Give Fear The Walking Dead credit: For a while, the spinoff series about the zombie apocalypse was smart in how it separated itself from the flagship zombie apocalypse series.
(Editor's note: Spoilers ahead for all seasons of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead.)
It started at the onset of the zombie outbreak, so we got to see how society (specifically Los Angeles) reacted and subsequently fell apart. Then, they went on a post-apocalyptic boating trip, which was far more entertaining than the premise might indicate.
However, with only the show's second season finale left to air — on Sunday — the second half of the season has fallen victim to the same tired tropes that has made The Walking Dead's later seasons an exercise in futility. Here are some of the ways Fear The Walking Dead has, unfortunately, followed suit.
The show has separated its characters — only to have them inexplicably find each other. After the Governor attacked the prison in The Walking Dead, the characters were separated for half a season, only for all of them to make their way to a new save haven, Terminus. (It wasn't actually safe, though; there were cannibals.) The show's logic for everyone finding each other was that the people of Terminus were leaving out markers to lead unsuspecting apocalyptic survivors toward their location. It was a weak arc for the series, but at least they were geographically close to one another.
Fear The Walking Dead, meanwhile, left Celia's burnt-down estate with three separated groups: Chris with Travis, Nick by himself, and the rest of the crew. Nick found his own community near Tijuana — and he's still very separate from the narrative. But in order for Travis to reunite with the rest of the group, it meant Madison had to turn on the lights at a beachside hotel where she had formed her own community.
Her logic for turning on the power — which, in the apocalypse, is akin to a gigantic welcome mat for anyone who can see it — was that she'd heard a description of a kid that sounded a lot like Nick (and indeed it was). But the decision to turn on the lights was undeniably out of character for Madison, who has consistently been one of the most pragmatic characters on the show.
Bringing attention to her new community — solely for the off chance that her son would see it, and then head toward it — brought dozens of survivors they couldn't feed to their doorstep, and conveniently, that included Travis. It was a roundabout and unrealistic way to reunite the characters.
A kid becomes a sociopath. The reason Travis went off with son Chris was because of his unraveling psyche after his mother died at the end of season one. He's been trying to bring him back into the fold, but Travis was finally consigned to Chris' post-apocalyptic, sociopathic fate after he killed a farmer who was trying to protect his chickens — and showed no remorse for his actions.
Sound familiar? The Walking Dead's Lizzie character, the tween who had a penchant for dissecting rodents, followed a similar arc when she killed her little sister. The eventual solution to the Lizzie problem was cruel, but necessary: Carol told her to "look at the flowers" — then shot her in the head.
But Fear The Walking Dead's Chris problem is less Of Mice and Men and more tiresome. Chris betrays Travis several times — before the group was separated, he even threatened Alicia and brandished a knife — but Travis just blames himself for not being a better father.
The storyline worked in The Walking Dead because the show had the audacity to confront Lizzie's actions by killing her — as well as the heartbreaking aftermath for Carol in doing so. But Chris' second season arc has brought forth a strong feeling of déjà vu: He makes a stupid mistake, Travis tries to bring him back to the fold, Chris leaves him and they eventually reunite.
Sadly, the season finale preview has teased Chris' return — which would only further confound the tedious trope.
They find another safe space that will eventually be decimated. The biggest issue with The Walking Dead even having a spinoff is the inherent plot limitations for a zombie apocalypse setting. There's only so much the characters can encounter in the post-apocalyptic world — and that means a rotating set of safe havens that will, in time, become compromised.
Fear The Walking Dead going on a boat for half a season — after spending a season in the heart of Los Angeles during the outbreak — was a creative way to get past this. Now, however, Madison and company are holed up in a hotel by the ocean. The premise is similar to several communities from The Walking Dead: Hershel's farm, the prison, Woodbury and now Alexandria.
Nick's community in Tijuana follows the same model, and it speaks to a bigger issue to the long-term future of the spinoff. It started off with promise because we didn't see society's collapse in The Walking Dead; we're introduced to it after the fact.
Fear The Walking Dead is losing ways in which it can distinguish itself from its source material, especially as the zombie apocalypse hits full-swing. The series can still alter its course in Sunday's two-hour finale, but with such limiting circumstances, it might already be too late.