Tag: the walking dead (Page 3 of 6)

Fear the Walking Dead / Not Fade Away / AMC

“The Dog” and “Not Fade Away” Recaps

Fear the Walking Dead took a few more turns in episodes 3 and 4 of Season 1, taking this modern family into darker and more dangerous waters.  These episodes made up for stumbling out of the gate in episode 1, an episode plagued with irritating teen angst, false scares, and puzzling behavior.

In “Dog,” the Travis side of this family escaped downtown LA and brought a Salvadoran barber and his family back to the suburbs with them, while Maddie and her teen kids play a tense game of Monopoly.  The drama surrounds a handful of neighbors who have turned into zombies, including the kindly neighbor lady Susan.

 

“Not Fade Away” shows what life behind the fence is like as the army has moved into the neighborhood—one of 12 safe zones in the region.  The commander seems to be an amoral prick who jokes about shooting civilians and mocks Travis, who he has dubbed “Mr. Mayor.”  Meanwhile, a glint of light in the distance captivates Chris and Maddie while Liza offers medical assistance to neighbors.

The barber, Daniel Salazar, explains to Maddie that he’s seen things go bad before, and he offers her advice for when he leaves with his wife and the medics.  Little does he know that he’d be left behind as the army takes who they deem sick and leave behind everybody else.  By the end of the episode, we know the score: Daniel and Maddie are poised to lead the resistance while Travis remains confused.

There are some clunkers in the episode.  Kim Dickens continues to deliver powerful performances that draw us onto the slowly sinking ship, but her last line of the episode—“Liza did this”—is delivered with just the right amount of venom but seems utterly beside the point.  There is enough drama in that moment without trying to keep some kind of rivalry between these women going.

Also, the teen characters continue to be annoying and a distraction.  I think that this tired pattern needs put to bed.  They are self-involved, spout indignant lines, and add very little to the plot from where I stand.  Nick’s addiction problems are just as predictable as they are irritating.  Chris discovers the light in the distance but turns it into unrealistic demands that the adults do something about it.  I hope these characters turn it around soon.  Finally, we discover that Alicia may be “cutting,” drawing blood with a sharp metal awl or ice pick, or possibly trying to make her boyfriend’s scribble into a permanent tattoo.

The show creators have taken some serious problems that plague some young people like addiction and self-harm and have sprinkled them onto this story like a little seasoning here and there.  There could be portrayals that help us better understand these problems and how they affect people, but Fear the Walking Dead is using them in a superficial manner to try to give the characters depth.  Similarly, I wonder how Salvadorans feel about their national nightmare being snuck in to give one character apocalyptic experiences to draw on.

Nevertheless, there’s enough in the performances of Dickens, Cliff Curtis (Travis), and Ruben Blades (Daniel) to keep me coming back.  And the plot is going right where I hoped it would.  A sense of the beginning of the end and an inside look at the government’s response.  I hope there are some scenes in a government facility as well as a well-orchestrated uprising inside the fence.

Cliff Curtis as Travis and Kim Dickens as Madison - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 1, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Falls into Traps

Fear the Walking Dead is two episodes in, and it has problems and possibilities. The show’s creators say that this will be different from The Walking Dead because it will explore those months that the original skipped over during Rick’s hospital stay, the beginning of the zombie apocalypse. While the original show has struggled to find fresh storylines, Fear the Walking Dead can wipe the slate clean and explore new aspects of the fall of civilization.

Yet, I feel that we stumbled out of the gate by tying the whole show on a middle-class family that I really don’t want to get to know any better. This is particularly true of the teenage population of this family that has all the eye rolling and indignant attitude of the worst stereotypical teens on television today. A lot of other fans have already jumped on this, and I’ll simply say, what-EVER, Dad!

I’ve always wanted to be with the smart people at the outset of the zombie apocalypse, but I realize that, for some reason, most of the makers of zombie shows and films are interested in showing us the people that have a hard time figuring out what’s going on and getting into tight spots. Ok, but let’s not make Modern Family meets The Walking Dead. How about a government agent that is just outside the bubble but is figuring out the conspiracy? How about a working-class guy that can fix anything and is tough as nails? How about a scientist who loves a good riddle? How about somebody who will be a unique position to explore the causes of the epidemic or survive it? They can bring their family if they’re not annoying.

One genuinely disturbing trend is that, like The Walking Dead, black men on FTWD don’t survive long. As the fellas on the Bald Move podcast Fear the Walking Dead pointed out, there have been three black men with speaking roles, and they are all dead. We can add them to a long list of black, male characters on TWD that never survive long.

So, the family is annoying, the fake-outs are annoying, the petulant teenagers who are putting themselves in peril are annoying. The bright spot for me are the parents played by Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis. Their performances were top notch and evoked feelings of dread from me in the last quarter of episode 2, “So Close, Yet So Far.” They get split up, and we watch as it seems the adrenaline is wearing off and an emotional collapse is on the horizon. It’s frustrating that they didn’t come up with a better meeting place than “the desert,” but Dickens’s falling apart and pulling it back together salvaged the whole episode for me.

I’ll even excuse the frustrating and pointless dialogue of the barber and his family: “Stay out!” “No let them in!” “Ok, but stay out of this room!” Hopefully, once the barber gets over deciding which room people can and cannot be in, he brings something interesting to the story.

Cliff Curtis as Travis and Kim Dickens as Madison - Fear the Walking Dead _ Season 1, Episode 1 - Photo Credit: Justin Lubin/AMC

Is Fear the Walking Dead Lame?

First off, I want to like Fear the Walking Dead. I really do. But I don’t. Frankly, it’s a mess. The first episode of this spin-off seemed to be more concerned with after-school special level drama about drug addiction, and what it does to families, rather than showing us what it’s like to fight tooth and nail for your life against an impossible enemy. Sure, it’s okay to introduce drama, but that’s not really why we’re there and the creators should know it. I’m watching a show called Fear the Walking Dead because I want zombie horror apocalypse TV.

A few things right off the bat about the original series, The Walking Dead, because it has had problems over the years, which my bitchy co-worker Lou Martin will be proud to tell you all about. But I think that the biggest asset to The Walking Dead — and it took the new show for me to see this– was real-life excellent director Frank Darabont who filmed the first episode and provided the look and feel of the Walking Dead world. No one does that for FTWD and the first episode, rather than being cinematic TV, becomes a great show for someone who has never seen any other zombie entertainment ever because, man, is it introduced slowly and lamely. Sure! I get it! The characters don’t know anything about the walking dead yet, but we do! It’s a spin-off! Give us some kind of action set piece!

The acting is mostly top shelf. Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis are quite good, although neither of them have the instant charisma that Andrew Lincoln brought to TWD right out of the gate. Frank Dillane as Nick is not good and sort of feels like he’s in a bad horror movie when everyone else is in a drama. I think good acting is born of good directors and maybe Fear the Walking Dead should have shelled out a few more bucks for someone good.

 

Speaking of the director, the first episode felt to me like it had been re-cut. For instance, there’s a viral video making the rounds of the police trying unsuccessfully to subdue a zombie with conventional police tactics. It felt like Fear the Walking Dead could have started with that and had people discussing it through the whole episode. Is it real? What does it mean? Instead, it’s introduced very nearly at the end of the episode and starts a ham-fisted charge to the end of episode without any real discussion.

In short, the pilot was a bunch of stuff that happened to introduce zombies to the main characters, not a short film like the really good first original series The Walking Dead pilot. And the viewers already know about zombies!

A funny aside, my wife, the beautiful Kelly, asked me about some of the drug lingo being used on the Fear the Walking Dead and I knew all the answers because almost all of the slang was well-known to me from 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico, a favorite album of mine when I was younger. Has heroin talk not really changed that much since then?

You know what else? It wasn’t much fun. Sure, the tone of the original series doesn’t seem fun, but it’s, well, more fun than FTWD. Well, maybe that’s unfair, the director had some fun with making us think that scenes were going to be more interesting than they were by making it seem like the living might actually be zombies, but they weren’t and the scenes were boring.

I’m going to watch the second episode. Hell, it’s possible that the success of the original show pushed this spin-off along too quickly before it could be conceived and they’ve got some better stuff waiting for us. But I’m not expecting much.

SECOND EPISODE UPDATE: The second episode was a lot better, but still not great. We’re still trying to get to somewhere where the zombies make sense and that people are starting to accept them. Part of the show seems to be that the government is keeping the zombies from people. But I have a difficult time believing that the United States Government — who gave us AMTRAK and the Susan B. Anthony dollar — would be able to put together a nationwide law enforcement full-on conspiracy. There would have been thousands of viral videos of zombies chewing on people hitting the Twitters immediately. Or if there isn’t, there has to be an explanation. I guess I’m just not buying it. On The Walking Dead, there’s a sense that things fell apart very, very quickly, hospital last stands with broken blockades and scattered body parts and weapons. The good news is we got Reuben Blades, who brings some of that charisma I was asking for to the show. I’ll watch the third episode.

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