FEAR THE WALKING DEAD is back for season two and while not by any stretch magnificent, its opener was a cut above the show from which it spawned. Episode one, entitled, ‘Enemy’, picked up right where we left off last season, Travis and family (plus a few friends), on the beach, ready to depart for the open water.
There are many problems with THE WALKING DEAD and pretty much none of them exist with this spin off. TWD is bloated, it has too many characters and has a phobia of killing them off before we hate them. FEAR is still a relatively new show, we haven’t had the chance to really get to know these characters, let alone become tired of them to the point of hating. It’s a show with a small cast and narrow focus, and oh god does it help with its palatability. Without having to spend useless, mind numbing moments with hundreds of characters, FEAR has the ability to just do its thing, tell its story, let the small band of survivors inhabit this engaging new world that they find themselves in. This provides a situation where vast chunks of the episode don’t feel wasted, there is literally nowhere else the time can be spent. These are the characters and this is the story. That’s it.
It’s helped in another way by the setting. After a visually pleasing intro of the gang fighting off zombies on the beach — it’s weird seeing them so fresh — and looking back as the city burns behind them, we spend the rest of the episode on Strand’s boat, way out at sea. This is the kind of cosy, defined location that TWD needs to thrive once more. I hope FEAR stays on this boat for some time, delving into what this kind of environment will do to its characters in such a high pressure situation. The effects are already taking place. Strand, the owner of the boat, spends chunks of the episode laying down the law, telling the antsy, still morally righteous group that it’s his way or the highway. Tensions are high, they pass a raft full of people, screaming for their help. They want to help them but Strand knows better. At this point, most of the group don’t know about the danger people can pose. We do. Letting those stranded people onto their boat is a terrible idea. Sure, the people they would be saving aren’t the animals that men become in TWD, but they pose a risk all the same. Luckily Strand has his head screwed on early. He, like Shane in TWD, is ahead of the curve, coming off as an idiot because he adapted quicker than everyone else, but he will of course look quite normal down the road.
We also have Chris’ dead mother on the boat, and him clinging to her corpse after having seen his dad shoot her. Its a tough deal for the kid, it’s a tough deal for everyone and these type of things, in such claustrophobic environs, is a sure fire recipe for success. My only real issue with the episode, and I guess the show in general, is that the characters make dumb decisions, they are naive by the nature of the situation. This makes us, as seasoned apocalypse watchers, frustrated. We know what they are doing wrong, we know the mistakes they are making. So instances like this and like Alicia contacting a boy on the radio, telling him details about her, to us are obviously stupid things to be doing. But this is what the show is going to be for a while. It’s intrinsic to its very makeup. If you can’t get over it, stop watching. But the negatives associated with the shows early apocalypse premise, by no means out way the positives. Seeing these people so early on in proceedings, with them and everyone they meet having to figure shit out, with civilisation still just holding on, is engaging stuff. It makes me want to come back next week, even if the first episode didn’t knock my socks off.
I was also very glad to see that one of my favourite aspects from season 1, the score, has continued in fine fashion into this season so far. The music really enhanced a decent debut set of episodes and it certainly put a shine on events here. A good score can make a mediocre show seem like something more. FTWD isn’t a great show. But it isn’t bad either. Its good, and this was a decent episode. If this is the base line going forward then it should be a lot more palatable then what we’ve been receiving from its parent show of late. This show has a chance, if it can tell an engaging smaller story (exactly what I wish TWD had) with a focused, defined location, to be a very enjoyable show. I am not beside myself with anticipation for the next episode, but I’m looking forward more to FEAR than I have been TWD. So that’s something I guess.