What If AMC Had Paced Season One Of Fear The Walking Dead Better?
That’s right, I’m not going to address a what if scenario involving a element of the story. I will address the possibilities this scenario would have on the story, but the key “What If?” has nothing to do with it. Instead, I’m going to address something outside of the realm of the story, specifically, how Season One of Fear The Walking Dead was paced.
I can’t be the only person who found the pacing of Season One of Fear…problematic. Yes, they were limited to only six episodes in the first season, much as Season One of The Walking Dead was; I get that.
But, am I wrong in thinking that a great opportunity was missed in the way Season One of Fear The Walking Dead was paced?
The first season of Fear The Walking Dead started with three episodes following the first three days of the apocalypse, however, the fourth episode took place NINE DAYS LATER. NINE.
Nine days, possibly some of the most critical days of the apocalypse in Los Angeles, just glossed over. By the next episode, the tenth day, we discovered the city was set to be firebombed two days later. Think about this, we went from the military securing the city to destroying it in three episodes and everything leading up to that decision…we didn’t see.
When was it decided that LA was untenable? What was the catalyst? How bad were things in other parts of the city? These are questions we never got answers to and it left the first season feeling rushed.
If AMC paced the show differently, we could have ended up seeing events we never got to see in the first season we ended up with. This, in turn would have altered how Season Two would have gone and so on.
Now, I could simply leave this theory at that: That things would change, events would be altered or pushed back, but, that would be boring.
I feel like the best way to explore this is to posit an alternative version of how Season One of Fear could have gone, with different pacing. The object being to show how much more could be explored, or how the tone of the show would have shifted if it hadn’t been so rushed.
Obviously, there are all kinds of factors that go into how a show like Fear is paced. There’s the fact the producers didn’t know if they’d get a second season, the need for a logical conclusion in the event they didn’t, whether or not actors would be available for a second season, etc. While some of these I can’t speculate on, I’ll assume at least, for argument’s sake, that none of the actors had schedule conflicts. This will make things a little easier.
To begin with, I think the change needs to happen at episode four.
Suddenly, the story jumps forward by nine days. Fear lost some of the most crucial days of the apocalypse with this jump. Worse still, the show lost a certain sense of urgency. Without seeing things really unraveling, I never really felt The Group were in any real danger until Daniel let out all of the arena infected. That’s backwards.
I think the best way to start is right where episode three left off. Start with the army trying to cordon off Madison’s neighborhood and figure out who’s alive, who’s dead, who’s infected. Ideally, this is where we’d meet Moyers or Dr. Exner. As Madison demanded to know what they were doing to Patrick Tran, they would assure her everything was fine.
And, I believe this should be a theme in this altered second half of Season One of Fear: That everything is fine, everything is okay, everything is under control.
Why? Well, because, we, as the audience, know that that’s not true. Part of the fun of horror shows or movies is knowing what the characters in the show or movie are in for, and, in this case, we know that everything in LA is far from “under control”.
We could see this episode cover a couple of days, and show us some of what Morgan described to Rick during their first meeting. Morgan mentioned that the government was using major cities as safe zones, telling everyone in the area to head to them. This episode would provide be perfect time to show that taking place.
Meanwhile, we could watch as Alicia and/or Chris use the internet to stay abreast of the situation while Daniel relies on a portable radio, none of which necessarily require the electricity the army was rationing. Ideally, they would see and hear Emergency Broadcast transmissions advising everyone in the vicinity to head for San Diego, San Francisco, and of course, LA; The general message being that anyone who goes to these cities will be safe.
I think it wouldn’t hurt to have Daniel begin warning Madison to be cautious of their situation. It would seem odd to Madison at that time, but, we’d know Daniel’s wisdom will hold true.
During this, Nick’s craving for painkillers would continue in the absence of heroine. We could see Nick stealing meds from his neighbor, Mr. Ramirez, here, as we saw in “Not Fade Away”.
Finally, this episode would introduce us to Adams and his unit. This gives us more time to invest in the soldiers as characters and in Adams’ relationship with Ofelia.
If you’re worried enough infected aren’t showing up, don’t. We’ll get to that.
In episode five, maybe around a week after the Nick awoke in the church, we could see things start going haywire.
I imagine this episode would focus a lot on Adams, with him serving as our window into the national guard stationed in LA. We could watch a day in their lives, patrolling an increasingly deteriorating Los Angeles.
We could see just how haggard and frazzled the soldiers are becoming, going on more and more patrols to stem the tide of infected.
Worse still, we would see the more grisly side of the soldiers’ orders: Killing anyone found outside of the safe zones. This would help us not only actually see other people in LA besides Madison’s neighbors, but, also show us just how much having to kill people affects the soldiers ordered to do it.
At the same time, Alicia/Chris and Daniel’s attempts to stay informed end up coming to a screeching halt.
For Alicia/Chris, they discover that the internet has suddenly shut down. Daniel, meanwhile, finds that there is nothing but dead air on the radio (Perhaps not even EAS alerts). This only confirms Daniel’s suspicions that things are not as they seem.
This might be a good time to have Travis’s position as “Mayor” cemented. Travis would be the person the neighbors (But not Mr. Tran, whose continued absence is concerning Madison) begin looking to him to relay their concerns to Moyers, including Alicia/Chris’ worries about an info blackout. Moyers, though certainly not in any sort of genteel way, reiterates what his troops told Madison when they first arrived: Everything is under control.
Moyers would then send Travis away, feeling he’d provided him with a satisfactory answer, but leaving us with the subtle message that everything is not under control.
Season One Finale
We could set this episode at the same point “Not Fade Away” take places: Nine days after the blackout.
In fact, this episode would begin just as “Not Fade Away” did: The army is giving Madison’s neighborhood a ration of supplies, and Moyers asking Travis to help him with Doug.
If you want, you could include Chris noticing the survivors signaling to him. I’m not quite sure I’d want the revelation of what the army’s doing to hit The Group at this point, though.
I believe including Madison or Travis discovering the nature of what the army’s doing would overstuff this episode. Frankly, I have something a little different in mind…
Remember how I said I wanted Adams to serve as our window into what the army was doing? Well, this is why.
I feel like Adams gave us the best natural conclusion for a first season of Fear The Walking Dead we could ask for. In “Cobalt”, Adams revealed that the army had been using the arena as some kind of safe zone, but, people started becoming infected and things quickly went sideways. I believe, rather than just hear that story…we should see it.
As a way of explaining where most of the refugees coming from outside the city were placed, the arena fits quite nicely. The episode could largely follow Adams doing some routine relocating of refugees into the arena when everything goes south.
How the arena breaks down is up in the air, honestly. But, already infected refugees or the army failing to realize death causes zombification are the most likely possibilities.
In any event, the place quickly fills with infected, and Adams and his brothers-in-arms quickly find the situation getting out of control. We’d watch many of Adams’ fellow soldiers fall to the infected in the attempt to hold them back.
Adams would be the focus of this episode. The episode would largely follow him and his unit as they narrowly escape the arena, the dead hot on their heels. Ideally, the episode would end with Adams just barely having enough time to chain the doors shut, but not without the infected desperately trying to break them down and reaching through them, a la the “Don’t Open. Dead Inside.” walkers from “Days Gone Bye”.
With this, I believe you have a very good cliffhanger for Season Two, but, it still serves as a conclusion in case you don’t get one, with the implications of the final scene being obvious.
Obviously, this pushes back the events of Season Two a bit, but, I think we still have room to squeeze the events of “Cobalt” and “The Good Man” (Though, I’d have the infected break out on their own and have that be what formally prompts the army to initiate Cobalt), and still squeeze in most of the first half of Season Two.
Either way, I think this would deal with the rushed feel Season One had, and help make Fear feel like it was actually in a zombie apocalypse by letting us see the carnage unfolding and the government rapidly losing control of the situation. This way, it would feel much more like the world Rick woke up to rather than just an empty one.
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