Fear the Walking Dead is one of the most highly anticipated new TV shows of the summer. But if you're like me – someone who hasn't spent a second on the comic book or the TV series it's spinning off from – then you may be feeling a little bit left out of pop culture right about now.
Luckily, there's an easy way to feel less alienated. Just watch Fear the Walking Dead when it premieres on AMC August 23.
But there's a reason why you didn't watch The Walking Dead in the first place. Maybe you didn't like Robert Kirkman's comic book series on which the AMC drama is based. Maybe zombies scare the braaaaaiiiins out of you. Or maybe you just don't have cable.
There's also the consideration that if you started watching Fear the Walking Dead – which was developed as a companion series to The Walking Dead – you would be so completely lost because you never watched its predecessor. Maybe there are nuances in the show's style or Easter eggs from The Walking Dead that you would need to pick up on in order to enjoy watching Fear the Walking Dead.
Whatever the case, the series premiere of Fear the Walking Dead is quickly approaching, and you've got to decide whether or not you're going to give this zombie series a shot — even though you may have missed the boat on the whole Walking Dead phenomenon the first time around.
Do you finally take a look at what all of the fuss is about surrounding this franchise, or do you let the opportunity to start Fear the Walking Dead pass you by as well? Let's examine the pros and cons of watching Fear the Walking Dead so you can make this all-important decision.
Pro: It's A Completely New TV Series
Though Fear the Walking Dead takes place in the same universe as The Walking Dead, it will be a standalone series. Whereas The Walking Dead begins when former police officer Rick Grimes awakes from a coma in the Atlanta area after a zombie apocalypse has hit, Fear the Walking Dead is set in Los Angeles at the beginning of an outbreak of a mysterious new disease that will eventually turn society into an army of the undead.
The Walking Dead focuses on a band of survivors hoping to stay alive in this new world, while Fear the Walking Dead tells the story of this zombie disease outbreak through the experiences of a family. Because of their geographical and chronological differences, it's unlikely that there will be any sort of crossover between the two series either, according to Fear the Walking Dead's showrunner Dave Erickson.
While it's possible that Fear the Walking Dead could have the occasional Easter egg, all of this means that the new show won't focus on characters or plot lines found in The Walking Dead, and therefore, you don't have to know anything about that show to be able to watch and enjoy this new series.
And unlike The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead doesn't even have source material like a comic book series to go off of. Even though there are obvious ties to The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead really is its own series, and you can approach it as you would any new TV show for the first time.
Pro: It's On AMC
AMC has developed a reputation for exceptional programming. In addition to The Walking Dead, some of the most critically acclaimed dramas of the past decade – such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul – have all been a part of AMC's lineup at one point or another. If AMC has given the green light to Fear the Walking Dead, it's likely that it'll be a captivating series to watch.
Con: It's A Spin-Off
For every Frasier and Law & Order: SVU, there's a Joey and AfterMASH — spin-offs that don't quite capture the magic of the original series, to put it politely. Though AMC already found a hit with its Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul earlier this year, there's always the chance that lightning won't strike twice and Fear the Walking Dead will be a disappointment. It's always risky for a channel to develop and air a spin-off — and risky for you to watch it as well.
Pro: The Reviews Have Been Generally Favorable
The critics have spoken, and they're giving this spin-off mostly positive reviews.
"After seeing the first two episodes of the new series, we can say this: Fear the Walking Dead has a legitimate shot at being as good as or even better than its older sibling," Paul Vigna wrote in his review on The Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy blog.
"By the end of the second episode, as the dead start walking and the two find themselves half a city apart, I felt thoroughly invested in seeing them reunited and ready to survive. That's a good sign," wrote Esquire's Calum Marsh about main characters Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis).
"The first two episodes are beautifully directed by [Adam] Davidson with serene tension — quietness and confusion are the elements that help create the fear in the show's title," Ken Tucker wrote in his Yahoo TV review.
Although critics have also said the first two episodes of the series are a bit slow with a lot of build-up to get to the zombies already, they generally seem to think audiences will appreciate the new direction this series is going in.
Con: There Are No Big-Name Actors In The Cast
If you're someone who needs a famous name and face to get you into a new movie or TV show, you're out of luck here. The stars of Fear the Walking Dead aren't household names, so you're better off watching something like Season 2 of True Detective if that's really important to you. But then again, look at how well that turned out.
Pro: Talented Actors Are Finally Getting The Much-Deserved Spotlight
Just because the leads in Fear the Walking Dead aren't Hollywood mega-stars doesn't mean you should write them off just yet. Kim Dickens, the actress who plays high school guidance counselor Madison Clark, paid her dues with smaller roles in Friday Night Lights, Sons of Anarchy and House of Cards, and she gave an exceptional turn as Detective Rhonda Boney in last October's Gone Girl.
Cliff Curtis, who plays Travis Manawa, Madison's boyfriend and an English teacher at the same high school, knows action — thanks to feature roles in Three Kings, Training Day and Live Free or Die Hard. So yes, it's true. Dickens and Curtis are not household names yet, but who says they won't be by the time the Fear the Walking Dead season finale rolls around?
Pro: Season 1 Only Has Six Episodes
Season 1 of Fear the Walking Dead is going to be abbreviated with only six episodes, which is more like the length of a mini-series. That means even if it's a terrible first season, it's not like you would have wasted 12 or more hours of your life watching it. You could watch six episodes of anything, couldn't you?
Con: People Are Dying To See It
As I previously mentioned, Fear the Walking Dead is one of the most highly anticipated new series to hit TV screens. If you're someone who doesn't like to follow the crowd or you just hate hype, neither of these are probably going to go away anytime soon, since Fear the Walking Dead will be around for at least one more season — and probably more, considering it's likely to be a hit with the many Walking Dead fans out there. If this rings true for you, you might want to skip this one.
Pro: People Are Dying To See It
Just because something is popular doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be good — but often, when a lot of people like something, it's worth at least checking out. There's also the consideration that you won't be part of the cultural conversation if you aren't keeping up with one of the most popular shows currently on TV. I already feel that way with Game of Thrones on the daily. You might not want to let that happen to you, too.
Pro: There's Going To Be At Least One More Season
Investing in a new TV show can be risky. What if you start to get really into it, and then it's gone after the first season or after just a few episodes, only to be picked up by a streaming service you don't have access to, or – gasp – actually cancelled for good? That won't happen with Fear the Walking Dead. Well, not immediately, at least.
The first season hasn't even premiered yet, but AMC has already ordered up at least 15 more episodes of this show for its second season, so we'll all be fearing the Walking Dead for probably about another year, at least. That means if you fall in love with Fear the Walking Dead, it won't immediately disappear, never call you again and break your heart.
Con: There Will Be Zombies
Since this is a TV show about the outbreak of a disease that ends up turning people into zombies, you'd better believe there are going to be some undead walking around. If that's a reason why you didn't watch The Walking Dead in the first place, you may want to pass on this series, too. However, it doesn't sound like zombies will be as rampant as in Fear the Walking Dead's predecessor.
Even though one of these creepers is featured in Fear the Walking Dead's opening scene, it actually takes a while before they really lumber onto the show in all of their decaying glory — or at least it seems that way, knowing how zombified The Walking Dead is. The zombies also go by the more clinical name of "the infected" and look more like people suffering from an illness rather than the monsters in later seasons of The Walking Dead — so perhaps you won't have quite as many nightmares after watching Fear the Walking Dead as you originally thought.
Pro: There Will Be Zombies
Let's not forget that one of the reasons zombies have become so hot in movies and TV shows is because they make for a lot of dramatic tension. Watching the action that unfolds as the uninfected try to escape these brain-and-flesh-craving beasts can be incredibly thrilling. The lack of zombies in the beginning of Fear the Walking Dead is one reason why some critics have deemed it a tad slow. But as the series goes on, there should be a decent number of zombies to satisfy your appetite for destruction.
If you can stomach it, Fear the Walking Dead should play out like your classic zombie flick. With a compelling story providing the foundation for all of this carnage, it should even have a bit more meat to it.
The Verdict: Watch It
As anyone who can count can see, there's many more pros than cons to watching Fear the Walking Dead — at least from this outsider's perspective. Fear the Walking Dead looks like it will be a standalone series with a gripping story, talented cast and enigmatic batch of zombies all on its own. Plus, with all of the anticipated hype and support from fans of The Walking Dead, this companion series is probably here to stay — so it might be smart to get in on the ground floor while you can. Whether or not you've been a fan of The Walking Dead in comic or TV form, these are all ingredients for a worthwhile series. So go ahead. Give it a taste.