Fear the Walking Dead Crawls Back to AMC by R.C. Murphy
Over the course of the fourth season for Fear the Walking Dead, the production team flipped the show on its head. And the season isn’t even halfway finished. Gone is the linear timeline—with no promises from the showrunners to return to the storytelling style from before. Fans were treated to a whole new set of characters and their ever-evolving problems. A strong love story came in, highlighting the need for happiness in the show to keep it feeling fresh. Happiness that wasn’t yet another temporary, overly dramatic, possibly ill-considered relationship for Alicia. Then came the biggest turn in the show’s history: The family is no more. In order to move in a new direction, they cut most of the ties to the past via Madison doing what she did best, right to the very end. Not only was it a shock to the fans, but the cast, as well. Coleman Domingo spoke in an interview about the dual departures, going into how hard it was to lose coworkers who’d been there since day one. What did it take to translate that emotion to the screen? “It required intense amounts of grace, and patience, and frustration, and being honest about your feelings,” Domingo said.
I’ll be honest, I lost track of this show again, despite the appeal of Morgan’s crossover—the character is amazing and I kinda wanted to keep in touch with his story. When the Madison/Nick news dropped, I regretted lagging behind and seriously considered a quick season four catch-up. Other things the cast and production team said during their 2018 San Diego Comic-Con panel made it even more apparent that the deeply problematic show I left behind is not the show that’s on air now.
Not only that, much like the cast from the sister show, those who were onstage for the FtWD SDCC panel appeared happier. More relaxed. The jokes and banter were actually funny. At one point, everyone in the hall wished Alycia Debnam-Carey a happy birthday. More than the renewed joy, even the concepts they spoke about morphed from discussions which highlighted the cringe-worthy, racist nature of the previous seasons’ plots, to pointing out how the incoming storm teased in the trailer is, essentially, a visual representation of Alicia’s grief. It’s a massive difference and makes the show more inviting to new audiences.
And let’s not forget the drastic uptick in poo jokes thanks to Lennie James and the showrunners, Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg. Believe it or not, it’s completely relevant to the show. Let’s just say they’re bringing in a whole new level of realism to Morgan’s story line and leave it at that.
The second half of season four will find Morgan struggling to figure out if he belongs with these people, or where he belongs if not with them. Alicia’s forced to mourn her family while enduring a storm chalk full of airborne undead. She’ll even have her own character-centric episode at last. Strand grasps for comforts from the days before hell came to Earth and seeks shelter in a mansion, complete with wine cellar. Everyone else from the stadium will use the remaining episodes to find their purpose and place in a world suddenly devoid of their leader. Chambliss told Syfy Wire, “The back half of this season has all of our characters asking themselves . . . ‘What do we do to move forward? Who are we to each other? How can we come back from all these really dark things we did?’ We really view this as an ensemble show, and we’re going to be telling stories throughout the back half of the season that will focus on different characters grappling with those existential questions in different ways.”
On top of the already introduced new characters for season four like Jenna Elfman’s multiple-named character, Maggie Grace’s Althea, and Garret Dillahunt’s John Dorie, there are even more new faces coming onboard to flesh out the ensemble. Aaron Stanford, who just wrapped the astounding Syfy series 12 Monkeys, makes his way over to FtWD for even more genre weirdness. Parks and Recreation‘s Mo Collins has the potential to bring a whole new vibe to the cast with her vast comedic career. Tonya Pinkins, who played Ethel Peabody on Gotham, is also slated to make her appearance soon. Daryl Mitchell, better known for his comedic roles in Galaxy Quest and 10 Things I Hate About You, will bring something different to the franchise—a disabled character played by a disabled actor. It’s about dang time the genre got better about disabled representation, and Mitchell’s on-screen energy makes the casting choice just that much better. Stephen Henderson (Fences) rounds out the new FtWD cast that’s been announced so far. It’s an insanely talented group coming onto the show at a time when everything is in flux.
Oh. Oh, man. So this is what it’s like to be actually excited about the show again. Never thought that sensation would ever return.
Speaking of returns, Fear the Walking Dead returned to AMC on August 12th, so there’s no need to wait any longer. Jump into season four. Go ahead. I think it might actually be worth the time.
The big news for 2018’s Spring television lineup is Fear the Walking Dead‘s cross-over with its parent show, The Walking Dead. As we found out a couple months ago, TWD’s Morgan will hop over to the show’s spin-off, which begins its fourth season on AMC on April 15th.
But how are they going to do it? The shows, as the production teams pointed out when FtWD was announced, happen during drastically different points in the apocalypse. It’s safe to assume Morgan won’t hop in a DeLorean to pay a visit to the Clark family. New showrunners Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg (both from Once Upon a Time) sat with Entertainment Weekly for a few interviews leading up to the season four premiere. During an interview in January, Chambliss said, “As Morgan Jones steps into the world of FTWD, he’ll be continuing the journey he began on The Walking Dead way back in the pilot.” That’s not where his story picks up on the new show, though, and I think this sentiment is all about showing that they plan to maintain the character’s integrity. What about the time gap, though? It’s a huge elephant in the room. Are they willing to skip ahead that far just to fix the show? Photos from the FtWD set show Morgan with a sharpened staff, which could put his personal time line somewhere near “Here’s Not Here” [The Walking Dead ep. 604] where he learned how to staff fight with Eastman. Which leads me to believe Morgan must be the busiest man in the apocalypse if he’s gone from saving Rick to losing his kid, losing his mind, learning martial arts, traveling from Georgia to Texas, then back toward Washington D.C. where he became a Savior for a heartbeat, only to reunite with Rick, join a war, then move on after losing his mind yet again. Yes, this franchise does enjoy their time-jumps, but their new plan stretches reality a bit thin if we’re to buy into the desolation they’ve established as the norm in the universe. These characters just do not have the resources to do so much in so little time.
We have another elephant in the room:
We’re already on season seven and this one’s on season two and that would be crazy. As far as if those characters will ever encounter each other, I mean, they’re in the same universe so it’s completely possible. Geographically, they’re nowhere near each other so it would be somewhat farfetched if group A were to somehow encounter group B unless over the course of many, many, many, many seasons somehow it made sense.
Robert Kirkman, creator of the TWD comics and show producer, said this at a comic convention in Hawaii back in 2016. Here’s the guy who created the universe admitting how far-fetched the notion is, as illustrated above. The thing is, Past Kirkman is right. It doesn’t make sense to cross over any character—let alone Morgan, seeing as they fleshed out the gaps in his story fairly well. When asked to speak about the crossover in a recent EW interview, Kirkman now says, “When we started Fear the Walking Dead, the original idea actually included some things that would eventually tie in with the other show. We wanted to give it a few seasons to find its sea legs, so to speak, and make sure that it stood on its own and provided its own experience. The goal was that eventually, once we had established that, we would find some kind of creative way to tie things in.” Which, ya know, I didn’t grasp that potential when Kirkman shot the idea down in 2016. Everyone in the production was originally very much against combining the shows because of the time gap and location issue.
Well, Fear the Walking Dead isn’t doing nearly as well as they hoped. It never found its “sea legs,” as Kirkman puts it. The characters remained superficial icons representing stages in human grief and coping. When the production ramped up the action with the hopes of making the family more interesting by pitting them against each other at the ranch, it brought in even more unnecessary racial tension. That tension then spilled onto the San Diego Comic-Con stage in 2017 when talk show host Chris Hardwick and FtWD guest star Dayton Callie projected some seriously xenophobic behavior whilst bashing the foreign accents of leading cast members. How did the production mop up that mess? First, they never commented on it publicly. Then Hardwick was surprisingly absent from the TWD SDCC panel, presumably so producers could focus the conversation on the somber reality of losing a beloved stunt man and not the antics of AMC’s host. Finally, it seems the only way to truly get past the scandal is to move a minority character from the more popular show and use his deteriorating mental condition to completely change the narrative style with the goal to “kick start” FtWD’s flagging energy and viewer numbers.
Lennie James’ character Morgan isn’t the only newcomer for season four. He is, however, the only new minority character on a show with a well-documented and rocky history with racial issues—such as portraying Mexicans as cultish death-worshipers who ignore common sense altogether, or having Walker drop his Cowboys vs Indians style grudge only after a white man dies to “absolve” all past sins, like the old racist was Jesus or something.
Who are the new characters? Jenna Elfman plays Naomi, an aloof but adept survivor who isn’t exactly an open book. Maggie Grace is coming onboard to play Althea, who has an undisclosed background which gives her an advantage over others in the apocalypse. Taking a slight turn from some of his latest roles, Garret Dillahunt plays soft-spoken and humorous John for FtWD’s upcoming fourth season. Kevin Zegers also joins the cast, but the production remains mum on his character.
Everything the production has planned for season four boils down to using Morgan as a tool to repair the broken things which only cracked further with every attempt to fix them. The linear time line left the plot too predictable, so they plan to “experiment” with the time a little. Having stereotypes for leading characters means fans aren’t surprised in the least when Madison does things like focusing on the needs of one child over the other’s, nor do they bat an eye when Alicia finds comfort in a casual relationship instead of confronting her mother right off the bat because they established Alicia as someone who clings to relationships when stressed in season one. None of the characters change. They don’t grow. Circumstances may force certain behavior, but they always wrap back around to the same people they were three seasons ago. Morgan, on the other hand, is compelling because he changes so drastically over eight seasons. The same could never be said about Madison and her family, and it’s not like good character writing rubs off on the others just because one guy is present. This plan to use Morgan as television-writing duct tape makes no sense from a practical standpoint.
The long road to finding a home in the apocalypse is a tale told literally a thousand times, even in the guise of a family drama. Fans have seen it all. Unless FtWD pulls a rabbit out of their hat, all this rearranging of characters across the franchise will only hurt both shows in the end. The cagy answers from Kirkman, Goldberg, and Chambliss don’t assuage my concerns, either. They’re acting like they reinvented the genre, here, and I just don’t think that can happen with FtWD. Not without them starting over from the beginning.
We’re closer to New Seattle than everyone anticipated. Which is a relief, honestly. Not having a premiere date in-hand was worrisome. Why put off an announcement until less than two months in advance? We went through this already with Z Nation. One had hoped iZombie wouldn’t fall into that late-to-press trend, but here we are, less than two months out and CW finally drops the good news. It’s great and all, but the information delays are getting old. Likely it’s a way to create false panic, drum up news and viral campaigns to “Save this show! Let the network hear you want season blahblahblah.” There’s enough to panic about in the real world, could we stop with the fear-mongering when it comes to the future of people’s favorite franchises? Just spit it out. We all know no amount of online petitioning will really save a show—look at the footwork Dark Matter fans, cast, and creators put into saving their ship; if anyone deserves another season based on effort alone, it’s those guys. At least for now iZombie seems to have a future through season five after details emerged in the recent news regarding Knepper’s future with the CW franchise.
On Monday, February 26th at 9 PM, iZombie’s fourth season will take us into a changed Seattle. Zombies are free to live their truth in the open. It’s transformed the city from top down. Even the police department gets with the times, bringing in zombie partners for their detectives so everyone can share in Liv’s whacky brainventures. The extra hands on deck are necessary. This season the gang isn’t fighting a someone so much as a something. That something being mass migration to the newly dubbed zombie safe-hold on the notion that anyone can save themselves from terminal illness and constant pain with just one tiny scratch. The walls won’t keep desperate humans out for long. Their heightened security certainly doesn’t keep out a new character, Levon (Daniel Bonjour), or the smugglers bringing the ill into Seattle. Levon follows their story for a documentary detailing the changes to the city.
Over at AMC, they’re planning a little further in advance than everyone else and on January 13th during a press tour a spokesperson announced a slew of premieres for their spring schedule, including Fear the Walking Dead.
FTWD shambles into its fourth season on Sunday, April 15th at 10 PM. Fret not, those who aren’t night owls, that late start time is only for the premiere. The show hops back to its normal 9 PM timeslot for the remainder of the season. This time around fans will watch through Morgan’s eyes while Madison and her family struggle to survive. Because we needed that family to be even more removed from the fanbase who’re still struggling to connect with the lead characters. Sure. Right. Maybe the perspective change will bring fresh energy to the show. But honestly this reeks of a desperate grab to save a floundering fish. The producers crowed for years that there’d never be a crossover. Well, those quotes did not age well at all. On top of Lennie James coming on-board, the newest cast members for the AMC spin-off include Jenna Elfman, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, and Kevin Kegers.
AMC shook things up for The Walking Dead, as well. Rick and company will be returning for a ninth season, according to the latest press release. They won’t be coming back with the same showrunner, however. Scott Gimple plans to move on and oversee the entire TWD franchise as its chief content officer. Taking his place as showrunner is TWD’s co-executive producer Angela Kang. TWD returns to AMC for the second half of season eight on Sunday, February 25th at 9 PM. There’s no premiere date for season nine just yet. Expect that news sometime this summer.
The 25th is going to be a busy night. Ash vs Evil Dead also returns to the small screen on February 25th at 9 PM. Ash took on the evils from his past last season. Well, there’s one last blast from way-back to rock his world. Ash gets in touch with his inner papa bear in the third season of the Starz show after learning he’s actually got family to defend, since, ya know, the others all went deadite. Can he break the grip Death has on his family tree? With a chainsaw hand, he can do anything. But I don’t know if a chainsaw will help him become a better parent.
Stock up on popcorn, guys. There’s a lot of undead entertainment headed your way.
Catching Up with Fear the Walking Dead by R. C. Murphy
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Rob Latour/REX/Shutterstock (8970351m) Mercedes Mason and Michael Greyeyes ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ TV show panel, Comic-Con International, San Diego, USA – 21 Jul 2017
The main cast each got a little time to talk about where their character has come since the season started, and how the actors feel about where they’ll go in the upcoming episodes. Kim Dickens was quite impressed with how the show’s writers went back to ground Madison’s seemingly unrealistic decision process in severe childhood abuse. She said the reveal was a “beautiful moment where a parent becomes human to their child.” Colman Domingo relished in the chance to rebuild Strand after the yacht joined the other deceased FtWD characters in the great beyond. Frank Dillane wasn’t too clear on what’s pushing Nick now, but showrunner Dave Erickson was there to give the panel’s audience a glimpse into what the production thinks about Nick’s amazing ability to adapt thanks to his troubled past. Alicia was on the outside looking in for family bonding time, according to actress Alycia Debnam-Carey, and has no plans to rely on Madison or Nick to get ahead in their new circumstances at the ranch. She, along with co-star Sam Underwood, defended Alicia’s undefined romantic relationship with Underwood’s character Jake. They were adamant that the relationship will never become that horrible codependent trap all young women on TV fall into at some point, and pointed out how the show has never shied from take-charge women who don’t need men to survive. Daniel Sharman took a minute to quell rumblings that Troy was being taken advantage of or unwittingly influenced by Madison. Their tension isn’t what some assume, but a well-calculated game of manipulation chess. Dayton Callie was on hand to say farewell to the FtWD chaos in his own particular way. Mercedes Mason offered some insight into the changes we’ll see from Ofelia. She’s finally accepted that she’s her father’s daughter, became a total badass in order to survive, but will be very much herself, still. Newcomer Michael Greyeyes gushed about being a fan of the franchise before accepting the role as Qaletqa Walker. What drew him to the character? The fact that Walker was written as an intellectual, a former lawyer. He enjoyed the chance to bring that kind of representation to the small screen.
SAN DIEGO, CA – JULY 21: (L-R) Actors Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey and Sam Underwood speak onstage at the “Fear The Walking Dead” panel during Comic-Con International 2017 at San Diego Convention Center on July 21, 2017 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
There were a few fan questions at the end. Most were rehashes of every comic-con panel question ever, so I’ll spare you. Erickson did drop one small tidbit—we’ll never see deadTravis on-screen due to scheduling conflicts and story direction.
I wish we’d gotten more from this panel. It was somewhat lackluster, and downright insulting during one portion where it devolved into a free-for-all about certain actors’ accents. Maybe the footage they showed made up for the shortened discussion time with the actors.
But the show is still here. They rolled out a two-hour season three opener on June 4th, garnering 4.7 million viewers. That’s a smidge better from how they wrapped season two, with just over 3 million viewers hanging in ’til the end. So I guess that means there’s still fans for FtWD, but the numbers are still nowhere near TWD’s season openers. Some fans admit they’re hooked after That Shocking Moment at the beginning of episode 302. Others are frustrated because it’s not meaningful to end a story line once it’s obviously run its course—or as I’ve said since the get-go, that particular one never stood a chance. Yes, I’m being vague. No season three spoilers here, folks.
If you, like me, took some time off from the show, here’s a run-down of what happened after the guts hit the fan and the family separated during the season two mid-season finale. Warning, Season Two Spoilers Below!
Nick makes it to Mexico the hard way, via water. He starts his trip strong, but eventually loses all his gear, food, and water. Basically, he’s playing the game on Hardcore Survival Mode, going so far as to drink his own urine and ingest raw dog meat. Nick is saved from an infection in his leg, and eventual death by exposure, by Luciana. She lives in La Colonia, a walled survivor camp, and takes Nick to get his leg treated. The colony believes death is natural, and the zombies are an extension of that. The sick/injured are given to the dead before they turn inside the walls. This group also has a trade deal with local thugs, drugs for basic supplies. It takes Nick a heartbeat to take over the drug portion of the trade, putting Colonia’s leadership on edge. It also takes him almost as long to seduce Luciana. With the drug trade their only means to obtain water and other vital needs, it’s vital the chain remain unbroken . . . then it’s broken. Nick and Luciana are pitted against Colonia’s increasingly crazed leader. He demands faith, they know faith won’t convince Marco and his people to share. Nick attempts to make another trade, but Marco reveals he’s found a new drug supplier who’ll help him take over La Colonia. When Nick takes the warning back to his new friends, they refuse to leave. The leader is bitten by an infected citizen, and his lie about supposed immunity is outed. Despite learning the truth and the upcoming raid, Luciana won’t leave her people when Nick demands they run. It isn’t until he returns the next day with news of a helicopter landing near the border that La Colonia’s people realize they must flee. Their leader stays behind, using his flagging energy to open a gap in the fence so the infected can attack Marco and his goons. The fleeing survivors make it to the border. And no further. Most are gunned down on the spot. Luciana is injured. She and Nick are separated at the season’s end and taken hostage.
Madison, Alicia, Ofelia, and Strand chase after Nick, but fail to find him. They also fail to secure the yacht and it’s stolen by the Mexican military. With nothing left, they end up hiding in a hotel. When the undead spread, a group was trapped in the hotel during a wedding. After Madison and Strand nearly kill everyone by getting drunk and having a party, they eventually work out a deal with the current occupants. There’s a catch. They have to shun Elena, a woman who came to Alicia’s rescue after the drunken fiasco. There’s tense history between Elena and the hotel leaders, Oscar and Ilene—so much so they’ve kidnapped her son, Hector. Regardless of who can stay or go, Madison pushes forward with clearing the undead from the hotel. There’s too many, but Alicia finds a riptide under the neighboring pier. The combined groups work out a plan to lure the infected to the riptide with Madison as the final bait. Ten days of cooperation later, all looks good. Except the lingering resentment from Ilene, who blames Elena for killing her daughter, and stabs Strand instead of her nemesis. Forced into action, lest Strand die from lack of care, Elena tells Madison about a gang-operated drug trade nearby where her other son lives. Yes, it’s also the same place Nick trades Oxy for water. Madison overhears just enough inside the store before they get their med supplies to know her son lives, and to make life difficult for the Colonia family Marco questions. They’re given their marching orders and return to the hotel to tend to Strand. Madison opts to use the generator to run the hotel sign, for Nick. Travis finds it instead. And he’s alone.
Chris wandered off from the group with a head full of crazy and not much else. His father only followed to keep him safe. After they make a grab and dash supply stop, the men Chris accidentally saved track them down and extend an invitation to join them. Brandon, Dereck, and James are heavily armed, dangerous, the opposite of what Travis wants for Chris, but the kid is already mentally with the new guys before they’ve been together long enough to know each other’s middle names. The newly-formed group spots a farm to ransack. Slight problem there; the farm owner is still alive and very protective of his chickens. James pushes his luck and is shot. Chris returns fire, killing the farmer. And he’s not sorry about it at all. Chris sees kindred souls in Brandon’s crew. He also sees a future, which he’d given up on just before leaving the yacht. James’ injury prevents the crew from moving on. Chris’ new friends get anxious, sure James will turn and they want to do him in before then. In a rather obvious double-cross, Chris holds Travis back while James is put down. Father and son part ways, Chris joining Brandon on the road, Travis heading on foot to find the ocean, and eventually the lit hotel sign.
That sign brings every survivor to the hotel door. Including, eventually, Brandon and Derek. The hotel dwellers reluctantly bring everyone into the parking garage to check them over and provide shelter. Chris’ companions, without him in tow, are typically American and rude. They also have news. Chris totaled their vehicle and perished in the crash. Madison and Strand agree now is not the time to tell Travis. Slight problem with the plan, when the duo are pulled aside to fix one’s dislocated shoulder, the other newcomers riot. Travis joins them to calm everyone down. From there, it’s a train wreck. Travis learns about Chris, but the stories don’t mesh. He gets the men alone, manhandling the truth from them—Chris survived the wreck, but they shot him over an injured leg. Snap. Travis beats the men to death, also accidentally injuring Oscar. The injury requires surgery, but due to the lack of, well, anything Oscar dies mid-procedure. A lynch mob rushes for Travis’ room. The family fights them off. Strand helps Madison and Alicia get Travis away from the hotel, but stays behind. From there, Madison finally falls into Nick’s footsteps and tracks him to La Colonia. There’s no Nick, but Alejandro, Colonia’s leader, gives them just enough information to send them in the right direction before he succumbs to the infection.
Will you tune in to see where the family winds up, or have you moved on to greener entertainment pastures? Personally, I’m using my free time to watch Wynonna Earp and a couple other SyFy shows.
First up, don’t miss Fear the Walking Dead‘s return for the latter half of season two starting Sunday August 21st at 9/8c. We’ve been promised crazier dead-obsessed folks. Madison is on a quest to save Nick. Plus Alicia becomes a badass, and there’s a father/son road trip which will likely crash and burn. Oh and a hotel that apparently rains corpses.
Z Nation will be the next to hit the airwaves with their recently announced September 16th . . . or was that the 23rd for the premiere? To clear up confusion, David Michael Latt, the show’s producer, became a one-man FAQ. He filled in fans via Twitter, saying the two-hour episode airing on the 16th is what he called a, “lost episode,” which will feature returning characters. This episode/movie begins at 8/7c and sets up the action for the third season, which begins the following week. Latt said there may be a ZN marathon before the new season begins. He also said season three is “nuts,” and shared a link to pirated footage for a teaser premiered at SDCC. After watching said footage, I agree. Season three looks downright bonkers.
Hope you’re ready to get groovy, baby. Ash vs Evil Dead is back on Starz on October 2. Be prepared for bloodier FX, funnier jokes, and Lee Friggen Majors as Ash’s papa. I mean, what more do I need to say about this show? They’ve done what they intended and gave Evil Dead fans something to salivate over—or in most cases, vomit from the gore. We’ve been promised some “Holy crap” tie-ins to the previous films. They’ve already confirmed some special guests, like Ted Raimi and Joel Tobek coming in to play this season’s big bad, Baal. In this season, we’ll learn about Ash’s past while the gang cleans up the mess he and Ruby made last season.
On October 23rd at 9/8c, The Walking Dead returns to AMC for its seventh season. Talking Dead aired a special on August 14th to tease everyone about the upcoming premiere. Basically it was forty minutes of awkward conversations dodging actually saying something about the season. Every recorded video from the actors simply repeated the tired, “This episode will gut you,” rhetoric. There was a spicy exchange by Melissa McBride and Lennie James, singing each other’s praises. Their characters head off to The Kingdom and they’ve spent a lot of time together while shooting. Scott Gimple sent along a message for Chris Hardwick to read. For the most part, it confirmed that the show is aligning more with the comics, but they will still put their unique spin to whatever comes. The big reveal came when they aired a forty second clip featuring Dwight cleaning up a bunch of blown up walkers. Yeah, not much of a tease.
Last up, iZombie. Seeing as this is a mid-season show, it doesn’t have an airdate just yet. What do we know? The CW’s president recently gave props to the show-runners, stating that iZ would have a place on the network as long as it continues to perform well. He also confirmed a thirteen episode season three. Team Zombie is hard at work on set. “Hard” seems like the wrong word after scrolling past photos of their behind-the-scenes antics, but I trust they’re also getting some work done.
Warning, the following contains show spoilers and a strong opinion.
I’m a die-hard fangirl. When a show gets my attention, I hang on to the bitter end—anyone who saw my reaction to True Blood‘s final season know what happens when a show lets me down like a frayed guide rope while climbing Half Dome. At least that show started pretty strong. This show never really found its footing. Every time I thought they’d stepped up to the plate, wanted to be good horror, they failed to follow through. In the two episodes before the mid-season break, they lean toward the macabre. First with Celia’s guests in the cellar. Then they opened the mid-season finale with Ofelia’s face peeling off, only for it to be a dream. The cellar bit? We saw the same plot on TWD when they found the walkers in the Greene’s barn, put there because Hershel believed they weren’t lost causes. Celia saw it as evolution, driven by divine intervention in the form of zombies. Both think the undead are worth our love and care. No part of me was surprised to discover Celia ran a freaky suicide/mercenary side business. Nor did the religious slant surprise me. When they steered the Doomed Ship Lollipop toward Baja, I knew they’d use the culture this heavily. Why not? It gives them the perfect scapegoat to rehash the tiresome but-they’re-family plot. On Z Nation the Zeroes, based just south of the border, worship death. I guess FtWD thought they could do something similar and have it work as anything but somewhat insulting to an entire culture’s intelligence just because they’re constantly portrayed as chill with Death.
The effects gags just aren’t worth the effort to pay attention to the story-telling anymore. In the season opener, I called them out for using the boat propeller in the face gag. Since, it’s been more of the same bland infected action. Why? They set the first half of the season on a boat. Their human bad guys were as interesting as watching leg hair grow. So where does that leave us on the tension front? Bickering and nagging, occasionally silenced by an actor in zombie makeup limply shaking his arms at the lead actresses while they flail a fishing pole at it. Some shows are salvaged by the action when the story goes bad. But when nothing happens in the story or the action? What’s the point? Then it’s just people making bad decisions, living on a yacht, and yelling at each other.
“So we’ll make one of them insane!” Nice try, guys. I’d totally buy it . . . if Chris had any actual reasons not to trust Madison and her family. At what point have they left him behind or put him second? Madison and Travis drove into a riot to save him. They made a deal with perfect strangers in order to secure safe haven until the riot passed. Nick jumped off the yacht thinking Chris wanted to swim away or drown himself. They staged a funeral so he’d have a chance to deal with his mother’s death. So why he’d snap, threaten Madison and Alicia, and run away to hold a family hostage is beyond my reasoning. Nick is a more likely choice, seeing as they laid the groundwork for it with his rampant drug use. He does some batty things, like willingly walk around covered in walker goo on numerous occasions—so much so, the original scene from TWD in “Guts” has lost its impact entirely. Now he’s fearless and buying into Celia’s bull about life eternal. Also so apparently broken, Madison—mother of the decade—asks Strand to sort her crap out while he’s digging his lover’s grave.
If I even start on how they’ve written Madison, I’ll break my keyboard. She’s by far the nosiest, indecisive, and nagging character ever to survive to season two in a show. Seeing as she’s the universal mother figure, I hate to hear what the people at the writing table say about their mothers. Somebody in that writing room needed a hug as a child.
The characters have no backgrounds. They’re all blank until they need convenient problems—Chris’ insecurity and psychosis, Daniel’s PTSD and hallucinations, Nick’s trip down sociopath lane. Alicia led the group to their first real bad guys in the season and we still know nothing about her except she’s impatient and bravery makes her do rash things. Travis has the personality of a jellyfish, only finding a backbone to salvage the weird Chris-Is-Crazypants story. Strand actually has this decent backstory, except it came too late in the game to salvage the damage done before Tom was introduced, and then swiftly killed off to avoid that whole messy gay character issue. Leaving Strand the outcast yet again, essentially a blank slate so he can resume being a prick. Instead of writing a world and characters living in it, they’re writing caricatures to manipulate how viewers see the world and what happens in it. It’s not good storytelling. There’s no consistency. Narrators, the characters driving the story, must be consistent. Someone suddenly sporting a raging case of PTSD leading him to burn a building at the behest of his dead wife just means the writers wanted to blow something up for the mid-season finale. It works for Z Nation because explosions are a part of parodying the genre. It does not work for FtWD in episode 207 when it’s painfully obvious the only reason any of this took place was to burn things on camera. Again, this entire story was lifted from TWD season two, right down to the main survivor group disbanding at the end.
So why should I keep watching? If this show refuses to stick to their characters, follow a coherent story, or just rob content from the mothership, it really isn’t worth my time. I watched in the hopes that someone would bring another quality genre show into viewers’ living rooms since TWD is bogged down by expectations. What I got was essentially the discarded ideas from the main show, stretched beyond believability, and crammed into a glitzy, Hollywood setting. The grand settings are an attempt to mask everything the show lacks. All it did was tie their hands trying to make zombies work on water. I mean, there are ways, but it requires thinking outside the box. AMC didn’t buy outside-the-box. They wanted TWD, but with a longer name. What they can’t buy is my time.
This is the last review I’ll scribble for FtWD. There’s no salvaging the mess they’ve made. I’m jumping ship before it gets worse.
Warning: This article contains episode spoilers and a strong opinion.
How on earth does the show’s producers expect anyone to give half a damn about this show? I don’t get it. Since day one there’s been nothing personally at stake for the main family. The only deaths are fringe losses, people who weren’t even fully fleshed out with a personality, let alone on screen long enough for the viewers to care about their fate. Liza kicked the bucket, so what? Travis’ reaction and Chris’ weird corpse cuddling pretty much made her death a circus side show. Daniel lost his wife, who was only on screen to be the religious figure and when she became problematic for the writers, she died. Even in this episode when we should have genuine concerns about Travis’ survival, it’s not there. Not even remotely. My biggest concern was making it to a commercial to get more coffee before I fell asleep from all that excitement. We got one infected man on screen. He kills people we don’t know. Yawn. Snooze. Wake me when it gets interesting.
Interesting doesn’t mean Madison lords over the yacht crew, nagging every single one of them about this, that, or the other. We get it. She’s a mother. She cares about all these people. There are other ways for her to say, “I love you” without nitpicking every decision they make. I’m waiting for the scene where she follows Nick into the bathroom to wipe his backside. Then on top of this become The Madison Knows It All Show, she’s apparently the only able-bodied person on board who can handle any tough task. Strand is conveniently unwell after his swim—I told you he wasn’t shot; FTWD’s social media people tried for days to make viewers react to his possible injury and all I did was laugh. Daniel is looked over once again because he’s not family. Ofelia could wander around nude with a flamingo on her head and no one would notice her. Nick is grounded because mommy is worried about him. Chris can’t handle his own mental mess long enough not to screw up. And Luis? That guy is still around? Just listen to the dulcet tones of a man in the apocalypse whining about money. Pro tip, dude, money means jack-all now. That leaves Madison to play the cavalry and she’s no Agent May (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.).
But why does Madison have to stage a one-woman rescue? Here’s the quick version of the plot: The yacht crew (read: Madison) decides they won’t head south as planned just yet. Madison cashes in a favor from Strand, buying them half a day to find Travis and Alicia. Daniel manages to get information on the pirates from Reed and leaves Chris to watch their captive. With the information, they find a possible location for Connor’s crew. On the pirate side, Travis is locked up by request of Alex, the woman they left adrift in episode 203. She blames Travis for her plight. In the main cabin, Alicia is treated to a dinner she doesn’t get to eat, cooked by Connor himself. He’s called away and Alicia runs into Jack. Jack teaches her how to track other boats for looting. Eventually they concoct a plan to steal a boat and run after the approaching Abigail because Alicia assumes the boat’s early arrival means her family wasn’t taken to shore as promised. Back on the yacht, the crew is hailed by Connor, who tells Reed—his brother—to bring the Abigail in. Madison replies. They agree to a hostage trade. Just then, Chris shoots Reed. But it’s okay, even at point-blank range, Chris doesn’t destroy Reed’s brain. They truss up and head bag the new infected and Madison takes him to do the trade. Alicia hides from the pirates when they look for her. Travis is taken to the docks. The trade works . . . until the bag comes off Reed’s head. Connor flails and is bitten. Travis fights free from the last pirate on the dock. Madison just stands there. Alicia and Jack have a “How dare you” moment before she slides down the side of the dry-docked boat Connor made his home. Madison, Travis, and Alicia return to the Abigail. Jack watches, looking like a kicked puppy.
Now we’ve got no immediate danger for the family. No tension save the meager and trite “family comes first” bull everyone repeats ad nauseam. And they’ve killed off the only season-arcing baddies. Where to go now? Mexico and the mysterious people who still take cash to cross the border? That’s not interesting. That’s idiotic. Any person with half a brain understands money means nothing. So the guy says no he can’t take them. What’s stopping them from just sailing to the Baja coast and skipping the border crossing altogether? This show continues to fail to have a plot. Every time they get close, everything resolves in favor of the yacht crew. I get more excitement watching my turtle kill snails.
Surprise! Spoilers! It’s the only surprise we’re discussing this week.
Once we were all done scratching our head over Nick’s game of tag with an infected man, the show ran a course so predictable, I could not make myself focus on the screen. This is insane. Why can’t the show manage to start interesting and stay there? Not only that, but I keep catching their attempts to play games with viewers. “Oh, we teased Jack and the Never-Competent Pirates in 201, we better let them lay low until 204. That’ll really shock the audience!” Yeah, no. The arrival of Jack and the others—who are so inconsequential, they don’t get proper credits online so I cannot confirm their names without rewatching the entire episode and I’m so not mentally prepared to do that, it’s akin to torture—was about as exciting as I’d thought it’d be. They cook up a ruse to get onto the yacht using the pregnant woman’s condition to their advantage. Once Madison sets her eyes on the distressed woman, it’s all over. Strand is the only person to freak out appropriately, but he can’t arm himself because Daniel stripped the magazine from his gun. Now we know why all the paranoia last episode. They needed Daniel to be the one to do the dumb thing and salvage the most boring pirate invasion I’ve seen on television to date.
The pirates climb onboard, point a gun, and have run of the ship. Chris even asks, “Do I shoot them,” at one point, like they haven’t been actively trying to dodge these pirates for three episodes. Did they magically forget the threat which had been on their backside not that long ago? Even a warning shot would have proven the group we’re watching has some chance to make it for the long run. If they can’t? Why the hell are we still following them? Why torment viewers with boring characters if the endgame means they die?
With the pirates onboard and Strand without a weapon, he bails. Takes a raft and scurries like a rat off a sinking ship. He’s shot at, popping the raft. Really, Strand’s escape attempt is to take him from the main story and force flashbacks on the show—like the endless flashbacks on TWD season six weren’t bad enough, now this show’s caught the way-back virus. I’m all for character development, but everything we learn from Strand’s flashbacks could have been handled within the plot timeline. There’s no reason to detail his business plans. We already know he’s shady enough to rob someone. The only new information is his homosexuality, again something they could have included later in the season as an actual surprise. Instead they try to salvage his character from Stereotype Land by info-dumping his background and sexuality in unnecessary flashbacks. While they did attempt to drag out the Big Gay Surprise until the episode’s ends, I knew right away what would happen when Thomas touched Strand’s tie in their first scene together. For those with their head in the sand, it’s a thing. They’re a couple. Men on television do not do casual tie-grabs and hand-holding, let alone kissing. Again, this show can diversify itself to oblivion, but cannot weave these characters into a cohesive story with true depth.
During the pirate raid, Travis farts around pretending he can’t start the yacht. That’s pretty much the plot for the episode. The side plots are Strand’s flashbacks and Alicia negotiating her family’s survival with Jack. Everyone else is tied up and left in the main cabin to bicker or plot escape attempts they never actually see through. There’s no actual action until Connor, the pirate leader, arrives. He sees use in Alicia and Travis, so bags their heads and drags them to his speed boat. Connor isn’t as lame as the other pirate characters. He has morals. But it may be an illusion of a coherent character. He may just be a walking bag of morals. Time will tell.
On shore, Nick’s bizarre game of tag turns into a quest to find a location Strand sent him to. Nick meets with Luis, Thomas’ assistant, who is supposed to lead Strand to the house in Baja. Luis has no clue about the others on the yacht or the plan to take them to Mexico. But because Nick says Strand sent him, Luis grabs a raft and off they go to get the others. They arrive just in time to kill the remaining pirates Connor left. Madison manages to do one thing—stab the man who did all the talking before his boss arrived. The gang is stuck there on the yacht until Luis knows Strand is safe. They’re only getting to Mexico with him. Time to turn around and find the man left for dead. Oh, look, he’s still alive. Hooray. What about Travis and Alicia? They can’t even make a supply run on an empty beach without nearly dying, how are they supposed to attack armed pirates?
I don’t know how they expect fans to hang around for two more episodes, let alone stick out the entire fifteen-episode second season and the already-purchased sixteen-episode third season. There’s nothing exciting. Scenes which should hold our interest fizzle into predictable messes or are so incomprehensible, they frustrate viewers. I keep waiting to be wowed. I want to be wowed.
Pretty sure this is going to end in disappointment again.
Surf’s up, and so are the spoilers. Surf at your own risk.
The episode opened with, predictably, the survivors the yacht crew would encounter later in the episode. New characters usually bring in a breath of fresh air, but we already know how this will end. We’ve seen this dance before between Madison and Strand. There is no reason to keep dragging new survivors out if they’re only going to kick the bucket. Save the budget for guest stars and hire a few new writers to call them on rubbish plot management. This episode has no real plot, by the way. It’s a pit stop sponsored by deus ex machina. They needed to buy time for Madison to get good and riled about Strand’s Mexico secret, so the boat broke. Then when they needed to make a quick getaway, suddenly an all-day repair took two minutes. There’s no tension in the plot. The group gets in trouble, finds survivors they’ll leave for death, and magically survive to screw up someone else’s life the following week. The only variation is location.
Madison, Strand, Ofelia, and Travis stayed on the stalled boat during repairs, the kids and Daniel hit the beach to salvage supplies from a plane wreck. While searching, Nick ended up in a pit with not one, but two infected. Chris wanders off from the group and finds the lone survivor from the wreck. The man’s spine is shattered. Chris gives him a brutal mercy killing. Before Travis finishes finding the hand lodged in the water cooling system, the beach crew are greeted with Alex—the woman from the first scene—and a lot of infected. They grab what they found in the wreckage and bail, snagging Alex’s life boat and her injured friend Jake. There’s another predictable fight amongst everyone, with Strand firmly on the “No” side. They reach a compromise; Alex and Jake will be towed after the yacht until San Diego with some food and water. Before they made it a mile, Strand doubled back and cut the life boat free.
Madison is insufferable. I could go on for days about how flat her character is. She only has an opinion to differ Strand’s. The character doesn’t even make sense to Travis, who has been downgraded to an indentured servant’s social level given how little choice Madison gives him while she wants to save the world with nothing but a boat and friggin’ rainbows. Madison becomes the perfect pawn for writer’s to manipulate. Someone’s gotta be nosey and bitchy? Better send Madison. What about Daniel? He’s the Old Wise Man, shouldn’t some of these mental battles be between him and Strand? Hershel and Dale weren’t ones to pass the buck, let alone to a woman, when group tensions rode high. Why is Daniel any different? Oh. Wait. They don’t want to make a minority character “problematic.” Instead they use Madison as women tend to be used in post-apocalyptic fiction, only there to make matters worse. Diversity is the one thing they got right for FtWD. It’s also something they keep toeing around, leaving Madison to be the bothersome one for fear of backlash. Just write people. Come on. You can do that, guys. No more stereotypes, please.
I feel like I’m losing my mind when it comes to the dialog on this show. There were several instances where conversations had no resolution, yet the characters moved on with the plot as though they’d actually said something in the previous scene. When Madison confronts Strand about Mexico, there’s grandstanding about putting family first—probably a red herring about Stand having family—and threats thrown around, but I never felt like they agreed on what to do about the house in Baja. Later in the episode, it’s like they sat there and negotiated a cohabitation plan. The conversation was nothing near that. Then there’s the virtually incoherent conversation with Alicia and Nick on the beach when Nick puts on the captain’s shirt. I was on board with Alicia marveling that her brother is actually with the family, but it took a metaphor turn which didn’t pan out with the performances. Do you know why? It’s a horrible bit of dialog. When dialog doesn’t make sense, actor’s more often than not cannot salvage it for the performance. Instead of the director and writers finding something which fit for Nick and Alicia, they kept the clunky line and killed—yet again—the relationship between brother and sister. The love the writers put on the page is as warm as the crabs crawling from that one infected guy. These people could all be total strangers and it wouldn’t change the relationship dynamics on the yacht one bit.
This is the song that doesn’t end . . . There is nothing unique or original about this show. Finally, I said it. They rehash things done by other shows—even their own mother show—put it near water, and call it new. The episode title fits the entire show so well; a creature eating its own tail, creating an unending cycle. In the show’s case, the cycle is driven by poor writing. They sit at their computers to scribble an episode and pat themselves on the back for being so creative, drowning out any who say their writing isn’t the bee’s knees.
On to next week. I predict more water, more fighting, and clowns juggling chainsaws.