There’s been confusion, sadness, anger and more confusion following this week’s news that Morgan (Lennie James) will be leaving The Walking Dead for its spinoff show, Fear The Walking Dead. I think it’s wonderful news.
My colleague Paul Tassi justifiably took the news to mean that the character would be killed off the current show and find himself back in the past timeline of Fear. However, new information seems to suggest that this is a forward-moving story, indicating that FTWD might be making a pretty significant time-jump as we enter the fourth season which takes place in Texas.
That would make some sense. After all, getting from Southern California/Arizona (or thereabouts) to Texas during a zombie apocalypse might take a pretty long while. Just think how long it’s taken the survivors in The Walking Dead to travel from Georgia to the D.C. area. That’s a 638 mile trek compared to around 1500 miles between San Diego and Houston (though where exactly all the locations, both south and north of the border in the last season of FTWD, remains foggy.)
Regardless, it’s a long way to travel with any number of obstacles along the way. A time-jump makes sense. And for Lennie James and Morgan, a show-hop from the increasingly terrible Walking Dead to its much, much better spinoff show makes sense, too.
Leaving The Walking Dead Is A Good Career Choice
Just about every actor I’ve seen leave The Walking Dead has gone on to do bigger and better things elsewhere. The most prominent of these is Jon Bernthal who played Shane early on in the show. He’s gone on to star in a number of movies, with small but important roles in Sicario, Wind River and Spider-Man: Homecoming. Most importantly, he’s landed his own Netflix Original, The Punisher.
Then there’s Sonequa Martin-Green who played Sasha until her character’s bizarre, inexplicable decision to go into the Savior’s compound to assassinate Negan with a sniper rifle at close range…for no other reason than to kill her character off so that she could turn into a zombie and fail, once again, to get her mark.
Now she plays Michael Burnham on Star Trek: Discovery. It’s a far better role on a show that I’ve grown quite fond of (review incoming.) Her character is much more interesting and fleshed out than Sasha ever was, and I can see this being the beginning of a really great gig.
I also just started watching the new Netflix Original Godless. It’s a Western mini-series starring Jeff Daniels in perhaps the scariest role I’ve ever seen him play. The show also stars Merritt Weaver (what a great name; she should be a novelist) who Walking Dead fans may know as Denise, a character who showed up briefly for a couple of seasons so that she could fall in love and then get killed off suddenly. She’s fantastic as the fiercely independent widow, Mary Agnes.
It’s actually quite striking. Shows like Punisher and Godless and Star Trek: Discovery actually give their characters great lines, interesting conflicts, and actions that make sense rather than simply serve to forward the plot.
Fear The Walking Dead Has Gotten So Much Better
The first two season of Fear The Walking Dead were pretty bad. Good characters but not great stories. More than anything, the show felt uneven and didn’t really seem like the show we’d been promised.
Then along came Season 3 and all that changed. To my surprise and delight, we finally had a compelling zombie show on our hands. It was so much better than The Walking Dead’s terrible seventh season, I could barely believe it. Many fans still refuse to believe it, choosing not to watch the show in spite of great word of mouth and critical acclaim. Oddly enough, many Walking Dead fans spend quite a lot of time talking about how bad Fear is, even though both shows are Robert Kirkman’s creations.
The reality is, Fear is better in almost every way, from the writing to the cinematography to the acting and character development. I’ve said many times that I’m not a fan of Madison (Kim Dickens) but just about all the other characters, from Nick (Frank Dillane) to Salazar (Ruben Blades) to Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) and all the new characters they introduced last season, are really great. (I’m on the fence with Strand (Colman Domingo) but I think that’s how you’re supposed to feel about Strand.)
Season 3 of Fear was filled with surprises and with characters who were never quite good or evil but rested in that foggy realm between. Much of this is due to the fact that it’s allowed to be its own show, free of the comics that keep The Walking Dead so constricted. It’s also just better TV with better writing and production values.
Whatever the case, Morgan coming to Fear is an exciting turn of events for viewers and for Morgan as a character. He’ll be allowed to experience a show that’s far more complex and interesting than the “all out war” of TWD’s Season 8. I can’t wait to see how he and Nick hit it off. If anyone can get Morgan’s crazy, it’s Nick.
I understand that some fans may miss Morgan and not choose to watch him on Fear. I also understand that some other characters probably would have been a bigger draw. And I very much empathize with Lennie James, who has many friends on the cast of The Walking Dead and now has to move to a new show. But I still think the bigger picture is a rosy one.
In any case, you can read more about what makes Fear the Walking Dead better than The Walking Dead here. And check out my video on the subject below.
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