The Walking Dead is kind of a cop-out.
It's not that the hugely popular zombie apocalypse series isn't entertaining. Over five seasons, series mastermind Robert Kirkman has managed to almost seamlessly translate the savagery and brutality of the original graphic novels into a gritty, enthralling television spectacle, doused in blood and toeing the line of human morality. Despite the fact that Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his fellow survivors barely left the state of Georgia during the early seasons, the tortured performances of Lincoln and his ensemble cast continue to draw in massive audiences for AMC.
Strangely, the problem with the post-apocalyptic show is just that: we totally missed the apocalypse. The series opens with Rick emerging from a coma in an abandoned hospital in his vacant hometown. While movies like George Romero's groundbreaking Living Dead series and World War Z actually show cities and states in a state of collapse, The Walking Dead never really gave us a chance to see human civilization truly go to shit.
That's where Fear the Walking Dead comes in. The spin-off, which traces the path of a dysfunctional family — starring Cliff Curtis as Worried Step-Dad, Kim Dickens as Worried Mom, Frank Dillane as Junkie Son, and Alycia Debnam-Carey as Know-It-All Sister — just as zombies start to spread like a contagion through American cities, gives us a sense of what it means to survive the apocalypse itself before the dust settles in a newly depopulated world. While Rick and co. may be armed to the teeth and ready for walkers, Fear the Walking Dead's cast has to improvise in a crowded world roiling in chaos. In some ways, it's a more telling guide for surviving a zombie apocalypse than The Walking Dead purports to be.
The Walking Dead never really gave us a chance to see human civilization truly go to shit.
With this in mind, here are five important survival tips gleaned from AMC's latest horror drama and how they can help you get the most out of the series — and, for the show's leads, get out alive.
Always heed the warning signs. The FTWD leads fascinating in their pre-outbreak obliviousness. Sure, it's a bit unfair to compare these doe-eyed suburbanites to the hyper-anxious bat-shit crazy members of Rick's Walking Dead posse (especially when you consider the fact that, in the Walking Dead universe, there's no pre-existing concept of zombies at all), but my God people: if things seem wrong, they probably are really, really wrong. And definitely, definitely don't blame it on drugs or insanity or "too much internet." You'll sound like an ass and then you'll end up in some undead neighbor's stomach.
We, the lucky viewers at home, know the zombies are coming, which makes the characters' befuddled attempt at explaining the living dead even more delicious. The first episode of the series masterfully hints at the undead threat lurching on the horizon, the suspense most heightened when you're watching for those little details.
Don't go in there! In Walking Dead, exploring every roadside shanty and collapsing supermarket isn't cavalier pillaging, but a sheer necessity: starvation, sickness, and lack of ammunition are just as worrisome as getting your face eaten off. But in FTWD, exploring is just, I don't know, for funsies! Sure, I'll go explore an abandoned church-turned-murder-spot! Or drive a van into a reservior-turned-crack-den? Why not! It's insane that people do outside of desperate scavenging for supplies. In reality, the best thing to do is hole up and try to survive — or, per to rule #17 in Zombieland: Don't Be A Hero.
Shit escalates quickly. When things start to fall apart, they really start to fall apart. The series quickly progresses from a slow unveiling of the impending horrors to full-blown meltdown. The mother and father duo at the center of the show's bizarre family get this immediately, and It's do-gooder step-dad Travis, played by Cliff Curtis, who actually has a shockingly good idea in the first minutes of the second episode (which is frankly insane given that characters in zombie flicks normally come around to their bloody doom far too late.) And this is great for viewers, frankly: the Walking Dead slogged through its first two seasons with little change in scenery or action. FTWD is way more cognizant of the frenetic panic that represents a more realistic reaction to a major disaster. And what does this mean for you? At the first whiff of danger, run for the hills.
Look closely — but not too closely. When Rick awakens after the initial chaos in Walking Dead, he's confronted by all manner of disgusting, decomposing zombies, an element that makes for progressively more disgusting deaths and dismemberment in later seasons. FTWD is a whole new ball game: the meat's fresher, making for a less macabre spectacle but heightened danger for any survivor not paying close attention — a problem, considering that the symptoms of the virus are in both series initially mistaken for the flu. This brings an added layer of suspense to the series where zombies don't suddenly come pouring out of random places. It's good advice for both survivor and viewer.
Teens are the worst. Especially when they're not zombies. Avoid them at all costs. Except for Carl, obviously.
Photos by Courtesy of AMC