Sunday, August 30, 2015

Geeky TV commentary - Fear the Walking Dead 1.2

Fear the Walking Dead airs at 9pm on Sunday nights, on AMC.

Second episode! Stuff happens, but there's still not a lot of hook for me; maybe it's the fact that these people don't mean anything yet, maybe it's because the show seems to be acting like we haven't all seen the other series for the last five seasons, maybe it's a pacing issue, but so far? It was less slow-feeling that the pilot, but there's still not a lot of spark to it.

Here's what happened this week: Nick finally goes into withdrawal, which leads his mom to go raid the stash of confiscated drugs at the school to find him something to ease it down, which reunites her with Tobias. He's raiding the kitchens, because he figures he's less likely to cross with scavengers there than at a store or whatever. While they're there, they discover that their principal is a zombie and get really stupid about it because Maddie has already seen zombies and he's clearly a) bloody, b) dragging and lurching and making gutteral noises, and c) not answering their calls with anything but an attempt to bite them. He almost gets Tobias, and she brains him with a fire extinguisher.

This was weird, because it didn't take long, and they didn't show the head-smashing, unlike the other show that revels in that stuff. Which sort of makes it...less impactful?

So she leaves Tobias at home, when really she should be demanding that he stay with her because he's the only one who knows anything about anything so far, and she goes home where she repeatedly doesn't tell her daughter what's going on, so she looks like she's withholding vital information and her daughter keeps flying off the handle because she doesn't realize how much trouble she's in.

Meanwhile, Travis goes to find his son. He's got a bad relationship with his ex, so she doesn't listen to him when he does try to tell her what's going on, but she does go with them when they find out that Chris is at a protest rally that popped up around yet another police shooting. The scene is set up so that you wait for the shot guy to get up, and then reveals that he can't because of a headshot, but it felt...not as shock-ful as it should. Anyway, another zombie (one of the Suicide Girls!) shows up and tires to nom a cop, and she gets head-shot, too.

The cops here: they're stockpiling supplies, they're coming at the zombies with headshots, they know what's going on, but so far they're not saying anything to the people that might maybe make their jobs easier and make them not look like self-serving jerks.

Travis and co see that happen, and they bolt, but the roads are closed already and the other shooting causes a riot, and so they have to take shelter--at a barber shop because that's the first place they see and he's got heavy-duty barriers on his bars and windows. The barber is all "no way", but his wife says to let them in, so now we have three more characters, but we barely get to meet them. They're stuck there, and the phones are getting unreliable and the power is going out all over, so they stay. Travis tells Maddie to head out into the desert and he'll follow when the roads clear.

After she's done with that call, Maddie and Alicia witness the neighbor attack the other neighbor, and still doesn't just tell her daughter what's going on. It's the stupidest thing she could do, and there's not even so much as a "you wouldn't believe me" or "I don't know", so it makes her look like she's got really bad decision-making skills, and it sets up Alicia to do something really dumb and dangerous because she doesn't have any information of her own.

In fact, there's very little talking between the characters at all. A lot of yelling, which still doesn't get much information across, and a lot of not listening, but not a lot of communicating. It makes everyone annoyingly withhold-y, and it steals chances to actually get to know these fifteen people we've been suddenly introduced to. Half of them don't even know each other, and there's no getting-aquainted going on, so it's hard to remember names, hard to relate to them, because they barely have personalities right now, except for a shared talent for not talking to each other when this is exactly the time when everyone needs to be making sure everyone has good information.

It's frustrating. We've seen the other show. We know what's happening. They don't, but they're only reacting so far--the only one who is trying to figure it out is Tobias, and he's not with them, and has only talked to Maddie.

Last episode felt like it had too many minutes to fill; this week feels like it could have done better with those other minutes, giving us the information we need to get to know the characters. This show should stand on it's own, but it's impossible not to compare it to the other, especially to the early episodes. Walking Dead gave us space to meet people, to know them; this show is just throwing everyone at us and not making anyone connect the dots, really. It's just a list of things and people, and no one really cares about what's happening enough.

That isn't to say it's not watchable; it's good enough that the fact that it's skipping a week already is fiercely annoying. But it's also handling things weirdly and sort of superficially, and a lot of stuff is happening but most of it is people just moving from one location to another, without much actual interaction with each other and that ongoing problem of communication. Maybe they were all just super-bad at talking before, but if that's true, someone should have paused and just insisted that all that can wait, we've got an outbreak and police problems to deal with, and we need to talk to each other. There's only six episodes; if someone doesn't make that point soon, they're going to miss her chance.

Also: Alicia went to see her boyfriend who still hadn't answered her texts and found him with a terrible fever in his bed. He looked like he'd been bit, but several problems: they made her leave him at home and she's not, like, fighting it much as she should be if she really loves him as much as she said; they left him alone, and still didn't make much of an attempt to tell Alicia why and what's happening; and he was literally in, like, two tiny scenes where we only saw him with her and got almost no backstory, and have no real idea of how he got bit, so it doesn't really mean much. It's sad, but since he's not a well-known character, what is more noticeable is that there have now been three black guys turned, and it's starting to look concerning.

It's almost like the show is short-handing. Instead of building real characters, they've given us cut-outs--the hard-nosed school person, the rebellious teen (times three), the nice guy, the weirdo, the ex. And then they've just thrown them into situations and let them run around like headless chickens, trusting that "boyfriend is dying" is enough to make it matter, when we don't hardly know who the boyfriend even is because he had all of five lines and then disappeared. It's like an outline of a show.

There's still four episodes left; maybe once they all hit the road, or actively try to meet up somewhere, they'll start having personalities with more than one note, and start interacting in some way other than yelling at each other and not saying the few useful things they actually know in a situation when knowing anything at all is very important. Right now, there's zombies, but there's still mostly people, and the people should be the real threat, but so far it's just a lot of running around, and not a lot of actual...confrontation? Is that the word I'm looking for? There's some zombie attacks, but they're awfully fast for people who have never seen this before and no one has died yet that we know. There's people freaking out, but no one outside of these few characters has really taken notice of them or tried to take anything or stop them from getting anywhere. Everything is falling apart, but it's falling apart with little comment on why, how, and what it means, and no one has brought in a wider context yet.

I hope that gets better. I like the show enough that all these little half-asseries are very annoying--I want it to be better! I want it to have weight and depth! We know what the other show is capable of, and it makes the shallow bits look that much more shallow, or like they're pulling their punches, or not delivering on the threat.

Yet. There's still time to build!

What did you guys think? Did I miss some major growth or interaction because I was complaining on Twitter? Comment here or come talk to me on the tweets!
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