Fear the Walking Dead: So Close, Yet So Far Review

Things get serious on Fear the Walking Dead this week, as three families face a disturbing new outbreak in Los Angeles.

Editor’s Note: There are spoilers here…

If you’ve read any of my reviews of The Walking Dead, then you know that I’m not a big fan of large casts of characters. I’m a big supporter of mowing people down when the dramatis personae gets out of hand. While I think AMC’s flagship zombie show is suffering from too many main characters, Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t pull any punches in its second episode, killing off two characters pretty early on. 

The episode picks up with Alicia searching for her boyfriend Matt, who stood her up last week because he was too busy being mauled by walkers off-screen. I’d say that’s a pretty good excuse. When Alicia finds Matt, the poor guy already has the fever, and Travis and Madison know there’s nothing they can do, knowing from first-hand experience that Matt’s going to get hungry soon. While I knew that Matt was probably a goner when he didn’t show up last week, I was still a little surprised that the show disposed of him so quickly. Not that he was super important to the plot or anything, but I didn’t expect the characters to begin losing loved ones this early.

Of course, there’s a larger intent here: to create tension for scenes between Alicia and Nick, who have nothing to do this episode. Once the red herring is planted, though, we’re begging Alicia to not go back to Matt’s, while also daring her to do it because we need some scares. I suspect that Alicia will try to go next week, even if she did just watch that walker attack their neighbor after the failed birthday party. 

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I was sad to see Nick sidelined for most of the hour, forced to lie on a couch and deal with withdrawal, while also begging his sister not to go see Matt. It’s logical story progression, though, since Nick hasn’t had a fix in a while. But I wish he would’ve had to chase after Alicia after all, feeling awful but determined to save his sister. In other words, I wanted Alicia to go face zombie Matt. This episode needed some more scares.

What we do get in zombie action is courtesy of Principal Art, who I genuinely felt sorry for. He had all the signs of an expendable character last week, right down to the fact that he didn’t really know what the hell was going on, while his students, especially Tobias, were starting to get the whole picture/go missing. And he did stay behind after school closed down early, so he had to go in order to do the creepy school scene, a staple of horror things always and forever. I really liked that they brought back the intercom system from last week for the purpose of teacher zombie wheezing. Good stuff. 

The Tobias-Madison team-up was fantastic, although I could bitch about Tobias’ ridiculously small knife for days. This is nitpicky as all hell, but if school’s out forever (it totally is), wouldn’t you bring an even bigger knife with you for the supply run? This kid could use some lessons from Michonne, am I right? Anyway, the knife proves to be pretty ineffective against Walker Art, who lunges at Tobias in the school and almost gets a chunk of acne-ridden cheek. Luckily, Madison is able to save the day. It seems this show is going to continue the “almost got him” tradition from The Walking Dead, in which Glenn was almost mauled 20 times in one season. But you have to keep us on our toes somehow, right?

Tobias has already become a fan favorite for viewers, a guy who’s been in on the joke since the very beginning. That’s why I expected him to die almost immediately in this episode, but I was pleasantly surprised. Could he prove to be this show’s Carl? Does he even have any more screen time? He seems to ride off into the horizon pretty convincingly by the end. Wouldn’t mind seeing him again, though. 

On the other side of Los Angeles, there’s a riot going on, just enough chaos to separate the two groups of characters for a while. Travis has to enlist his ex-wife Liza’s help in order to find their son Chris, who is miserable, annoying, disobedient, and dislikable. A teenager, in fact, but somebody has to love the kid. So Travis and Liza end up pulling Chris out of a police brutality riot that is quite obviously a parallel to the real world, except the protestors don’t know they’re actually defending walkers, who quickly rise up again for another bite. All hell breaks lose, and Travis, Liza, and Chris have to hide in a barbershop while the streets erupt in violence. This is where we meet the Salazars, a Salvadorian family who reluctantly take Travis and his family in.

There isn’t much to talk about here except that this is an obvious setup for next week’s episode when the walkers come crashing in through the windows. You’ll see. We do get a few seconds of Travis telling Madison over the phone to leave LA without him. Oh yeah, Travis and Madison have the brilliant idea to escape to the desert where there are less people in the beginning of the episode, which is brilliant, except they’re probably not going to make it there. I’d like to see what a Walking Dead desert looks like, though. I imagine an underground bunker full of zombies or rotten arms sticking out of the sand to grab at ankles…I don’t know. Maybe it’s not that cool. Point is that their escape isn’t happening any time soon. 

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Next week, we’ll probably see the Manawas and the Salazars make a run for it, while the Clarks put out some fires of their own on the homefront. Eventually, these three families will probably meet to create the group that we’ll follow for the rest of the season. Hopefully, with some deaths along the way. 

Walking Points:

– Can we just talk about that birthday party for a second? I really loved the comic relief in the middle of a pretty grim episode full of blood and vomit. I’m really sad that little girl didn’t get to celebrate her (probably) very last birthday. I’m twice as sad that she’s going to have to grow up without a mommy. But that bouncy house seemed to deflate (LOL) the tension quite a bit. 

– First supply run of Fear the Walking Dead, brought to you by Tobias and Madison. It seems that every inciting incident in this universe occurs because of a supply run gone wrong. 

– I hope to see way more social media next week, e.g. people tweeting about overrun areas, safe houses, military response, zombie selfies, etc. 

– Chris should put that camera to good use and create some kind of mockumentary of the zombie apocalypse, just like in Romero’s Diary of the Dead.

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Don’t forget to listen to the new episode of our weekly Walking Dead podcast, Den of Geek Presents No Room in Hell:

John Saavedra is an assistant editor at Den of Geek US. Find more of his work on his website. Or just follow him on Twitter.


4 out of 5