Here’s the TLDR first: Fear the Walking Dead is completely throwing away the concept of their premise for a poorly written character drama that doesn’t develop characters or drama. A pseudo-survival soap opera, without even the sex or he said/she said and backstabbing a decent soap would give us. They’re not following the descent, the collapse, the panic and “what’s going on, what do we do” or any of that. We’ve just got placid characters placidly not asking questions, not looking around, not interested (or interesting) at all in the disintegration of society.
So it’s nine days since episode three (in universe). The military has arrived and safe holded the hell out of the neighborhood. They’re not safe so much as under guard, it seems. Supposedly there are only twelve safe zones south of the mountains. Chris tells us (in narrator mode) the military says everyone outside the fences is dead. Later when Madison ventures forth, she sees (at least in the immediate area) this is true. The Army lieutenant (moderately sure, though not positive, that’s what he is; single vertical bar on his cap) is a ‘real piece of work’. Could be worse, but doesn’t seem to be really taking the situation completely seriously. Shades of tyranny, and a lack of overt concern for his ‘charges’. Could be worse, but definitely not the best.
The two main things I noticed about Maddy’s trip beyond the fence were the bodies lying about, and the ‘usual’ message board of “have you seen my spouse/kid/friend/aunt/whoever.” Plus, of course, how easy it was for her to escape. That will probably be a crucial plot point in the last two episodes if the military’s presence at the safe zone doesn’t collapse on its own. The bodies beyond the fence seem to illustrate a massive die off and breakdown of services. Not because the bodies indicate that many people have died, but because that the bodies haven’t been cleared, or piled up, or even simply burned in place, strongly suggests there isn’t enough breathing manpower available to do any of that. As for the message board, that’s a common thing in apocalypse fiction because it’s a convenient quick image to illustrate lots of tragedy. But it also confirms a massive die off. There were quite a lot of pleas posted on that board.
I didn’t see a time skip coming, so that’s a thing. Also, I’ll say the Clark kids are being pretty annoying in this episode. I know teenagers are annoying, but wow, maybe I’m just getting old because they get more annoying as time goes on. Nick is not on board with the wean-off program, and is stealing morphine from the drip setup for the critically ill next-door neighbor. I really don’t have any sympathy for him. Drug addicts aren’t likely to survive the apocalypse. Alicia is moping in secret, and still acting like this is just a lock-in at a mall or something. Ofelia is fooling around with a military patrol leader, presumably looking for access to treatment for her mom. Funny how Ofelia is the one I actually agree with. That’s problem solving.
Sandrine Holt finally shows up! Big fan of Sandrine. For interested parties, her and the character she played in season 5 of 24 were part of the inspiration I used when creating Jessica in Apocalypse Atlanta. But returning to FtWD, here she’s a doctor who’s working with the Army. She seems to have no authority, which is the kind of thing that can lead to getting yourself killed when the people in charge are making bad decisions.
I still continue to believe Griselda Salazar is a write off. Now she’s being bundled into a facility forcibly . . . and she can’t walk, and is too old to somehow have any hope of dragging herself fast enough to escape. Poor woman’s prospects aren’t looking good. Nick, however, maybe has a chance if he has more plot points in his back pocket, but it’ll be rough. Even ignoring the junkie part, which I still feel counts against him and also makes him a very poor option for anyone’s survival team. Who doesn’t think the ‘facility’ won’t turn into a concentrated ball of zombie infestation? Raise your hands? Yeah, that’s a lot of hands. I was happy Maddy lost her temper with Nick though; maybe the mild mom beating will break through his junkie haze? Probably not, but I guess there’s a chance.
One pretty big thing that bothered me was no discussion, no talk, of what’s happening beyond their little safe zone. They still have phones (Alycia was charging hers during the initial scene while Maddy and Travis bickered). There was no mention of jamming of broadcasts (which would be necessary to kill radio and television), nor was there mention of the Internet being down (which if there was still power, even rotating rationed power, I find it sort of hard to believe was offline). Yet we got nothing about death tolls or disease victims or mass numbers of sick or anything like that. An entire neighborhood stuck in a safe zone (looked to be at least low three figures of folks) and no one was spending their copious free time investigating what the fuck is going on? None of them have relatives not stuck in the zone with them? None of them want to find out what’s happening? They’re all just content to let the California National Guard hold them in a little zombie larder zone, deaf and dumb?
There was a tiny amount of cross-chatter during the lieutenant’s opening speech, but it barely even qualified as background color. Definitely didn’t really rise to the level of what you usually see (especially among Americans) of demanding to know what’s happening. Americans aren’t known for their patience. Or their obedience to authority.
I liked how Daniel Salazar’s immediate response when Maddy said she’d gone outside the fence was “what did you see?” Not even a hint, not the slightest whiff, of “oh my God, the military said stay inside the fence.” Nope, not a care was given. Just wanted information. And told a story about how his father wasn’t a survivor. I also liked the side point in Daniel’s story about how there’s no difference between fear driven actions and evil ones. Of course philosophy majors can (and will) argue endlessly about it, but fuck them. When you’re the one being denied help or food or whatever, when you’re the one being robbed or driven out unequipped for travel in an apocalypse zone, there isn’t a difference. The result is the same; you’re in deep shit.
Travis might have just managed to have an epiphany that could save his life. His happy-go-lucky “everything’s fine” and “trust TPTB” aura might’ve been, finally, shattered by what he saw up on the hilltop. Even if he still dies, but it stops him from acting as he’s been so far, I’ll just settle for that. Episode minutes will tell.
My continued belief is Daniel and Maddy should be the core survivors of the cast for season two. They’re both interested, motivated, and make good base characters.
However, my biggest issue with the show so far is it’s completely ignoring any of the actual fun to be had with the apocalypse. I’m not talking about wall-to-wall zombie killing, though a little of that is never necessarily a bad thing. What I am talking about is how the show isn’t getting into the disintegration of society, the collapse of civilization; how the normal turns into apocalypse. I think a lot of fans, when they heard FTWD announced, thought we’d be getting something like that. And we’re just not. So far it’s been four episodes that are pretty close to most of what happened during Season 2 of TWD. Replace ‘farm’ with ‘suburban house’, and otherwise it’s been the same. Talking without substance, scenes without development, portrayal without characterization.
Right now, it’s feeling like a large missed opportunity, like AMC and the showrunners have seriously missed the mark. I obviously think there’s tons of story potential in concentrating on the collapse, on following how normal becomes disaster, but even if FTWD didn’t want to go full AA, they’ve still shot quite wide and wasted most of the possible potential of the concept. So many cards have been left face down on the table, unrevealed. They’ve chosen to go with a tell not show approach, have ignored the juice that comes when normal characters get squeezed by a situation. We’ve got a pseudo-disaster soap on our hands so far.
It could’ve been much more. I really hope the next two episodes perk up. There’s still time for the way people talk about FTWD to be saved. Because right now I think the narrative isn’t playing out positively.
Until next time, eat more brains!