'Fear the Walking Dead' is back, and it's hopelessly disappointing

AMC found itself a mega-hit with the launch of The Walking Dead, so much so that it has created a 'prequel' companion series called Fear the Walking Dead. The first season of Fear the Walking Dead wasn't very good, to put it kindly. Fans were willing to look the other way, though, banking on the hope of a better second season with The Walking Dead season 6 serving as a buffer between the two. Now FTWD's second season is upon us — airing only a week after TWD's terrible season finale — and it's every bit as disappointing as the first season. Warning: spoilers ahead.

Yesterday, April 10, AMC aired the first episode of Fear the Walking Dead, and for one brief moment it looked promising. It took less than ten minutes for it all to go downhill, and what remained was an angsty rendition of The Walking Dead's season 6 finale — long spats of travel, drama, and boredom, with the most interesting thing being left behind...and entirely unexplained to the viewers.

Los Angeles is fully on fire as the team makes their way from beach house to yacht, and walkers are closing in quickly. What happened to cause such a massive fire is anyone's guess, as we, the viewers, aren't privy to that action. No, we get a son's burning anger toward his father, a daughter's naive boredom, and some squabbling among the adults. The hour drags on mostly uninteresting, using up its time for character development that doesn't happen and to put in place plot points too narrow and thin to justify all the time it took.

If you were expecting this episode to usher in the west-coast version of Rick's trek into downtown Atlanta, prepare to be terribly, bitterly disappointed.

The episode wasn't a total failure — it did manage to get exciting, but only for the last few minutes as that aforementioned naivety mixed with some crafty weaponized pirates to usher in the season's first cliffhanger. It's not so much the episode that's the problem — yes, it's a terrible start — but what it signifies about FTWD and the Walking Dead franchise as a whole.

AMC is officially in a rut, and it's hoping viewers are willing to tolerate its continued lazy writing — that viewers will be okay with long spats of nothing happening, followed by a few minutes of teased excitement and a cliffhanger. This was the exact formula for TWD's most recent finale, one that left viewers feeling betrayed after AMC went to such efforts to promise an episode it did not deliver.

The biggest difference between TWD and FTWD is that TWD has a history of, at times, being excellent. We knew what was coming thanks to the comics, and it was fun seeing what changes would be made. The slow episodes were forgiven due to a combination of one's time investment in the series and a fondness for the characters. Fear the Walking Dead doesn't have that same sort of foundation to carry it through such a terrible start — we don't know these characters and we don't care about them yet. If there's ever been a good time to avoid the show, now is it.

Yes, there's a chance FTWD may redeem itself. AMC has proven in the past that it can take a story in great directions, and it would be wonderful to see a character as fleshed out as Carol. For that to happen, though, AMC needs to ditch the filler and start giving their viewers real substance — no more long drawn out episodes where nothing happens, no more cheap cliffhangers that annoy viewers, and no more predictable plots.