Sunday, September 13, 2015

REVIEW: 'Fear the Walking Dead' - Madison and Travis Plan Their Escape From the City & Run Into the Military in 'The Dog'

AMC's Fear the Walking Dead - Episode 1.03 "The Dog"

After they escape a riot, Travis, Liza and Chris seek refuge with the Salazars. Madison defends her home.

Fear the Walking Dead has been so intently focused on this one family unit. It's a family filled with tension and chaos. That family drama has composed so much of the storytelling rhythm and beats so far this season. But the world is changing around them. It has been a drastic change. One where family members have been able to keep the truth from their children for as long as they possibly can. But it has also been inevitable that everyone would learn about the exact horror happening in the world. The problem with this narrative direction in the three episodes so far has been that the central family is so damn boring. Madison is literally the only character with potential. Everyone else just feels like potential zombie bait for later.

"The Dog" is the halfway point of the season. That's a crazy realization because it only just now feels like the story is finally getting somewhere. But the audience has to wait until next week to see if that new direction will pay off much better than what has been happening on the show so far. Adding the military to this narrative should bring a sense of structure and chaos. It will give the audience a sense of what society's reaction as a whole was to the outbreak. There have glimpses in every episode so far that government officials know more than the citizens of Los Angeles. But that hasn't been dramatized in an exciting, compelling or mysterious way. It has just been a brief glimpse of a police officer stockpiling rations or lots of officers firing at one zombie. Whenever the infected people do pop up, the tension is heightened. But it has already become a stale image of the police openly firing on one zombie. It happens again in this episode in front of the hospital. It remains a cool image. But it's literally the same thing over and over again.

Things need to start happening on this show that force these characters to act in a smart way. So far, they all continue to act irrationally and stupidly. Travis has become so idealistic and optimistic. Those aren't qualities that will go well in an apocalypse. Madison has the ideas that will keep her alive. That should make their marriage an interesting thing to watch as the show evolves. And yet, there's almost too much restraint with Madison's character development. The show doesn't want to push her too far yet. She has the right idea to kill her neighbor Susan before her husband, Patrick, comes home and sees what she has become. But she is holding onto her humanity because Travis is on her shoulder telling her to be good. In this scenario, she is able to listen to him. She does still try to do the right thing in the end by warning Patrick when he finally comes home. But she's not able to do anything that makes much of a difference. In the future, she might not have the luxury to think before she acts.

The Salazar family isn't a whole lot better than the main family. They are even less defined - which is really saying something. They are largely just the immigrants who escaped a harsh world only to meet something very similar in a country that was suppose to be better. That does give Daniel a nice, harsh edge to him. He knows how to survive in a harsh world. He is unafraid to shoot the infected man in the head when Travis and Madison only want to try reasoning with him. That makes Daniel seem smart. But he's also incredibly untrusting of the kindness and goodness on display within Travis and Madison. He sees those qualities as foolish pursuits. The world has changed and they can no longer live by those rules. That should make him a character to enjoy watching on the show as it figures itself out. Instead he is largely just a stubborn man who is certain about things and refuses to explain himself to anyone - including his family. His wife has a much bleaker fate than anyone else on the show right now. That contrast should make the drama interesting. It just doesn't because there's nothing to make any of the characters worth caring about.

The one great moment that comes in "The Dog" is Madison and Liza's first conversation on the show. The dynamic they have with each other hasn't been explained all that much. The kids have made it clear how they feel about this new blended family. But the moms haven't voiced their opinions. In that scene, that's not important. What is important is Madison making plans for the future. She sees just how horrifying this illness can be. She wants to make sure that Travis doesn't have to go through the pain of having to kill her. She makes Liza promise to end it if she ever ends up like her neighbor. That was a great moment that showed Madison as a smart woman who understands what the world is becoming. She can do her best to protect her family. But she's also making those plans if things go horribly. Something like that can't save this episode from being more than mediocre. But it is suggestive of what things can become in the future. It's just unclear if this season will ever get there given it's already half over.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Dog" was written by Jack LoGiudice and directed by Adam Davidson.
  • Daniel does try to pass along some useful information as Travis and Madison's family plans their venture out into the desert. He shows Chris how to fire the shotgun they have just acquired. Of course, Travis puts an end to that - because he doesn't like guns.
  • Nick and Alicia have become so insufferable. He is constantly trying to get pills in order to get high. Him searching for drugs was amusing once. It no longer is. That's still better than Alicia's insistence that Matt is still fine and not like the rest of the infected people.
  • The family learning that the infected are really just dead people brought back to life by this disease was a big moment for the show to have. Instead, it's largely just speculation that gets rejected immediately. Nick knows what's going on and everyone else refuses to listen. That's done for the enjoyment of the audience but it's mostly just a drag.
  • Who in their right mind comes home to see a man eating a random dog in the middle of their living room and tries to reason with him? That was just so stupid and happened solely to creating a "thrilling action sequence."
  • Susan and Patrick's backyard maze seemed way too weird and dumb to be taken seriously. How in the world is that functional and something people would actually want to have in their yard?
  • It's also weird for Madison, Nick and Alicia to just play Monopoly while the state of the world and Travis' fate are uncertain. It's them trying to block all of that out, but it still creeps in.
  • Can the English subtitles be any smaller?