This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 1
Right off the bat, it looks like things are going to hell very quickly as the night is punctuated by not-so-distant explosions. We don’t have to wait long this time for walkers to appear. They shuffle out of the darkness, en masse, a hissing, mindless horde. But what’s more compelling about this first scene of the new season is Chris’ reluctance to leave behind his mother’s body. The old ideas about the living and the dead still persist in these early days of the apocalypse: a human body is still sacred, is still a vessel for residual sentiments and nostalgia. As we know from watching The Walking Dead, this kind of thinking gets people killed. (Morgan’s inability to kill his wife in TWD‘s first season is a prime example of this fatal causality.)
That being said, this week’s walker kill (and I’m calling them that for now, for lack of a better term) goes to the corpse whose face is shredded by the outboard motor’s propeller as the group is fleeing to Strand’s yacht. Madison reacts in horror, as any sane person would. She and the rest of the living are not killing machines like Rick and his crew—yet. For now, violence is still a fresh wound upon their hearts and minds. This is an important reminder to viewers that the walker apocalypse is still in its earliest days. It also sets the tone for what will hopefully be a more walker-filled season.
We quickly learn that Strand’s yacht Abigail can travel 3,000 miles. Strand’s plan is to head south, to San Diego, maybe to Pendleton or Coronado. He thinks there’s a chance the military can provide shelter and assistance. Judging from season one, I’d say that’s a bit of a flawed plan, especially given how this episode opens, with the coast being napalmed.
But there’s chaos on the open waters, too. We hear it first as voices screaming for help from stranded boats. Strand has no intention of rescuing anyone, though, telling Madison quite plainly, “I filled my mercy quota.” As quickly as these people are left behind, we hear more cries for help over the radio. The Coast Guard makes it clear that no rescue attempts are possible—leaving our survivors to fend for themselves.
We have never seen anything like this in the Walking Dead universe, with TWD being a landlocked show for all of its six seasons. It’s important for Fear the Walking Dead to distinguish itself as much as possible from the original show. Many viewers took issue with the time jump in Fear‘s first season, skipping over what many felt was untrod ground in this universe. (I myself felt this way.) So it’s good we’re still able to see social mores falling away in such spectacular fashion. Tough choices must be made if our families have any hopes of survival. In this case, being faced with abandoning fellow survivors is their first real moral quandary of the season.
Again, the old ways of thinking have no place in a world where the dead walk among the living. Life is precious, yes, but “Monster” suggests that some lives matter more than others. Travis understands this. Saving strangers is simply too risky. Madison ultimately agrees with him, but she’s clearly disturbed by this new reality.
But back to that radio. Alicia has been listening intently to the various distress calls, and eventually makes contact with someone named Jack. It’s an interesting moment, to see her make a much-needed connection with the outside world. Of course, the more she communicates with Jack, the more she puts the yacht at risk. This leads Strand to state his three basic rules—essentially, that this is his damn boat. I have to side with Strand on this. And as we soon learn, he has a right to be concerned. But more on that in a bit.
We find Daniel and Chris bonding as they fish off the bow. They have both lost someone important to them. “Neither of us got to say goodbye,” says Chris, who is angry with his father for pulling the trigger that killed Liza. Daniel, however, sees what Travis did as an act of mercy. Either way, Fear‘s writers have to be careful how they have Chris process his anger. To chalk up this bit of drama to teen angst will wear thin very quickly.
Nick, on the other hand, is as levelheaded as they come, offering Ofelia practical advice for treating her wound. He also brings some dark humor to the proceedings. Otherwise, aside from rescuing family from the shore, he doesn’t do a lot in this episode. His conversations with Strand are important to help us see a more rational side to the man. But they also afford us a more objective view of Nick, an addict on the mend. His fearlessness and his focus are an asset in this new world, at least according to Strand. As of now, it seems that Strand is being positioned as a father figure to Nick. Whether or not Nick is in need of a role model, however, remains to be seen.
There’s a similar dynamic at play between Madison and Chris. She channels her old job as a guidance counselor to better relate to the way Chris is mourning his mother. It’s a nice moment, but in the end all it prompts Chris to do is jump into the ocean. It’s here that the survivors encounter the bullet-riddled ruins of another boat. They encounter a few walkers as well—the first ones since the show’s opening minutes. What’s most important about this discovery is that humans (quite possibly Jack from the radio) are very much a threat in this brave new world.
Some closing thoughts:
The scene around the dinner table is an important one—it reminds us that the bonds of family and friendship are key to survival. Having something worth fighting for will help them all to see another day.
What is Strand hiding? What are his motives, really? He’s not an altruistic sort, after all.
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