The best way to describe Fear the Walking Dead is a rollercoaster.
What started as a compelling look into how the world fell became a tedious affair, and we’re surprised it’s even getting an eighth and final season to tie up loose ends.
The series was destined for success on its brand name alone, and looking back, it’s hard to believe that it is the same show we watched during the first three seasons.
It’s time to dive into how the show lost most of its viewers and whether anything could have prevented the series from becoming what it is today: A shell of its former self.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 1 premiered to a decent response and broke several cable records.
It started as a series about the Clark family and their struggle to come to terms with the fall of the world.
It wasn’t bad at the beginning, but you could tell the series was having a bit of an identity crisis in terms of showing best what happened in those early days of the outbreak.
The Clarks were a formidable family, but they all dealt with something deeply personal while navigating this new world order.
Cliff Curtis, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Mercedes Mason, and Ruben Blades were also a part of the early cast as their characters joined forces with the Clarks to escape to somewhere safe.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 elevated the stakes as the survivors joined forces with Colman Domingo’s Victor Strand, and the season offered something new to the franchise thanks to everyone residing on a boat.
There was a lot of story to mine from that, but the show hit its peak with Fear the Walking Dead Season 3.
The first half of the season is regarded as one of the best half-seasons in franchise history.
At several points during the first three seasons, Fear the Walking Dead did eclipse the main series in terms of quality. There’s no question about that.
At the end of the third season, when the show ended with the mother of all cliffhangers, showrunner Dave Erickson was let go by AMC.
In his place, Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg clearly wanted to make their mark on the series, so they brought Lennie James over from the main show as Morgan Jones.
In one of the most surprising moves, Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 centered the plot around Morgan and minimized the presence of several critical characters before they were killed off.
Kim Dickens was written out of the series and made it known she was not a fan of the creative direction.
Fans revolted because they lost two members of the Clark family, leaving Alicia in a world without her mother and brother.
It would have been easier to understand if the series then revolved around her, but the series became the Morgan show, effectively alienating many fans that enjoyed the first three seasons.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 3 concluded with several cliffhangers and excellent characters, but many of those characters were erased from existence when the new showrunners took the wheel.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 was rough, but it was nothing compared to Fear the Walking Dead Season 5, a season of TV that made me question whether I was being punked.
The characters became caricatures as the writing continued to flatline, giving the sense that the show was limping to the finish line.
Then came Fear the Walking Dead Season 6, the first season since the reboot that felt like a show worth watching.
With compelling villains, character dynamics, and a plot that made Morgan more interesting, it seemed like the series was on the road to recovery.
Unfortunately, that only lasted for half a season and the second half slipped back into the old ways of writing. What a rollercoaster!
The season did end with an unprecedented twist in the form of nuclear warheads exploding, filling Texas with radiation, and changing how the characters approach survival.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 started decently enough, but it quickly became a poor plot about Strand and his tower and how he wanted to become this big villain.
It wouldn’t have been as bad if it didn’t last the entire season, but there were so many questionable creative choices that signaled the series would be unable to maintain any form of consistency under Chambliss and Goldberg.
The end of the season was bizarre, with Debnam-Carey written out in a way that made some fans think her character was dead and others think she was cured of her mysterious ailment.
Fans watched in horror as Alicia fainted her way through the season after being bitten by a zombie. It’s a shame the actress was given such horrific material to work with before she departed.
You can only imagine our surprise when Kim Dickens returned as Madison Clark on Fear the Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16, exactly one episode after Alicia’s exit.
It would have been far more satisfying to have the mother-daughter back together for a few episodes before having them part ways due to the next mission.
After spending such a long time in that universe, you deserve these character moments to feel like there’s a payoff.
For Madison, we learned that she survived the fire at the stadium, but her health had deteriorated.
The season finale introduced us to a new villainous group and setting, which hinted that another overhaul was in the cards.
So, you can only imagine our surprise when it was announced in January 2023 that the series would end with Season 8, and even worse, it would only be 12 episodes.
With production already well underway and the show moving to Savannah for tax credits, it doesn’t give us the fuzzies that the series will have a conclusive ending.
It sounds like the cancellation was a last-minute thing. Just a few months ago, franchise overlord, Scott M. Gimple was saying FTWD was now the “flagship” after the conclusion of the main series.
AMC has made a lot of headlines for canceling shows with episodes in the can in a cost-cutting measure, so maybe we should be happy we’re getting the produced episodes at all.
However, the issue with Fear the Walking Dead has been the leadership. The series went through a period with horrific reviews and freefalling ratings after the new showrunners took over.
It’s hard to believe AMC allowed the same showrunners to remain with the show for the rest of its run. Sometimes, even the best showrunners aren’t the right people for certain shows, and unfortunately, Ian and Andrew did irreparable damage to the series’ legacy.
Fear the Walking Dead always had the potential to be great, and I wouldn’t have minded a third showrunner trying to steer the series back in the right direction.
With one season left, it’s hard to imagine the series miraculously recapturing its former glory.
What are your thoughts on what went wrong with the series as a whole?
Hit the comments below.
Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.