This review contains spoilers.
1.6 The Good Man
Now this is more like it. Fans were promised a glimpse into the melting down of the world, the dissolution of order and security that brings about the starving, dirty, desperate survivors we meet in the second episode of AMC’s breakout hit, The Walking Dead. In the original show, we’re thrown into a world after the new order has been created; in this world, we’re watching that new order come about, slowly but surely. It all starts with the desertion of the National Guard.
One of the crucial points in the way the military operates, both in this universe and in the real world, is their primary duty is to protect themselves. After all, you can’t establish command and control of a situation without a show of force, and the best way to perpetuate that force is to not die at the hands of some blood-drooling cannibal corpse. You can’t protect others when you can’t protect yourself, and when you have outside actors bringing 2000 hungry zombies to the gates, there’s going to be a struggle to even survive, let alone evacuate any of the innocent people thrown in various holding cells in the gym.
That’s a crucial part of the plan to rescue Nick from the hands of the Guard. In order to get through the gates, you have to distract the people manning the gates, and since Daniel Salazar knows where he can get a huge mob of distracting zombies, he’s going to use them. It’s like a reverse Carol from last season’s first episode. She walks among the zombies of the herd, while Daniel warns the soldiers ahead of time and then scuttles off to the break-in point after luring the walkers in the right direction. Both methods are very effective, and this particular moment serves as the big blow-off that fans have been waiting for.
Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world, as we’ve discussed before. Supposedly, they evacuated everyone out of the city—that has to be a lie based on the long lines of cars clogging up the city’s arteries—and yet there aren’t millions of zombies at their doors. I know it’s a function of the budget and filming concerns; when the show opens the doors of Zombie Arena, it’s an impressive crane shot to reveal the scope of the problem for the guards. The resulting action scenes, soldiers versus zombies, makes the slow build-up of the tension worth it, as it’s excellently handled by director Stefan Schwartz. A similar action scene in the kitchen, where our heroes finally get their hands dirty as a group while trying to flee from the overrun base, is appropriately claustrophobic and cluttered, without being too visually muddy. The show took its time getting around to zombies, but when they finally indulged in the kind of big violence we’ve been expecting, it’s worked out well.
I understand all the complaints about the show’s approach to the collapse of the world; it’s being told through a micro filter of one extended family and their experiences, rather than giving viewers something more macro in scope, like via the military or political system. I think we all want massive crowds and screaming and chaos, but I also think that’d get pretty old pretty quickly, or at least way too expensive for a television series on a cable network. There’s another season next year, and as we’ve heard before, all the military presence is evacuating to Edwards Air Force Base (and there are plenty of other massive bases in the area). Given the way the military has been behaving while seeing to their own interests, that’s going to create a lot of problems for folks like Strand.
Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman (who wrote tonight’s episode) have focused on characters, perhaps more than they did on the original series. There are already more interesting survivors, like Salazar and Strand, than there were in The Walking Dead‘s original short season, and we’ve yet to see any blatantly “I’m a bad guy” characters in the Merle Dixon mold. The cast is very solid as far as acting ability goes, and barring any major shake-ups, I can see Fear The Walking Dead becoming as good as The Walking Dead once we begin to really get interested in the survivors.
One of the shows I watched in the break between The Walking Dead and this spin-off was Syfy’s mockbuster Z Nation. It’s not as good as The Walking Dead, but it’s a very entertaining show just because there’s not a lot of standing around and waiting for stuff to happen. It’s a zombie road show, for better and for worse, and has built itself around that conceit quite nicely.
Given that The Walking Dead loves to find static locations, maybe Fear can actually make use of Strand’s lovely boat out in the harbour and take us for a seaside tour of post-apocalyptic California? Water won’t be a concern since a boat like that would have a desalination plant on board, but stopping to pick up food and making fuel runs are always a good source of drama, and if he’s on a boat, you know other people have taken to the water as well, so maybe the survivors run into some Waterworld pirates next year. That could be a good twist on the formula; rather than scrounging around on land, you take your good night’s sleep and your water supply with you. That would allow Fear The Walking Dead to stand on its own two legs (flippers?) and differentiate itself from the progenitor programme as the seasons catch up to the point where Rick rolls out of his hospital bed.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Cobalt, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan would love to see some zombie pirate ships on next season of Fear the Walking Dead. They can’t spend the whole time on a boat, but a little maritime action might be a fun change of pace. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.
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