‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Continues to Stumble (TV Review)

[rating=5.00] “So Close, Yet So Far”

So far the pace of Fear The Walking Dead seems to swiftly alternate between a loud, shout-filled panic and long, silent shots that leer over the subjects. We’re told the world is ending, but we only see it on the margins, though those margins are steadily moving inward, and in between the panic, these shots provide a haunting backdrop to what would otherwise be a retelling of every disaster movie trope that was overused in the 70s.

It also carries one primary characteristic with its parent series, which is the infuriating trait that no one seems to clearly explain what is going on, was going on, or will go on. Travis, the stepfather, goes to find his ex-wife, Lisa and son, Chris. While his wife can only talk about their custody arrangements, he pleads “something’s going on,” alternating occasionally with “you don’t understand!”

Madison, meanwhile, leaves her son, Gilbert Grape, at home while she goes out to find drugs to wean him off junk. Where would one go at the dawn of the apocalypse for such a thing? Why, the public high school, of course, where she meets up with Tobias, the kid who, long after everyone is dead and turned, will be one with the true claim to say “called it!”

As they gather food and Tobias continues to foreshadow the upcoming events, the failure of the communication grid, followed by the power grid, assuring “when civilization goes, it goes fast!” We’re then treated to Madison who, despite having seen a reanimated corpse already try and attack her, approaches her coworker, Art, with wide-eyed naivete, assuring she’ll get him help before he, you know, tries to eat her flesh.

The brain-as-the-lone-weakness tactic isn’t widespread knowledge yet, as even Tobias seems confused that stabbing the torso does no good whatsoever, leaving Madison to ‘put out that fire,’ (pun intended).

Across the city, Travis, having talked some amount of sense into Lisa between all his vague proclamations of impending doom, finds their son, Chris, at the beginning of a riot over the killing of what’s perceived to be an unarmed homeless man. It’s the show’s first major step into logically constructing the fall of civilization. Through the chaos, they seek shelter in a barber shop as the protests erupt.

It’s worth noting that when Travis calls Madison, assuring each other of their safety, she asks where he is, and he starts to explain, before trailing off and asking about Gilbert Grape. Why? Why is everyone in The Walking Dead universe so completely incapable of full, concise explanations.

Despite it being similarly uneven, Fear The Walking Dead does sprinkle in moments of atmospheric horror rather effectively, moments like Madison watching the kids wearing decorated face masks in the back of the car, just after Tobias assures her “this doesn’t end” have real weight to them. It utilizes its own prequel narrative to its advantage, because as a viewer you don’t watch them and wonder “if,” but rather “when.”

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