‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Literally Wagged ‘The Dog’ in Week 3
Three (or four) weeks in now, it seemed only fair to check in on Fear The Walking Dead, particularly as the series proper gears up for its final month of promotion and starts stealing its spotlight back a bit. I offered up a few general thoughts on the first two installments, though in retrospect, the first third of AMC’s “companion series” works better in tandem, and might make a stronger case for Fear as a limited series than anything else.
As it is, certain aspects of Fear The Walking Dead were destined to elicit restlessness among the fanbase, whether by watching characters stumble through discovery of the basic rules we’ve known for years, or the creeping question as to how Fear sidesteps winding up with the same basic storytelling engine of The Walking Dead. Atop a six-episode run to the first season, drawing that tension out over additional weeks (including a Labor Day break) didn’t exactly help matters, and “The Dog” seemed to stall that much more because of it, using the hour to patch its two main groups together, and kill time before a twist in the narrative.
The strongest aspects of the hour followed what Fear The Walking Dead did well to differentiate itself across the first two outings, focusing on more human and primal fears than the traditional undead scares. The riot outside the Salazars’ barber shop didn’t garner much explanation, but made for a frightful set piece in the escape, as did the group’s drive-by of a hospital slowly descending into chaos, or the subsequent blackouts. As with any zombie fiction, that particular brand of picturesque carnage comes with an expiration date, but Fear finds a lot more mileage covering that, than say the go-to, dimly-lit house horror Madison, Alicia and Nick endure.
And that’s the biggest bit of Fear The Walking Dead that tends to drag, characters we’ve barely spent any time with failing to communicate with one another, or leaning more on the stock horror tropes The Walking Dead has already reinvented upon a thousand times over. Moments like Alicia’s realization that Matt might have wound up one of the undead monsters washes over too quickly (and too long since we’ve last thought about the character anyway), while Travis seems similarly stuck in a mindset of remaining optimistically ignorant about their neighbor Susan, or other characters we haven’t time to invest in.
The Salazars offer a bit more to chew on than any of the inter-family drama, as both David and Griselda seem to have secrets of their own, whether by the “worse” situations they allude to surviving, or Daniel’s aversion to the military presence that crops up at the end of the hour. Ruben Blades does strong work with the limited material, making confident strides about the value of his barber shop or staying with the Clarks that resonate with far more history than moments like Travis’ purported aversion to guns.
In any case, now that that military has arrived to police the neighborhood, Fear The Walking Dead has another opportunity to showcase aspects of the zombie apocalypse the main series never had time for, and should perk up in ways that “The Dog” sadly lacked for momentum. I doubt if Fear The Walking Dead can ever completely dispel notions that Seasons 2 or beyond will much more closely resemble the main series, but the more psychological questions still make for worthy exploration when Fear builds a narrative around them. Tonight, seemed mainly to shake off the cobwebs, and gear up for the next arc.
AND ANOTHER THING …
- Chaos and uncertainty to the rioting outside are almost certainly the point, though the narrow focus (and again, week’s distance since we saw the riot’s beginnings) left the conflict a bit obscure, when even the odd zombie has time for a snack without garnering much notice.
- “Morning, Susan.” Levity looks good on these characters.
- Not sure if The Walking Dead has ever made use of subtitles, though the miniscule typeface is a bit questionable, particularly in Daniel’s “Weak” comment on Madison failing to kill Susan through the fence.
- What exactly was Nick attempting to break into the house for? Whose house even was it?
- Incidentally, are we to presume that plane Nick saw flying overhead was ...
We’ll check back in on Fear The Walking Dead next week, but did consolidating the groups and introducing the military seem like a strong use of “The Dog?” What might the final three hours do to set up a second season?
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