Many viewers are impatiently waiting for the Season 10 “finale” of The Walking Dead on October 4th, which we now know will be followed by six more episodes. We’ve also been given the news that an extended, 24-episode Season 11 will be the show’s end.
As expected, that doesn’t mean TWD franchise will be over, as AMC will milk the IP as long as possible. We already knew about the two-season, 20-episode spin-off The Walking Dead: World Beyond, but we’ll be receiving an untitled “Carol & Daryl” spin-off series as well.
Before we become too excited (or jaded), let’s not forget that TWD universe already has a spin-off: Fear the Walking Dead. Season 6 of FTWD airs starting October 11th, and honestly, I’m more excited about that than any other news.
Why would I be more excited for a spin-off usually rated below half the main series’s viewership? Quite simply, I find the characters and cast far more interesting than anything TWD has thrown at us.
First, let’s talk about the charged words “diversity” and “representation.”
It’s no secret that, until Season 4, there was a “revolving door” of Black characters on TWD, and they still didn’t entirely shrug the lack of representation off until Season 6. Not to mention, the lack of Latinx and Asian main characters, with only Rosita and Yumiko known to be alive (the latter of which has only been there for two seasons).
When Season 1 of TWD finished, its living characters were 84% white, 8% Black, and 8% Asian. Going toward the Season 10 “finale,” the cast currently alive is 54% white, 30% Black, 8% Asian, 5% Latinx, and 3% Polynesian.
In the meantime, FTWD began multicultural, with PoC from all walks of life, ending its first season with living characters that were 37% white, 25% Polynesian, 25% Latinx, and 13% Black. As of the Season 5 finale, the cast is 60% white, 23% Black, 10% Latinx, and 7% Asian, slightly whiter than its parent series but still much better than many shows.
Part of this diversity is because FTWD always represented its settings.
TWD, set outside Atlanta for multiple seasons, was cast utterly wrong for a metropolitan area that is one-third Black and only half white. After years of backlash, and setting itself up in a strangely rural vision of “DC/Virginia suburbs,” we finally received something resembling real-life demographics.
FTWD Season 1 was initially set in Los Angeles, and its cast was multicultural from the beginning. Season 2 moved the story to Mexico, and with it came mostly Latinx characters.
This trend would continue in Season 3, set near the California-Mexico border. The characters included white survivalists on a California ranch, Native Americans from a nearby reservation, and Mexicans controlling a dam outside Tijuana.
FTWD’s cast would become more white in Season 4 and 5, as they moved into the American South (from Texas through Mississippi). Despite this shift, they would also add more Black characters, mirroring the locations.
Of course, diversity and representation aren’t the end-all reasons why FTWD characters are more interesting than TWD, even if that’s an important aspect. From their experiences (and tragedies) on-screen to their traits, the protagonists make for a more exciting story.
The only remaining cast from the original season include:
- A teenage girl, the last remaining member of the (dysfunctional) Clark-Manawa family
- A cynical conman and scoundrel, who’s had to grow beyond his previous deceptions and beliefs
- A soldier and assassin from the CIA-backed military junta during the Salvadoran Civil War, who fled that life only to return to his ways once he’s lost his family during the apocalypse
(Ironically, we almost didn’t have Daniel Salazar, as he was presumed dead at the end of Season 3. See footnote at the end of the article!)
Those three core characters, along with Luciana (the only survivor from Season 2), would be joined by even more interesting characters in Season 4:
- Cross-over character Morgan, whose leadership, martial prowess and philosophical turmoil are way more interesting than his long-dead comic counterpart
- Reporter Al, obsessed with making a record of life in the apocalypse for future generations, who drives an armored SWAT MRAP rigged with machineguns
- Socially-awkward police officer (and trick shooter) John Dorie and his love June, a nurse (and tragic mother) turned opportunist
- Charlie, a troubled young girl, raised by nomadic pillagers, who must find her place with a group of which she murdered a member
- Wendell, a paralyzed trucker (with a badass wheelchair) and his adoptive sister Sarah, a fellow trucker and ex-marine
For all of the intriguing characters in TWD, much of that show’s cast have mundane backgrounds or skills. They’re nowhere as interesting or only became so through the long course of the series.
Of the longest-running characters known to be alive, you have:
- Daryl, the stereotypical loner, biker, survival nut
- Carol, probably the most complex character in the series
- Maggie (when she returns), the farmer-who-turned-into-her-father
- Eugene, the walking nerd trope
- Rosita, a combat expert, and mechanic with little-to-no explanation
Other characters of interest are Ezekiel (who lost much of his flair when he lost his Kingdom and Shiva), funny family-man and teddy bear Jerry, and foul-mouthed antagonist/antihero Negan. Everyone else is cliché or boring, fulfilling basic tropes in a zombie apocalypse.
We finally had some exciting additions with Magna’s group (technically Yumiko’s now), with PWD and LGBTQ+ characters. Still, the Deaf character is fate unknown, and half the lesbian relationship is on the outs!
Speaking of which, it eerily seems like the revolving door has moved from Black characters to gay ones! They killed Aaron’s husband Eric, followed by his boyfriend Jesus, and then they killed Tara (not to mention every one of her previous, on-screen girlfriends).
FTWD may only have Victor and (now) Al, but only one lost his significant other on-screen (and he was dying when they arrived). The room for further relationships still exists without the stigma of buried lovers, unlike the “Bury Your Gays” trope of TWD.
Both TV series have reached a similar formula, with a group of protagonist survivors facing groups of antagonists, against a backdrop of the zombie apocalypse, yet their quality of characters and cast is far different.
While we wait to see how long AMC will milk TWD franchise, I can safely say that I’ve enjoyed FTWD far more from a character perspective. The first spin-off has had far better (and more accurate) representation and more exciting characters.
I’ll still be here, watching TWD (until its inevitable conclusion) and checking out the new spin-offs. However, my heart will always be with FTWD, and the hope they’ll explore these fascinating roles even further.
Footnote: Originally, Alicia’s mother, Madison, was to have lived long enough to become an antagonist, but her fate was tied to showrunner Dave Erickson. After he was fired, Madison was killed off at the end of Season 4, and in Season 5, we instead received Salazar’s (much appreciated) return.