Sunday, September 27, 2015

Geeky TV commentary - Fear the Walking Dead 1.5

Fear the Walking Dead airs at 9pm on AMC Sunday nights until next week (the season finale) and then will be replaced by The Walking Dead.

Do you guys remember when Flash Forward was on and their main problem wasn't the concept or the characters, but that they kept looking at and focusing on the ones that had very little going on while people off screen kept having much more interesting stuff happen to them? That's what I kept thinking of as this episode unfurled.

See, Ofelia's soldier boyfriend was captured and was being tortured by her father to get the information needed to save her mother. Did we get to focus on Ofelia and what that must be like? No, we focused on Travis trying to talk to the soldier we already know is a raging a-hole and not likely to help them at all. Even when Travis is on his way with them to the Facility and gets stuck in the car while the soldiers get in a firefight, we were stuck with him. It was atmospheric how he could only see snippets of what was happening and could only hear people dying on the radio, but it wasn't story--not the way the slow-mo drive-by of the hospital the other episode was. It was a perfect chance to take us in with the soldiers and show us what's really going on outside the fence and with the military, but nothing really happened to anyone we know there.

Or we were with Alicia. Her mother went looking for her, found the soldier boyfriend in the basement, and promptly forgot that she had a daughter or a story of her own, and, from what we can see, basically sat at a table in another room while all that was happening. Meanwhile, Alicia and Chris went and busted up a rich person's abandoned house up the road.

Nick was in a cage, going through withdrawal again, with a guy who talked Doug The Neighbor into a breakdown and then turned around and saved Nick, but we only got two little scenes of that, and there's not much indication of what's going on with that except that the dude has a plan and thinks he needs Nick.

Griselda was off-screen, then unconscious in a cage with a missing leg, then feverish, then dead. Liza had to put her down so she wouldn't get up, and like barely a handful of moments were spent on that.

The focus was in all the wrong places. It's the second to last episode, and it feels like they're holding back, and that's annoying. Don't save your best stuff for the finale, show, give something good in every episode.

What we did learn this ep, though:

  • Daniel is almost definitely a retired hitman, and definitely used to be a torturer
  • Griselda knew about whatever he was and seems to have defied someone about it
  • The doctors definitely know what's going on, but they apparently keep disappearing
  • The soldiers had a plan to abandon everyone, and it goes into operation in the morning
  • They're already leaving late at night when Alicia and Chris are heading home, and they don't so much as blink at two kids out after curfew
  • There's a plant to "humanely dispose of..." something
  • Daniel found a stadium PACKED with zoms that will almost definitely cause the first real havoc in the finale, if we're lucky
  • Travis is STILL to soft-hearted to survive in the wild now, and can't stop seeing zombies as people and somehow it hasn't killed him yet
  • This family was all manner of fragile before the end of the world or be so fractured and disjointed so quickly now
We already knew the soldiers were awful people. Except for that one, apparently, who looks like he's going to get as abandoned as the civilians there in the fence. It would be useful if he stayed with the group, but will he want to, after being tortured for his information when he was the only nice soldier we ever saw at all?

It feels almost like the characters are not characters so much as they're pawns being moved around by the plot. Maddie is a self-possessed and reasonable potential leader--except when she's not because that would get in the way. Alicia is the only one with a heart--except for when she's entirely gone. Chris is the activist--except when he's also gone, and busy whining and complaining instead of doing anything useful like he was one episode ago. The show as a whole seems to be drawing things out and pulling punches and looking in the wrong place. It's possible that this is intentional--that in the finale they'll all find out they are the ones focusing on the wrong things and looking in the wrong directions, and then the second season will be more focused because they are...

But if that's the plan, it's awfully risky. And it's very annoying to sit through. The parts that are good really just make it more annoying when the rest of it is so bland and contrived. Maybe this series would have done better as a four-episode, or three-episode intro, and then picked up again next season with more episodes after they get out of the Safe Zone and have to actually scavenge and fight and make choices and keep moving.

What did you guys think of this episode? Do you think the finale will change the context? Share in the comments, or come join me on Twitter!

Previous episodes of Fear the Walking Dead (still don't like the name):

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