This review contains spoilers.
2.2 We All Fall Down
Fear The Walking Dead is a familiar format to anyone who has seen the original series. A group of survivors go from place to place looking for somewhere to settle down for a little bit, avoiding dangers both undead and living in the process. However, where The Walking Dead dropped us right into the post-apocalypse, Fear The Walking Dead is taking things from a different perspective. We’re not coming across groups of hardened survivors, we’re dealing with people who may or may not be waiting for the military to come sweeping in with tanks and guns to wipe the rotters off the face of the earth and put humanity back on top of the food chain.
Of course, it seems with every radio broadcast that it looks like the hope of rescue is going to remain a pipe dream. What we’re left with are a bunch of relatively naive people, a junkie, a mysterious guy with a secret machine gun, and a middle-aged revolutionary and torture expert. Fortunately, for the moment, they have a $10 million dollar boat on which to ride out the storms. However, there’s a threat on the high seas, and it’s coming after our crew of dysfunctional survivors. Remember the boat from last week that was riddled with bullets? Well, whoever riddled that boat with bullets has a new target, and it’s the Abigail.
Fortunately, Strand has maps, and he and the others find a secluded cove at a nature reserve, which means ranger stations, which means supplies. Assuming, of course, other people haven’t gotten there first, which they have. A survivalist family has taken up residence in the area. There’s water, power, food, and lots of chain-link fences to keep the zombies out. Of course, there’s always a dark secret with these kind of families, because this is Fear The Walking Dead, and if a family appears nice and kind and welcoming, there’s something wrong with them.
I like the approach Fear The Walking Dead takes to splitting up its cast. Strand isn’t going to leave his boat, and it makes sense to me that Salazar won’t leave him alone with the boat, just in case he decided to take off. That leaves our more naive characters, plus Nick, to go off and make friends with George (David Warshofsky) and his survivalist family. Well, not survivalist, but definitely self-reliant. And there’s definitely something going on.
It’s an interesting take on just how some people are going to approach the zombie apocalypse. As Nick says, George is planning a Jonestown situation, which… if you’ve got zombies washing up on the beach and a few hundred zombies in a resort town a few hundred miles away, I could see how that is a hopeless situation. And yet, there’s still enough benefits to sticking around—water, power, relative security—that would make it hard to give up. Plus, they’ve got one another, a family unit that, until Maddie and company arrive, suffers no losses. Of course, George knows enough to know that there is no hope, hence the Jonestown preparations.
That’s the best thing that the episode does. We meet these people, they seem like nice enough people, but there’s a fatalism to their preparations. They know they’re just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, hence why Melissa (Catherine Dent) wants her son and daughter to be taken off the island. The oldest boy Seth (Jake Austin Walker) takes after the father, which means that he’d rather his family die together than go on the run. As it turns out, he’s going to get his wish sooner rather than later, as the little sister gets into the “power pill” supply and offs herself, only to become a zombie and attack her parents. The final shot, of the little boy leaving the boat and potential safety to go back with his big brother, is effective, particularly once Seth ends his mother’s undead life.
The melancholy script (written by Kate Barnow and Brett C. Leonard) pairs wonderfully with Adam Davidson’s direction in the island scenes. There’s some hope there, still. It’s peaceful, the weather’s good, there’s access to fish… and yet, it’s not enough to counteract the psychological trauma of near-constant death being around every corner. These people are having a relatively good life until it all falls apart in very emotional fashion. The less jaded characters still think they can find a safe haven from the zombies and human predators. This is the first of what will be many reminders that there’s nothing safe, and that sometimes, by saving people, you end up hurting them more. George and Melissa’s final moments with daughter Willa really evoke the basement deaths of the Cooper family from Night Of The Living Dead, in a good way.
I can’t help but feel that, if this were The Walking Dead, Rick and company would have already cleared this island of zombies and set up a miniature fiefdom (only to be attacked by, I don’t know, a container ship full of thousands of zombies?) like they did in the prison. Then again, Rick only had to return phone calls from invisible people; Strand has an appointment to keep with someone who is probably nefarious, given how suspicious everyone is of Strand.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Monster, here.
Strand clearly has connections. Strand is also clearly a dangerous dude. Between him, Nick, and Salazar, they could easily become a hardened group of survivors, if they weren’t surrounded by people so eager to help others. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi