Fear The Walking Dead S02E01 “Monster” REVIEW

Fear The Walking Dead S02E01 “Monster” REVIEW

Fear The Walking Dead Monster review

stars 2.5

Airing in the UK on AMC Global
Writer:
Dave Erickson
Director:
Adam Davidson

 

Essential Plot Points:

• Chris

  • We open on the beach. Maddy and Travis are frantically loading a boat. Nick drives it out to the Abigail leaving them, and Chris, to fend off a horde of Walkers. Chris grieves for his dead mother. Travis and Abby almost join her. Nick brings the boat back alone and they barely escape. As they do, they watch LA – which pretty clearly wasn’t this much on fire a few hours ago – being bombed by the Air Force.

• Burnination

  • Strand tells them he’s heading south to San Diego, confident that the Navy might have secured the city. The others settle in; Chris standing vigil over his mother and Travis unable to comfort him. As dawn breaks they spot an overcrowded boat that’s starting to sink. Alicia and Maddy are adamant they rescue the people aboard. Strand and, reluctantly, Travis, disagree and they move on.

• abigail

  • To distract her, and because they need it, Travis gives Alicia the radio and tells her to search for anyone else. She finds the Coast Guard apologising, saying no help is coming and begging forgiveness. Then, she hears music… David Bowie to be precise and a smoot- voiced DJ with a sob story talking over it. Who is totally not a pirate. (What? No pirate radio gag? – ed.)

• Alicia

  • Chris takes a break from mourning to talk to Daniel about their recent losses as they both deep sea fish. It’s a surprisingly gentle, nice scene.

• Chris and Daniel

  • Maddy goes looking for Strand after hearing music. She finds the cabin deserted and Strand on the top deck. He says he’s talking to ghosts to keep awake. She tells him they trust him. Later, she talks to Daniel who reminds her of all the questions they still have about Strand. After all, he was ready to leave before the dead rose…

• Burying Eliza

  • Having reached deep enough water, they bury Liza. Travis says a few words, Chris buries her, stomps off and when Travis confronts his son, Chris punches him.

• Radio

  • Meanwhile, Alicia’s totally-not-a-pirate sort-of boyfriend says his boat’s sinking. She gives him some details on where they are and races off to ask the others to rescue him.

• Strand

  • Strand cooks off, reminding them it’s his boat and no one on the water can be trusted. They’re not going to rescue him.
  • Later, he points out to Nick that everyone on the boat has to earn their place. Nick asks what he brings and Strand complements him on his fearlessness.

• Maddy

  • Madison sits with Chris and, gently, not only brings him down to Earth but implies heavily she had an abusive childhood. As the others sit down for a “family” meal to eat the fish Daniel caught, Chris jumps off the boat. When the others panic and Nick goes in after him, Chris says he just wanted to swim. All is well until Nick is attacked by a floating Walker and the nearby fog clears to reveal a ruined yacht. Travis goes to get his two sons as Nick hears something in the yacht and dives into it. He fends off another, equally rubbish Walker and retrieves the yacht’s log.

• aqua walker

  • It escapes no one’s notice the boat is riddled with bullet holes.
  • Oh and Alicia’s totally-not-a-pirate’s last words are, “See you soon.”

• wreck

  • They speed away but another boat is closing. And, as Strand notes, it’s faster than the Abigail…

 

Review:

So, Fear The Walking Dead has three problems. The good news is two of them are on screen and solvable. The bad news is, all of them are painfully apparent in this season two opener.

The first problem is that this isn’t so much season two as it is season one after a six episode season zero. When that season was at its best, it explored the gradual collapse of society in LA through the lens of Travis and Maddy’s families. When it was at its worst, it either ran in place for episodes at a time or got stupid amounts of stuff out of the way inside an hour.

This episode manages, somehow, to do both. Joining the action in the middle is a great idea but we have no context. It feels, for the first few minutes, like a flashforward. So when it turns out to be a few hours after the end of season one, it takes a little while to sink in. There’s no context, no set-up and no explanation for stuff going to hell. Suddenly LA’s on fire and it’s time to leave, because there are places to go, people to see and random slow-motion montages to endure.

That brings us to the next problem: the characters. Travis and Maddy’s extended family, not to mention Grandpa Torture, were the source of most of the problems last year. That’s unfortunately the case here too and, equally unfortunately, the burden of annoyance falls almost exclusively on Chris. We honestly don’t think its Lorenzo James Henrie’s fault either. He’s doing good work but Chris has been a one-note character for seven episodes now and that note is, “WHHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?!” As a result even though he has real, legitimate problems with his dad’s actions it merely comes across as whining. That devalues the character, the death of his mother and the episode as a whole.

Alicia comes dangerously to similar ground this episode as well. Her flirting with the hot sounding boy on the radio who is Totally Not A Pirate is actually a very clever piece of scripting but it’s one that does the episode no favours. We know awful things are coming but for her; it’s been a few days at most so she’s still looking for someone, anyone to reach out to. It’s still a very dumb move but it’s one that at least has context.

Unfortunately that context is the one problem the show can’t solve. The characters can, and already are, improving, with both Strand and Nick infinitely more fun than they were last season already. The pacing will improve too as the show finds its feet. But the one problem it can’t solve is this: the viewers will always know more than the characters do.

That’s a massive hurdle that the show isn’t going to jump any time soon. We know society collapses. We know Walkers are everywhere. We know no one should go anywhere without a knife at the very least and every encounter with someone new is as cautious as it is desperately hopeful. We’re all, whether we like it or not, Alexandrians. Used to this world, ready for what it throws at us.

Travis and Maddy’s family know nothing and that makes them victims and that makes this episode particularly hard to sit through. Worse still, after last week’s The Walking Dead season finale, the show’s in an even more difficult spot. Last week we frantically tried to guess which beloved character was killed. This week we watch as Nick pushes a more than slightly apathetic aqua walker away from him and swims away. There’s exasperation where there should be fear; annoyance where there should be jeopardy. Combined with the lumpen pace and the still mishandled family drama it means this episode stumbles where it should run.

There’s promising stuff here, certainly, but here’s hoping that life on the ocean wave solves the show’s problems as well as the character’s.

 

15318_FEAR_S2_Promo_Monster_21

The Good:

  • “Strand, stop the boat.”
    “That’s funny.” Strand feels a lot like a season six Walking Dead character. He’s ruthless and driven in a way the others aren’t. He’s also interesting and fun though, which is a big step up from last season.
  • “It’s a characteristic of the gifted.”
    “And the crazy.” Maddy and Strand are an interesting double act. We’re looking forward to seeing how they build this relationship.
  • “Then how do I contribute?”
    “You mean on this boat or here existentially?”
    “…either?” Also much more of Nick and Strand’s pseudo-double-act, please.
  • “I remember the first time I hit my father. I was furious. I was 13… It didn’t end well.” The best, smartest line in the show. This sort of writing is where it needs to be and where it might just be heading.
  • Strand. Yeah, after his catastrophically misjudged introduction last yeah we never thought we’d be putting Strand in the “Good” section. However Colman Domingo’s Strand was a lot more promising in the final episode of season one. Here he’s starting to deliver already. Driven, very clever, endlessly calm and surprisingly at home in these situations he’s clearly not telling the others everything. Charismatic, ambiguous and funny he’s instantly the best part of the episode.
  • Nick. Yeah, we’re pleasantly surprised too. Last season’s second-most useless character is this season’s surprising go-getter. His scenes with Strand in particular are great and if any of those fools survive more than three seasons, I’m betting it’s that particular Pinky & the Brain-esque duo.
  • The setting. The pacing this episode is basically non-existent but the Abigail being the cast’s new, tiny safe haven is a really interesting idea. Hopefully the possibly imminent pirates will give the show a chance to explore that a bit.

 

The Bad:

• proptality

  • The propeller fatality. Not only is it gratuitous it’s the most token, OTT Walkertality the show has done to date. Also, they don’t even commit. What if someone had been cut by a piece of infected skull? What if it had broken the blades on the propeller? That would have been interesting. What we get is just dull.
  • The pacing. The episode veers wildly from action-movie-fast to weirdly slow, subdued points and it fluffs every single one of them. Why is Strand’s house suddenly on fire when it wasn’t a few hours ago in the last episode? Why is there a slow-motion montage of everyone sitting down for fish dinner? Why is Chris tipping his mother’s body into the sea played as a weirdly disjointed shock moment? The script and direction are almost never in sync and it hurts an already, bluntly pretty dull, episode.
  • Chris. The only character in the world who could make legitimate, understandable grief and anger look annoying.
  • The Aqua Walkers. They’re great shock value for about five seconds and then become the least effective Walkers the show has ever featured. The one that attacks Nick in the plot yacht is especially rubbish, forgetting a live human is feet away because of a noise.

 

And The Random:

  • Alicia’s Totally-Not-A-Pirate boyfriend has good musical taste. The song he plays is “Five Years” by David Bowie. It’s from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and was released in 1971. Which is also a really clever choice on behalf of the producers. The show’s “present” remains difficult to tie down which helps keep it current.
  • No, seriously, why is the house on fire? We went back and checked the final scene of season one and while stuff isn’t, y’know, great, it’s also remarkably not on fire. This season, it looks like an early 1990s metal video.
  • Shot of the week is this, the family watching the city burn as they escape.

• shot of the week

Review by: Alasdair Stuart


 

Read our other Fear The Walking Dead reviews

 

 

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