Sunday, September 20, 2015

Geeky TV commentary - Fear the Walking Dead 1.4

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

It feels like Fear the Walking Dead is finally coming together. Which is ironic on an episode where mostly nothing much happened until the last fifteen minutes or so, but they did nothing-happening better this time--it was a nothing-happening where people were asking questions and not trusting the answers they were given. A nothing-happening where people were trying to find things out for themselves.

And there was enough of a pause in the crazy that people could start thinking--which was what was seriously missing from the earlier episodes. Now, it's the characters who are being withheld from, not the ones doing the withholding, and it's much less annoying when shifty soldiers and doctors are obviously not telling everything they know than it is when characters we see are not saying anything at all even though there's no reason not to.

So here's the rundown of events:

Nick has been stealing morphine from a terminally ill neighbor who Liza has been helping with her nurse-skillz, and claiming that he's fine now. Which leads to the Mysterious Doctor that shows up putting him on the list of sick and injured because she doesn't believe that he's cured after she checks him out.

Liza has been helping all the sick and injured in the neighborhood, but the doctor knows she's not an actua nurse--though they didn't say whether she's full on faking it, or if she lost her certification somehow, or if she's just, like, partially trained or something. At the end of the ep, when things actually happened, the doctor strong-arms her into coming with, and Maddie is mad at her because they took Nick, too.

Griselda has a terrible infection and needs surgery on her foot, and they take her, too. Daniel doesn't trust them, and when he goes, he makes Maddie promise that she'll take care of Ofelia if he doesn't come back, because when he was a kid, he saw exactly what happens when you don't question government soldiers taking people away. They all die.

Meanwhile, Ofelia has taken up with one of the soldiers, but he gets really pissy when she asks with help with her mom before the doctor shows, so is any of them really interested in each other?

A neighbor has a breakdown, refuses to submit to the health tests again, and then runs away while his wife and kids aren't in the room. Travis, who thought he talked him down, tries to find him and only finds his car outside the fence the soldiers have put up in the "one of twelve safe zones". The soldier says he was taken to Headquarters to get help, and even though that was before the sick and injured were taken away, we're all pretty sure* that he's dead or locked up.

And Chris saw a flashing light across the valley and thinks it's someone out there where the soldiers say there's no more people, and that they're looking for help. Travis says it's nothing, because he trusts the authorities more than anyone else, it seems, but Chris tells Maddie, and she believes him. She goes out to see what's on the other side of the fence and finds dead bodies all over, just left in the streets--infected, but also totally ordinary people, gunned down and left there. And whole abandoned neighborhoods. Which is probably why she takes Daniel seriously when he talks about what happens when you trust governments.

Oh, and Alicia found a note that Susan left for her husband (before she killed herself? before she was turned but after she was attacked?) and realizes, finally, that her boyfriend is probably gone for good, and then uses a needles to self-tattoo that thing he drew on her arm, which is likely to give her tetanus or an infection, which, of course, will not be good in this world.

And the last scene is Travis looking across the valley--and seeing and hearing machine gun fire from where the flashing light was.

The episode was slow, but it was a slow that was going somewhere, and it was one that made sense, since it's now been nine days since the soldiers showed up and there's still only power a few hours a day, and no phones, and up until that lady showed up, no doctors. More than a week of living under military law, and nothing had been done that they'd promised yet.

Who wants to bet that they're basically freelancing and that the gov has already fallen or withdrawn to safety and left everyone to live or die as they can on their own?

It feels like the soldiers--who pulled people out of their homes at night instead of during the day, to take them for "help"--know enough of how the virus works that they're weeding out the weak, the sick, the injured in a sort of culling of the herd before someone can die at home and start a new outbreak. But they're such assholes about it, that it doesn't seem like they have public safety in mind so much as maybe power-plays and maybe something like experimentation?

They should have found a way to bring Tobias with them; he knew how to put whispers and clues together to realize what was actually going on, and he probably could have warned them that stuff was getting serious before it got to people being taken in the night like this. Maybe he'll show up again at the end of the season (which is only in two more episodes, really), and drop an info-bomb that changes everything on them.

It was looking like Liza and Maddie might forge a bond that would make them the team that leads the group--which would have been awesome since Travis is too soft-hearted and Daniel just wants to keep to himself and the rest of the guys are kids. But now Maddie is convinces that Nick was taken because of Liza, so that's not gonna happen soon. Instead, I'm hoping that they realize that the government facility is not a good place, and find out what's really going on, and then Nick, Liza, One-Legged Griselda, and maybe one or two other people along the way (Tobias!) team up to break out and get back to their families, and then everyone hits the road like they said they were going to all along.

Through all the slow parts of this ep, it's hard not to look at everyone and weigh how they'd do officially in an apocalypse team. Should we just take them all? That might be full of liabilities--though hopefully the kids will prove to be more flexible than the adults and not be among those liabilities since there's so many of them. Should we take the ones who would be most useful? Because that would leave Travis, probably, and Griselda, which would also leave Ofelia and Daniel who wouldn't leave her, and it's almost definite that Daniel is the tank of this team, as soon as he decides he needs to fight for them. He's tough, and he has a history that includes violence, even if it wasn't his own.

They've said we're not going to get the full apocalypse here in the first season; but it finally feels like something is reliably going to happen, and like things are moving forward. People are coming up with survival tactics, not just running around like headless chickens. Some of them probably would have in reality, but not all of them, and it was annoying to watch characters who were only reacting; now, they're finally acting on their own, in different directions and with different but dovetailing directions, and as they actually do things, it'll open up that world that's so far sort of claustrophobically small. With the phones down (probably intentional, I'm betting, to force info-free isolation) and no radios but the ones in the control of the soldiers, they've had no way to know what's going on in the wider world, and that's made the story super-small and without a lot of wider implications. But now that they're out there in the world, finding stuff out, and hopefully comparing notes when they get home, their personal stories will really start to tell the wider story better!

What did you guys think of the fourth of six episodes? How do you think the first season is going? Share in the comments below, or come talk to me on Twitter!

*"We all" meaning "twitter".
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