Fear the Walking Dead, Cobalt, perks up but still disappoints

posted in: Media, TV, Zombies | 0

So, a little better than last week’s.  At least things are happening other than characters sitting around moping without any sign of plot advancement in sight.  Griselda lost her foot, died, and got a bolt to the head.  More genocide (that we might even get to see a bit of) is on tap.  Daniel made a hard call.  And the situation is being setup for the core characters to either shit or die on the pot.

“… power tripping 5-0”, one of my favorite lines in the episode.  For personal reasons that I won’t clutter up the blog with.  But it was also part of the showcasing of a larger problem; the California National Guard soldiers are low morale and not liking what they’re stuck in the middle of.  We also saw them looting – that’s what it looked like to me – towards the end when Alicia and Chris were out after curfew.  If, though, the soldiers have participated or are even just simply aware of a massive execution of (zombie or otherwise) Los Angeles civilians, if they’ve just been ordered to execute a subdivision full of civilians  . . . why would they be interested in stealing TVs and furniture?  What would be the point?  If tens of thousands (really, hundreds of thousands) of civilians are being shot, why would even foolish 18 to 24-year-olds think now’s a good time to reoutfit their apartments?

We also saw how the unit’s commander, Moyers, is pretty disconnected from both the reality of the situation and his men’s reactions to it.  If he hadn’t gotten himself killed off in that little building assault, he could’ve caused a lot more of his soldiers’ deaths too.  It’s definitely for the best that he’s out of the picture.

Ofelia lured her would-be beau home for dad, Daniel, to torture for information.  A little – okay, a lot – colder than I really expected.  From both of the remaining Salazars.  The whole “we’ll trade the soldier hostage for mom” plan I think never had a chance in hell of working, but the “torture him to find out what we don’t know” plan definitely paid off.  As us 80s kids learned, knowing is half the battle.  Yeah, okay, moving on.

Still liking Daniel; he’s definitely got the right mindset to survive this.  He thinks about things, keeps his eyes open, doesn’t assume sunshine and daisies, and he’s prepared to do whatever he thinks will be best for him and his.  Madison had better hope he decides she and ‘her people’ end up on Daniel’s list, because if Travis doesn’t get killed off (here’s hoping), Daniel will go a long way to counter-balancing her fiance’s non-apocalypse-surviving impulses.

Travis continues to show weakness.  I don’t expect, or even want, every character in the show to turn into Duke Nukem, but we’re getting pretty far into “you’ve got to be kidding me territory” in my opinion.  He’s seen zombies up close and personal (repeatedly).  He saw the military shooting up the house last episode.  He heard Moyers’ little speech about having all the power to do whatever he wants . . . and now he’s seen both the three-point zombie wandering around and the squad shooting it out with a building full of zombies that cost them one of their own.  What more does he have to have his face rubbed into before he stops the wishy-washy “I’m not ready to do that” crap?  The only thing the CO said that I agreed with in the whole episode was when he did his other little speech about Travis being someone who lives under the protection but not wanting to get his hands dirty.

Normally that’s hyperbole that will only worsen a situation, only serve to further divide whoever you’re saying it to from you.  But, in this case, it’s more or less true.  Yes we’re the audience, and we know (from The Walking Dead if nothing else) that shit is going to get real bad.  But even allowing for that, even if I step back and examine things from just what we’ve seen in the first five episodes (like Travis should be doing); the time for being unwilling to shoot to kill against zombies is over.  Well over.  It’s like Rick said last season in The Walking Dead.  “You’re the kind of people who aren’t supposed to be alive.  You’re supposed to be dead.”

Travis just keeps solidifying his place in that exact category.  He has demonstrated zero survival qualities.  Nothing he does, excepting his apparent willingness to take a bullet for Madison and her and his family, redeems him.  None of it gives him anything we can hang our hats on while giving any sort of positive odds that he’ll make it.  It doesn’t make him a bad character, but it does make him one that shouldn’t live.  Or, if he does, is definitely being setup for a huge amount of “oh God what have I let happen; why didn’t I act” and so forth at some future point in the story.  Like, he’ll hesitate (again), and someone will die because of it, and he’ll have his moment of epiphany.

That’s for then, though.  For now, he’s just a disappointing annoyance.

Strand, the last salesman of the apocalypse, definitely just came out of nowhere in this episode.  An interesting character, one that’s got a certain appeal from nearly his first moment on screen.  He has a slicker version of what I like about Daniel; he’s always thinking, has a plan, is ready to choose a move from one of those he’s readied ahead of time.  It might be a form of audience pandering, but I don’t care; there’s a lot to like about a character like that.  It’s fun, and in a show full of limp characters that aren’t active and engaged in the story, is also seriously refreshing.

And it might very well turn out that Strand is the only thing that keeps Nick from dying in the last episode.  Seriously.

So now we know, more or less, what we’re probably in store for in that last episode.  It’ll be on us next week.  Cobalt means the soldiers have been ordered to kill everyone not in uniform and pull out.  There will definitely be some desertions, because of the morale issues and because soldiers have families too.  But we’ll certainly get at least one scene of M-16s being used to gun down civilians.  I’m betting at the hospital facility, because it’ll be that much more horrific if the civilians are caged up like prisoners as they’re gunned down.  TWD rarely misses a chance to go for the edge of the horror they feel they can get away with on television.

There will likely be some running and screaming.  Our core cast of main characters will be ducking and scrambling to avoid being shot, hiding in houses and sneaking around trying to get out of the perimeter  Because it’s the last episode, I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if we got a TWD style massive crowd of zombies.  Dozens and dozens (on camera, with hundreds implied in a long shot or using camera tricks) of zombies staggering after our heroes.  Maybe overrunning a departing military convoy or squad or something.  Because that’ll make the guts and gore zombie fans happy.

Since we’re being setup for “everything dies”, I figure we’ll probably see the house, the Clark home, being burned up.  Because it’s too obvious, otherwise, that Madison and her crew might choose to stay and squat in what’s left of Los Angeles.  If the house gets destroyed, they will definitely be more likely to start running.  And forest (or desert; this is southern California after all) locales are cheaper to film in than even Vancouver-doubling-as-Los-Angeles.  Figure on some sort of “what do we do now” moment, likely followed by (presumably Madison) staring into the camera grimly and uttering “we survive” or some such.

What really bugs me though, with one to go, is that excepting the brief little riot back in the first half, we’ve had nothing of the apocalypse.  No descent into madness, no eruption of chaos, no “what’s going on” or “what do we do” moments.  And that riot was a normal riot; not a zombie induced attack.  The entire season has been this family, and two others that are stuck on through a Travis connection (his bio family and the Salazars because Travis chose to shelter in their barber shop), sitting in their house knowing nothing about what’s happening.

I mean, I’ve seen the movie Pontypool, which is basically a radio station DJ listening to the apocalypse on the radio.  That was a ‘clever’ way to avoid having to pay for stunts and makeup and location shooting; the whole movie is basically a radio show framed by ongoing character reaction visuals.  People staring at each other in horror, mouths agape, as they listen to screaming and panic on audio from outside; that sort of thing.

Fear the Walking Dead hasn’t even given us that.  It is completely, utterly, and absolutely beyond disbelief (as in suspension of) that Los Angeles could crumble like we’re supposed to believe it has and none of it would get out into the media.  No tv or radio broadcasts.  No social media, no internet, no emails or tweets or texts or Snapchats or any of the (hundreds, I’m told) of things the kids are doing these days.  It was certainly showcased often enough that Alicia is glued to her phone.  We’re supposed to believe no one lived long enough as Los Angeles converted and ate each other to post and broadcast and communicate what’s happening?  That none of these characters dragged themselves out of their scripted stupor to care about “gee, why is my life falling apart?  Why are people dying?  Wow, is there even a Los Angeles anymore?  I should get online or turn on the tv.”

Our world, even the world of 2010, is one where things are posted instantly.  At the drop of a hat.  News goes global within seconds, literally seconds, of happening.  A nightclub catches on fire during a concert, and the Internet knows about it.  Plane crashes, Reddit and Fark are usually faster than CNN and the BBC.  Shooting, stabbing, kidnapping, war, whatever the dramatic thing is, smartphones and tablets and wifi and cellular connections uplink the pictures, followed by commentary with bad grammar and tons of misspellings.  Even live pictures, that update continually as the phone or whatever it is dumps its video or still feed to the web.

We know these things happen, that they’re not unique or uncommon.  They’re the norm.  And yet here we are, five in with one left, and both characters and audience know nothing about the disintegration of a city with a population measured in the millions.  Even if Los Angeles was the only one affected, which we know it isn’t, it’s just ridiculous.

I get that AMC is cheap and refuses to spend any money on the budget of their most popular, highest rated, and most talked about shows.  That’s another conversation.  But they could’ve easily cut some of the moping and non-plot-developing dialog lacking shots out of the episodes to fill us in.  There was plenty of room, time, to give us some tv and tweets and whatever.  They could’ve gone Pontypool on it, and at least we’d know they’re taking the story as seriously as we want them too.  I’m not going to demand they lay out Hollywood Cinema level bucks to pay for big battle scenes; but some news anchors, some screaming civilians shouting into their phones, some newspaper headlines, some radio broadcasts . . . come on.  Treat the audience with more respect.

One would’ve hoped they’d learned their lessons from Season Two of The Walking Dead, when the show nearly collapsed.  And that’s the way to put it.  Fans were peeling away, and even today the talk about that second season is not good.  Most of us frame it in terms of “we’re past it” or “things got better”.  That was a result of them gutting the creative staff of the show, along with doubling the episode order and lowering the budget.  It’s actually arguable that the staff of the show managed to salvage anything from it with that level of hardship stacked against them.

But the way FtWD has gone is just . . . the polite word is disappointing.  Very, very disappointing.

Do better AMC.  Do much better.  Abusing the audience’s trust is a shitty thing to do in an era of cord cutting.