Tag: the walking dead (Page 2 of 6)

Shawn Hatosy as Corporal Andrew Adams - Fear The Walking Dead _ Season 1, Episode 6 - Photo Credit: Justina Mintz/AMC

What Did I Want from ‘Fear the Walking Dead’?

“The only way to survive in a mad world is to embrace the madness,” says the mysterious Strand to Nick the addict in Fear the Walking Dead.  Then Strand shows him a yacht parked off the beach behind his house.  But…having a boat ready to go to escape an apocalypse seems like a really rational choice at that point.  This was typical of a show where dialogue and actions just didn’t seem to line up very well.

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As episode 6 of Fear the Walking Dead came to an unsatisfying end, I found myself asking what I was hoping for.  When episode 4, “Not Fade Away,” ended, I was ready to dig in and quietly plot an uprising for the remaining two episodes.  Little did I know that the military was already planning a maniacal kill-everybody operation and our heroes would unleash their nuclear operation and kill everybody instead.

The last two episodes of Fear the Walking Dead had numerous misfires and confusing plot points from where I stand.  The biggest one was Operation Cobalt, where the military would give everybody a “humane death” as they retreated from the safe zones.  It is not that that wouldn’t work in this story under any circumstance, but you needed to lay some ground work.  This felt hasty and confused.

We spent an episode torturing a private, in what I believe is the National Guard, only to come back in the next episode to find out that they extracted from him what building their family members are in but not the vital information they’ll need to find them.  So now Daniel will make a deal with him instead of killing him.  What?  Wasn’t this a broken man a second ago, willing to tell them anything and everything?

I would argue that one of the problems with this kind of depiction of torture is that it contributes to a false understanding of torture and its value in the wars the US fights.  But setting that aside, this became a cheap way for our heroes to have to go to the dark side just two weeks into the apocalypse.

There were many other problems.  Setting a whole arena full of zombies loose will likely result in many deaths and kill many of the people who have the potential to help you in the apocalypse.  We got so many false signals with Dr. Exner that in the end she just seemed insane.  Travis and Maddie seem to have dark pasts, but maybe we’ll learn more about them in season 2 or 3.  The adventures of Chris and Alicia need to be discontinued immediately.  They do not do things that make sense.  Furthermore, I cannot imagine unleashing two thousand zombies onto a hospital or base or whatever, and then saying to my son, “Wait here.  It might be dangerous inside the building.  You should stay in the parking garage while thousands of zombies fight their way in.”

So many character motivations were puzzling—even within a scene.  The granddaddy of all miscues was when the young soldier shows up in the parking garage.  He confronts his torturer who he dislikes—we can tell by the way he points a gun at him—and at the last minute shoots and kills the woman he loves, Ophelia.  But actually she didn’t die, as we learn a couple scenes later, when she walks into Strand’s house holding her arm. The whole series of events left me wondering what happened there.  I don’t think I need to be hit over the head, but just a scrap of dialogue like, “I never loved anyone like I loved you!”  Or, “You cut me deep, old man.  Here’s what it felt like!”

I’m sure an actual scriptwriter could punch those lines up a little.  I definitely believe that less is more, but the catch there is that you need to have created fully developed characters so that when they do give a significant glance, we as viewers know in our bones what that character is thinking.  When you have characters saying nonsense and taking random actions, it defies our ability to know what is going on.

Wish List

So, what did I want from Fear the Walking Dead?  Consider these my “notes” on season 1.  I do not say that I could have done a better job, but here’s what I wanted to see.

Maddie and her kids get back home, and the lights go out again.  Long silence.  Close up on Maddie, and we know that the characters are all trying to recalibrate and there’s a sinking feeling that things are going to get worse.

I wanted to live in that moment for the whole season of Fear the Walking Dead.  Somewhere between normalcy and apocalypse.  I liked the idea that they were working with: some people are ahead of the learning curve and others are behind.  But for that to really work, there has to be some hope that things will return to normal.

We All Fall Down

Something else I wanted in Fear the Walking Dead: to see things fall apart.  I’m guessing this is the most widely written criticism of the show.  Part of me says that it wasn’t in the budget.  Being in the barber shop was an excellent example of how to do that, but the time in the barber shop was misspent.  Instead of dialogue like, “Y’all go one way, we’ll go the other.”  We could have hide quiet moments by the candles with people telling their stories, sharing information, and discussing what their plans look like.

Similarly, if we can’t directly see civilization fall apart because of budget concerns, how about characters who report back from the frontlines?  Lieutenant Moyers:  “Travis, I’ve seen things that have changed me.  Two weeks ago, I was a sales manager who played soldier on the weekends.  Two days ago, we had to clean out a school.  A bunch of families had locked themselves in, and…[tries to shake off the memories].”

Instead, the reports back from the frontlines were more like, “What’s the big deal?  It’s just a zombie apocalypse!”

Deeper Characters

I also wanted character depth.  Often, the Fear the Walking Dead viewers are supposed to draw on what we already know about, say, teenagers and fill in the blanks.  I want to see people grappling with the collapse of civilization at the same time that we’re learning more about them.  Remember when Alicia read some weird suicide note from Susan?  Well, great.  Susan’s got a little bit more depth now that she’s dead.

Wouldn’t it have been better if Alicia was under the cover with her flashlight reading all of her college acceptance letters?  Alicia:  “Dear Ms. Alicia Clark, Congratulations, you have been accepted to Princeton University!  The admissions committee was deeply impressed by your test scores and grade point average, but it was your commitment to ending childhood poverty that most moved us…”  Or something like that.  A letter that tells us who Alicia was and reminds us that she is dealing with the death of those dreams.

I Heart Rick

Finally, I want a hero who knows what is going on or is working very hard to figure it out.  I want them to crack a joke every once in a while and do something heroic right when they needed to.  For example, the group tumbles out of the army hospital coughing from all the smoke and starts climbing into a humvee.  Travis, “Where’s Chris?!”  Nick, “You need to get them out of here!  I’ll find Chris.”  Travis, “No, Nick!  I’ll do it.”  Nick in a quieter voice, “Travis, they’re going to need you, man.  You have my word, I’ll find Chris or I’ll die trying.”  Travis nods.

In the News

Oh, one last thing.  For some reason, I love news broadcasts during the apocalypse.  Would it have killed them to give me a couple more reports from the rest of the country?  How about one of those reports where the reporter on the scene says that things are getting out of hand here in Orlando and then the video feed suddenly goes to static?

Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon - The Walking Dead _ Season 6, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

‘The Walking Dead’ Season 6 Review

The Walking Dead Shambles Back to Our Loving Arms

I recently reviewed Fear the Walking Dead and, essentially, praised the casting directors for saving a show from being unwatchable. (Good job, casting agent, Wendy O’Brien!) But now that The Walking Dead is back, I can say exactly what was wrong with Fear the Walking Dead: It’s not nearly as good as one of the best adventure series ever on TV.

Maybe it’s a mistake to draw comparisons between yourself and the greatest thing of its kind ever? For instance, I’m a writer, so I have the same profession as William Faulkner, sort of. But maybe I shouldn’t bring him up too much because I will suffer horribly by comparison. (As in, okay, how does this review compare to The Sound and The Fury?) Anyway, maybe the whole point of Fear the Walking Dead was to remind us how great The Walking Dead is. If so, well done, Fear the Walking Dead and everyone involved, except casting agent Wendy O’Brien. The Walking Dead is one of the best shows ever on TV, particularly since it has made some big mistakes along the way. But it usually does something most shows don’t, which is that it corrects its course along the way.

The plot of The Walking Dead is that society has fallen apart due to an outbreak of zombieism, the dead returning to life and feasting on the flesh of the living. Overnight, communication, social networks, the news, all fell away, leaving no one to completely understand what actually happened, except that now there are “Walkers” trying to eat them. The fight between humans for resources has become pitched in a way not seen since prehistory, meaning that when people get hungry, they will do truly loathsome things to each other. In this biblical hell, we have our ragtag group of survivors, trying not to just survive, but to live! Babies are born, lives are sacrificed, pudding is binged upon, Carol bakes threateningly!

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The season premiere was directed by Greg Nicotaro, who is also a producer and, perhaps more noteworthy, the man behind the amazing practical effects on the show. In other words, he makes people into zombies. I don’t know all this for sure, but it feels like he is a driving force in the ideas of the show, such as, “I want a zombie without a lower jaw,” or  “I want a zombie that’s been frying in the sun whose skin all sloughs off when he stands up,” or “I want a zombie who sadly tries to eat one of our main characters with soulful eyes, i.e., he’s the gore master and he has a plan.” Each season, Nicotaro will give us an interesting zombie showcase and they almost never disappoint. The episode was directed maybe a little too “art house,” with black and white flashbacks, but at least Nicotero had a vision. And that vision was more zombies per frame than most big budget Hollywood pictures!

The plot was that Rick Grimes, tough as nails survivor with a bad case of flip flop characterization of the soul (it works on the show, but he’s all over the map emotionally), discovers that the reason their walled haven, Alexandria, a housing project, hasn’t been overrun is because there is a natural zombie break nearby, a quarry (or something) where the zombies can walk in, but it’s difficult to get back out of. Naturally, the pit’s exit is hours or days from becoming open, but Rick has a plan to lead the zombie herd away from Alexandria.

One hilarious thing about The Walking Dead is that there are so many characters that I had to take a quick nip through Wikipedia to remember where everyone was at the end of last season. Because they have so many characters, the show often has to split perspectives over a couple of episodes. So the season premiere had a lot of the A team outside of the walls of Alexandria, but very little Carl, Carol, Maggie, and a whole bunch of others still inside Alexandria. But judging from the “upcoming scenes” after the show, a lot will happen inside the walls next episode with the “B” team. Too many developed characters is a problem I would love to see on other shows.

Something that The Walking Dead has that only Game of Thrones can match is the sense that just about any of these characters could die at any moment. The Walking Dead has not been shy about killing off great characters, sometimes to the detriment of the show. And they often make me like a character right before they kill them.

By the way, for you Hannibal fans who are missing Must-See Prime Time cannibalism, The Walking Dead has more cannibals per capita than any other show in TV history. Hell, most of our main characters accidentally ate some people when they stopped in Terminus.

I guess I’m trying to be funny, but The Walking Dead is a horror story that gets something right that so many horror stories get wrong, the characters. Often, horror means that you’re going to have character archetypes, the jock, the funny man– Hell, watch Cabin in the Woods if you don’t know what I’m talking about. But The Walking Dead is all about people living in a horrifying world. And people who wouldn’t normally watch a show as disgusting as The Walking Dead get hooked on it, not for the gross outs, but because they care about the characters and their relationships.

Anyway, if you liked The Sixth Sense, Silence of the Lambs, or any zombie movie ever, check out The Walking Dead.

Kim Dickens as Madison, Cliff Curtis as Travis, Alycia Debnam Carey as Alicia and Frank Dillane as Nick - Fear The Walking Dead _ Season 1, Cast - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

‘Fear the Walking Dead’ a Missed Opportunity

Six episodes in, how was Fear the Walking Dead? Compelling. Still lame. A missed opportunity.

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Spin-offs can be strange; there’s a whole universe to introduce to new viewers, but many of those viewers watched enough of the original show to be annoyed to have to through the same setup. So right off the bat, Fear the Walking Dead has an uphill battle.

Newbie friendly vs. veteran proud? How do you walk that line? You reconfigure. Look at The Jeffersons, which was just about as far away from All in the Family as it could be except for the quality of the show and the Jeffersons themselves: same characters, new situation (or, I guess, for a more up-to-date example, Buffy the Vampire Slayer spin-off Angel becomes a hard-boiled detective, or Arrow spin-off The Flash is a much friendlier show about a guy with super speed). So for Fear the Walking Dead, they needed to come up with a new angle on the zombie apocalypse, which they sort of did and sort of didn’t. The new angle is, the beginning, which The Walking Dead didn’t really cover. But we didn’t really find out a hell of a lot about what happened– how the outbreak occurred, how much the government knew, what the government was doing about it, why in the hell the public wasn’t informed of the basics of zombie interactions. I don’t need all the questions answered, but my biggest questions by the end of the first season was, what idiots are running the government and what are they thinking?

Of course, most spin-offs are doomed to failure by simple virtue of not being as clever as the original. But Fear the Walking Dead actually had a pretty good chance by those standards. Even though The Walking Dead is one of the best shows on TV, it has had many missteps and course corrections as a result of behind-the-scenes upheavals when show runners changed the show around.

If you watch The Walking Dead, you know that we got to meet the Governor, a truly bad dude who was corrupted absolutely by his power. But then… the governor got another chance, he met a good woman, he started running with a new group and he turned out to be in completely different circumstances, a bad dude who was corrupted absolutely by his power. There was a solid 120 minutes of television that showed a character, who wasn’t that interesting to begin with, decide that he had made all the right moves and he should just continue what he was doing. I’m still annoyed by that.

But The Walking Dead has always been one of those shows that does more things right than wrong and is really about the characters and their resiliency. And by those standards, I really enjoyed Fear the Walking Dead. I was actually kind of bummed at the end when they shot Liza in the head. By the way, one of the rules of The Walking Dead is that if you are away from the main group for any length of time, you will be dead: Beth, Andrea, and probably some others that I’m not remembering. So I should have known Liza was going to die.

Although I found the story and the characters on Fear the Walking Dead to be interesting and compelling, ultimately the whole show felt like a missed opportunity. There were a few cool moments, but we fell into more horror movie tropes than having Tarantino-esque moments that play with those things that always happen in movies (in this case, TV).

For instance, in The Walking Dead, the people are always the bad guys. But this is the first days of the zombie apocalypse, so maybe we could have had the survivors learning how to fight zombies a little more quickly or effectively– or maybe had them actually fighting zombies. Sure, the plot of “what would the government do in this situation” was interesting, but instead of showing us the thought behind some of the difficult decisions,the government was just treated as “the bad guy.” Case in point, a point-of-view character on the inside might have been nice, give us some insight into what the hell was going on. We already have a whole show where people don’t know much about the overall situation! Why two? This was ground covered by my incompetent co-worker Lou Martin who finally stumbled onto a good observation on a show. You’re one for 15,000, Martin!

What else was good on FTWD? The actors. I don’t know if anyone really made sense, but all the leads turned out to be charismatic and watchable. By the end, when Travis finally snapped and beat the holy heck out of Andrew, I was finally starting to like him, and I think that was all on the excellent Cliff Curtis (he’s from New Zealand!). The writers had screwed the Travis character over a lot. Travis saw a zombie, then when another one was in his house literally eating his dog, Travis tried to talk to the zombie for a lot longer than any rational person would. You know that thing where humans are afraid of “the other.” It’s not bad to be afraid! It’s bad to “otherize” those who are, essentially, the same. You can “otherize” zombies, Travis!

Kim Dickens brings a lot to the table, sort of a Jodie Foster-lite who has a lot of internal life behind her eyes. Hell, I even liked Alicia, Alycia Debnam-Carey, who was playing a teenager right out of a show that wasn’t about zombies and had only her stupid parents and fashion to worry about. There’s a moment where she discovers some sexual power, revealing her bare back to her future step brother. T that was very nicely played by someone who has no agency in a world gone mad, finding something that she can control– even if it is only a horny teenage boy. And I said it in my initial review and I’ll say it now: Reuben Blades is amazing. I enjoyed everything about his character. Somehow Blades made everything make sense. I loved his quiet irritation about how stupid it was to show mercy to anyone. I loved that the weird scene where he didn’t want the kid messing with his razor paid off with his serial-killery love of his blade when he flayed the army moron.

FTWD felt like there were budget concerns all through it. Episode 4 had no zombies. Episode 5 had two. I’m a fan of the slow burn as much as anyone, but this is a spin-off show where we already have seen some of the best zombies on TV. The sets fight tight, the characters were few, the whole thing felt like it was half-assed. Hell, they re-used some pretty useless sets a few times (let’s go back to the heroin church THREE times!) maybe just because they had spent the money to set-dress them. I like shows where I can see the budget being spent. And this was a spin-off of an insanely popular TV Show, put some bucks into it, AMC! You already succeeded with Better Call Saul” Hell, is AMC batting 1000 on spinoff success? I think FTWD was already renewed?

Similarly, the effects didn’t have the jarring visceral feel of the actual The Walking Dead. FTWD gave us a couple bites and a lot of pumping blood and a guy wandered into the rear rotor of a helicopter. But in TWD, we get amazing zombies in every episode that often do something we haven’t seen before– a zombie stuck in water tears when they try to get him out, zombies slowly shamble while on fire, and hundreds of other cinema-level effects. The zombies in fear did, essentially, nothing cool and didn’t really do that thing where when they eat, they actually rip the flesh off. Hell, was one guy just laying there while a zombie ate him? You’d think you’d kick a little. Maybe that was it; no one really got hurt, they just got maimed. Hell, Andrew got tortured, his arm flayed, but he didn’t seem that injured, even though I’m pretty sure that would hurt really bad for a long, long time, even if you put a bandage around it.

Another thing we get every year on The Walking Dead are two or three set pieces, moments when everything that can go wrong does and the zombies attack. A good example of this was the episode where they had the crashed helicopter on top of the store the survivors were raiding. The presence of the edibles made the zombies restless and the roof collapsed under their struggling and it was just chaos inside. There was chaos in FTWD, but no action. Zombies poured through the fence, but there were just a wave and they didn’t do anything surprising.

You know what else bothered me about Fear the Walking Dead? Characters simply disappearing. Sure, we knew what happened, they died and became zombies, but I would have liked to have seen some of them again, maybe as zombies. Alicia’s boyfriend, Matt, was sort of interesting and bitten, so I would have liked to have seen him wandering around. And what about Tobias? He was the most interesting guy in the first two episodes, then… gone. Maybe we’ll find out more in Season 2, but I may not remember Tobias next year.

But the story– dumb as it was– was compelling. And I will watch again to see what happens to these people. They’re going to ride out the zombies on a boat? I’m in! That’s a fun idea. But I certainly can’t recommend anyone else to watch this show. It’s just not that good. If you’re looking for a show that transcends genre, check out The Walking Dead, which I know has tons of squeamish people who tune in every week for more cannibalism.

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