‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Shows Improvement, Still Just Repackaged Leftovers (TV Review)

[rating=7.00] “Cobalt”

Here’s the real problem with Fear The Walking Dead—you can package it with competent acting, camera work, and overall production values, but in not showing us anything new, it’s simply feeding us leftovers. Despite the fact that things seemed to be back on the kinetic side after spending three episodes wasting time with drab characterization, the series seemed to hit the reset button last week by dragging the military in to quarantine safe zones throughout suburbia.

Now, we’re given a kidnapped soldier who’s pried for information about the military’s operation, and the beginning of survivalism from inside the pens of the Army’s confinement of the sick, as well as the defiant. It also gives us a glimpse into the show’s first genuinely interesting character, Strand, who seems fond of bargaining with the military, manipulating the barracks to his own liking. He sends away the crying neighbor with the muscle car, but chooses to keep Gilbert Grape around, explaining that things are going back to “the old way of doing things.”

Back in the neighborhood, Lt. Moyers and company decide to take Travis on a ride-along to try and figure out which “side” he’s on. They find a stray zombie wandering around in a corner store, and set up a sniper rifle so Travis can initiate himself into their favor. As he takes aim, he suddenly stops, seeing her nametag, and realizing he can’t go through with it.

It’s not a bad scene in and of itself, but it isn’t giving the audience anything the parent series hasn’t spoon fed us over and over again, most recently with Lizzie, whose whole story arc started with her calling a zombie by the name on his nametag. In fact, it goes all the way back to The Walking Dead’s second episode, when Rick takes a wallet from the pocket of a zombie before narrating the contents to a group of survivors from the original Atlanta camp, reminding them that “he was one of us before this happened.”

This “rediscovering for the first time” element is played out once again with the death of Griselda, leaving Liza the one to shoot her in the head (with a livestock gun, no less) to prevent her from turning. And again, it’s not a bad scene, though it’s not only a repeated theme, it’s also not done in any way that builds on what we’ve seen before. The notion of the doctor’s “you’re trying to save six, I’m trying to save six-hundred thousand” mantra was interesting, and gave some kind of palpable explanation for the “humane extermination” of the potential infected, which the soldier eventually relents in telling them about.

The episode ends on a similar note, with Daniel approaching the hospital, boarded up and chained, filled to the brim with the living dead. Granted, there’s a common defense of the show that justifies this kind of storytelling by saying that the show is presented through the character’s eyes, and that they have no conceivable way of knowing what’s happening. The glaring flaw here is, as an audience, we do know what’s coming, and unless it can present these moments with a semblance of some bold or interesting new perspective, the show will keep serving us more of the same – repackaged leftovers.

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