for a greater battle ahead. Imagine that: enemies becoming friends within the zombie apocalypse. It had actually been unheard of until now and is introducing brand new dynamics between characters of all ages.
Then comes an epic Episode 3x04 which explains the literal rise from the ashes for fan-favorite Ruben Blades' Daniel Salazar. A brilliant performance in a well-written episode locked fans into a subtitle-heavy hour which culminated to an epic action sequence giving him the power fans are hungry to see a character obtain.
Three weeks into showrunner Dave Erickson's final season with the show and everything has changed. The headlines which used to call the show "boring" are now reading "How Fear the Walking Dead Succeeded Where The Walking Dead So Often Fails", "Fear the Walking Dead Has A Unique Chance To Surpass The Walking Dead", and "In Season 3, Fear The Walking Dead Finally Embraces Its Inner The Walking Dead." Each of those are real headlines found online.
First of all, the biggest disadvantage for Fear the Walking Dead has been the constant comparison to The Walking Dead. Fear's older sibling had a five year advantage by the time the new series tried to get people invested in characters who hadn't already existed in comic book for almost a decade. Ironically, it has become popular to criticize The Walking Dead in the wake of its grim seventh season while Fear strongly turns things around and earns some major fandom. What was once a disadvantage is oddly enough working in Fear's favor, right now.
While critic reception is enjoyable, the fan perspective is crucial and social media is buzzing for the series.
"100 was the best episode so far," said Susan Johnston in a Facebook comment on The Walking Dead on ComicBook.com. "It put FTWD on the board for being worthy of carrying the Walking Dead name, for me at least."
The avid fanbase attributes the success to various places, with some giving the executive producers the credit. "This season is great, 100 was actually the best of the entire series," said Jonathan Howard. "Gale Anne Hurd is taking this show in the right direction." Hurd also serves as executive producer on The Walking Dead.
If you jumped off of the Fear the Walking Dead train in its sluggish early episodes, the time to hop back on is right now. To say, "Fear the Walking Dead is at its best right now" would not emphasize the message given the show's lackluster start, but it is. In fact, Fear the Walking Dead, right now, is the Walking Dead universe at its best.
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