Fear The Walking Dead Has Its Own Rick Grimes, And It’s Not Who You Think
He wakes up, alone, in a daze, surrounded by ominous quiet. He explores the nearby corridors and sees signs of the dead—bloodstains, corpses on the ground, and soon, a corpse on the move. When he bursts out into sunlight, there’s nothing left.
That’s where the similarities between Rick Grimes and Nick Clark’s zombie apocalypse awakening stories end, though. Rick does not see more than two living, breathing humans over the course of the next 90 minutes or so. Nick, meanwhile, promptly collides with a speeding vehicle, and sprawls out on the asphalt, surrounded by individuals from all walks of life.
The series premieres of The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, the latter of which debuted this past Sunday and was seen by literally everyone, are inevitably going to draw comparisons. They both focus on the gruesome relationship between what’s alive and what’s not. They both exist in the same universe. But these commonalities only help to highlight the biggest difference between the two AMC thrillers: Fear the Walking Dead does not have a Rick Grimes.
Of course, the southern sheriff isn’t going to pop up on Fear. The new show takes place years before where we’re at in Walking Dead proper, and on the complete opposite side of the country, to boot. And by “a Rick Grimes,” I mean Rick Grimes as an idea—a central point-of-view player through which we’re seeing the world fall apart all over again.
You can make the argument that Nick is the new Rick. His name’s only one letter off, and he’s the first person we meet in the show, in a haunting scene that plays out like a rock opera nightmare version of Rick’s hospital scene in the Walking Dead pilot. But we quickly shift away from seeing the world through Nick’s eyes, and into the heads of a few other individuals: Nick’s mother Madison, his sister Alicia, and his step-father-in-the-making Travis.
Each one of these people has their own unique problem they’re dealing with here in Fear. Madison straddles the uncomfortable line between wanting to help her son and wanting him to go away. Travis wants to heal his relationship with his own son, but has too much on his plate to do the work required. Alicia wants to hang out with her boyfriend, but he’s off who knows where, likely dead because he’s from “The Wire.” And Nick wants to figure out if he’s losing his mind, or if he actually saw what he saw in the church.
There is no one person we’re experiencing Fear through, at least not yet, and maybe not ever. But that doesn’t mean we’re without some version of a Rick.
In “Days Gone Bye,” the very first episode of Walking Dead, it’s pretty much all Rick all the time, except for the scenes with Morgan Jones—scenes so powerful that he’s still a fan-favorite character all these years later, even with only a handful of appearances under his belt. That’s because there’s so much world-building work the show needs to accomplish in its first 90 minutes. It needs to set up the idea that civilization is gone, probably past the point of no return, and all that’s left are pockets of people fighting tooth and nail to stay alive—losing battles, by and large.
Entering Fear, however, that world-building work is already accomplished. We’re at the start of the apocalypse here in sunny Los Angeles. We know what’s coming. We know what we’re in for. But the Clark family, and the people in their surrounding social spheres? They don’t know what they’re in for—and we don’t know them.
The Walking Dead premiere lacks a big spread of characters because it needs to let us in on the new world order. Fear the Walking Dead opens with so many different people, because we already know the new world order, but not all of the people affected by it. It’s not just one lawman looking for his family that we’re going to be following here; it’s the family itself.
So, no, Fear the Walking Dead does not have a Rick. It has four. The Clarks, combined, are the new Rick Grimes—and given how things typically go in this inhuman world, the coming episodes of Fear will force us to watch firsthand as this many-headed Rick loses pieces of itself. Prepare your grieving process accordingly.