Undead Roundup – Summer Edition

Undead Roundup – Summer Edition
By R.C. Murphy

Fear-the-walking-dead-season-2b-key-art-poster-1200First 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.

ZNS3BTSZ 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.

AvEDS2posterHope 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.

TWDS7TeaseOn 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.

iZS3BTSLast 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.


Breaking Up with a Show 

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.

FtWD 207 DanCrazypants“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.

FtWD 207 TravisChrisThe 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.

FtWD 207So 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.


Captive: Review for Fear the Walking Dead 205

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.

FtWD 205 SickStrandInteresting 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.).

FtWD 205 DanandReedBut 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.

FtWD 205 A&J HowDareYouNow 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.


Blood in the Streets: Review for Fear the Walking Dead 204 By R.C. Murphy

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.

FtWD 204 DoIShootThemThe 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.

FtWD 204 MadSavesStrandDuring 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?

FtWD 204 NicksBloodyStroll
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.


Ouroboros: Review for Fear the Walking Dead 203 By R.C. Murphy

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.

FtWD 203 CrabWalkerMadison, 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.

FtWD 203 AlexJakeCutLooseMadison 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.

FtWD 203 Daniel OneManArmyHeIsNotI 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.


Monster: Review for Fear the Walking Dead 201

Doggy-paddle faster, there are spoilers below.

New season, new outlook on how the show will progress. It’s something I do with every show hitting its sophomore season; drop expectations and watch like it’s a whole new beast. Only this beast is no monster. The mistakes are so similar to season one, I couldn’t maintain optimism the entire episode. As usual with Walking Dead properties right now, they wrote to do a couple cool things in the episode instead of writing for plot integrity or to repair the damage they did to the characters’ identities, or lack of identity.

FtWD 201 Daniel Chris WTF FishEveryone is still flat stereotypes. Madison spends the episode micromanaging, ignoring Chris, and contradicting herself. Travis is a tool, unable to cope with his son because Big Tragic Death. Chris spends half the episode cuddling Liza’s corpse, and no one thinks this is concerning behavior. Ofelia is a ghost, seen but only heard once or twice. Daniel is the Wise Old Man collecting information. Nick is useless. Alicia gets the role of “naïve young girl who lures enemies to their location.” Because how else would they bring in human enemies without Alicia doing something completely against character? Anyone raised in the digital age knows to prioritize personal information. Alicia knows humans are dangerous. Military men, who are supposed to help civilians, threatened to rape her. There was ample footage of riots from when the outbreak started. The only reason Alicia talks to Jack is to introduce human threats. What about Strand? He’s still an A-class jerk lording it over everyone because he has the means to control them—without his boat, they’re dead. I could’ve told you what each character would do without watching the premiere.

FtWD 201 Funeral At SeaThe plot is pretty simple. The gang splits, some prepping the boat, the rest grabbing the gear. And Liza. Chris won’t leave Liza, even after the infected find them on the beach. The fighting hasn’t gotten any better. They still film them like a Blair Witch outtake. Instead of making it exciting, the fights are yawn-worthy. These people couldn’t rip wet paper, but they can narrowly escape being wrestled to the ground and eaten. Everyone makes it on a dinghy, Travis with his burden coming in at a laughable pace to give a dead guy time to shamble into the surf and set up a cool kill. But to be honest, I’ve seen so many things killed by boat propellers, their whole clunky setup isn’t worth it punchline. I would’ve been more impressed if they gave into the urge to use the gag altogether as long as the gang are on water. To top it off, Madison—who just bludgeoned several infected—gets queasy about the kill. She wasn’t queasy before, why now? On the big boat, everyone goes to their corners or piddles around the yacht. They argue about rescuing refugees, Strand making the call to keep going. Alicia does the dumb thing. They have a funeral at sea for Liza, which Chris has a fit during and after. When Chris cools down, he opts to skip eating the mystery fish Daniel caught and goes for a swim. Nick joins him. Somehow both missed the smoldering wreck in the water.

FtWD 201 Wreck

There’s so much fake fog, it’s ridiculous and looks like a set on a pond. Nick hears someone in the wreck and goes to play savior. Did I mention the infected in the water? Well, they’re there, too. Inside the boat, Nick does maybe five seconds of searching for the survivor, thirty seconds struggling with a dead woman, and grabs the travel log for the wrecked boat. Nick only lives because Travis hollers. Seriously. The dead woman just stopped fighting because of a noise. What? Is it a smell thing? Nick was wet, so only his movements and noise drew the infected? There are so many better ways to show this than for the infected to just stop when a foot from food. No one dies. There’s human enemies on the way. They could be Alicia’s Jack and company, or a separate band of pirates. They’ll get all grr with everyone, Madison will play tough woman, Travis will try, and eventually Strand will bully their way through since he is the only one with answers, it seems.

Boy I hope they get it together soon. If they pull out Monopoly on the yacht, I’m jumping in the infected-laden ocean.


The Good Man: Review of Fear the Walking Dead 106


Slow your roll. This review contains spoilers. Are you ready?
The family is finally back on track with their original plan—pack everything they need and drive out to the desert to wait out the worst. That last part is hysterical. They’re not paying attention to what’s going on around them. Travis is convinced the government will find a way to fix the infected. Daniel is far more practical. He knows it’s “us versus them.” Which them, though? The infected and their mindless search for sustenance? The soldiers imprisoning them in the Safe Zone? The government doctors kidnapping anyone and everyone with symptoms of illness, both physical and mental? For Daniel, it doesn’t matter so long as he and Ofelia survive. The only reason he stays with Travis and Madison is because they’re heading to the medical facility to retrieve Liza and Nick. He won’t leave the city without Griselda. Daniel’s practicality demands they kill Adams so he doesn’t alert the remaining soldiers in the city. There’s an argument, of course. Travis wins the round, with an assist from cold-hearted Madison, and they take Adams along to provide a map for the military compound housing Exner’s clinic.

Except then the bleeding-heart lets Adams go. Why? Because Adams whines endlessly about being tortured. Cry me a river. Going from what we saw on-screen, Daniel gave him a couple paper cuts. This is why it was vital they establish the torture on-screen in episode five. Without it, the story line with Adams falls flat and makes no sense later on when Adams catches up with the group to confront Daniel. Why go back for revenge? Adams wasn’t permanently harmed. His wounds were entirely superficial. He showed no genuine mental anguish during or after the lackluster torture scenes. It’s another case of the writers drumming up tension without actually establishing any.

FTWDNot even the massive wave of infected in the second half of the episode manages to make an impression. As part of the plan to sneak into the military compound, Daniel utilizes the stadium overflowing with infected to distract the soldiers. There’s the usual footage starring clueless men shooting through a chain link fence. All the actual hand-to-teeth action is seen through Liza’s eyes as she’s preparing to evacuate with the clinic staff. In slow motion. While she stands still for two and a half minutes—I timed it—doing not a bloody thing. There are times for realism; any person faced with a zombie horde would freeze. However, with an already snail-paced first season and copious slow-mo shots, this was a bad call by the production crew. There’s no sense of urgency from the characters. They’re watching dozens die at the hands of people they assumed were just sick. Yet they stand around, twiddling their thumbs. Even when Liza discovers that Exner murdered the clinic patients who couldn’t be transported—the helicopter evacuation team tucks tail after discovering the infected horde—her reaction is, “Oh. Well, they’re dead. You, the woman who killed them, should come with my family.”

A lot of questionable behavior by the survivors gets swept under the rug. One exchange cannot be overlooked. While Travis, Madison, Daniel, and Ofelia are in the compound searching for their kidnapped family members, Chris and Alicia wait with the cars in an underground garage. Once the feces hits the fan, some of the soldiers tuck tail and run. A few find the kids and demand they hand over the keys to the SUV. Alicia and Chris fight back as best as they can. Then one of the soldiers stops and threatens to rape Alicia. This is not okay anymore. I’m tired of every man on TV with questionable morals resorting to rape in order to prove they’re not the good guys. Quite frankly, it’s lazy and predictable. Plus, it makes no sense. “Oh, we’re being chased by zombies? Let me stop and try to rape this chick.” Yeah, no. That’s simply not how the flight-or-fight trigger works. These men feared for their lives, not their libidos. Stopping to grab a little action before securing their safety goes against human nature. Writers, leave the rape threats on the cutting room floor. Surely as a group we’ve all moved past this bad-guy trope.

What about Nick? Well, he’s still got a friend in Strand—the well-dressed man he shares a cell with in the clinic. They break out after it’s obvious the soldiers are fleeing. Do they help anyone else? No. It’s another nail in Nick’s likeability coffin and doesn’t do a thing to make us find common footing with Strand. They’re sitting ducks in the compound, soldiers or not. The guy they needed to get a ride to freedom is somebody’s dinner. Then they walk the wrong way down a hallway with an automatically locking door. Luckily Liza happens to find them, and the others trying to save them, and unlocks the door. As reward for the assist, Strand takes them to his oceanfront property. They’re not staying in the gorgeous house. Strand is a nomad at heart. He knows setting up camp is a death sentence.

There’s business to take care of before they can leave the house for the yacht floating just off the coast. First, Ofelia has a bullet wound from Adams’ attempt at revenge. It’s not clear where, exactly, she is injured, just that it isn’t likely to kill her. Second, their only trained medical person was bitten in the rush to escape via a detour through the military compound’s kitchen. Liza takes a walk down to the beach. Nosey Madison follows. Turnabout is fair play in the apocalypse, spurring Liza to ask Madison to kill her before she turns—a talk which went the other way around about the time the Safe Zone was established. It takes so long for this talk, Travis finds the women. He ends up putting Liza down, despite both women agreeing it’d do irreparable damage to his fragile psyche. The episode ends with another drawn out set of slow-motion shots ranging from Travis’ anguished lament in the surf to Chris discovering his mother’s body.

That’s it. There’s no momentum catapulting these characters into season two. It’s inexcusable. They knew well in advance that FtWD would have a second season. It wasn’t like they wrote season one completely blind to the show’s future, as so many infant series do nowadays with fickle audiences and wary network executives. The Walking Dead franchise is more or less all AMC focuses on as their cash cow. So why end this show in particular in such a boring way? Yes, they kill a main character. Yes, it should be tragic. But it isn’t. Liza isn’t given enough screen time to make fans like her enough to mourn. The slow-motion ending drags down the tempo and Travis’ breakdown in the surf is almost parody. I do not have high hopes for season two. If this show sees a third season, it’s simply because AMC is milking this cow until the teats run dry, then putting it out of its misery.


Cobalt: Review of Fear the Walking Dead 105

Hold your horses! There’s spoilers in this review.

Travis attempts to grow a pair and confronts Moyers about Griselda and Nick’s abduction. Eventually he whines enough, Moyers gives in and takes Travis for a ride along with a seriously overworked unit. Their final destination is the military base camp and medical facility two miles east of the safe zone where Liza and Exner are holed up—one doctor and four nurses tending to every sick/injured civilian in Los Angeles. Travis and Moyers don’t see eye-to-eye on anything, most importantly the actual classification for the infected. Moyers knows they’re dead. Travis thinks there’s some wondrous cure on the way.

In an attempt to fix Travis’ point-of-view, the soldiers stop to dispatch an infected woman and invite him to take the shot. Hey, it’s only three points in their absurd zombie-killing game, but that’s good enough for Mr. Pacifist, right? Obviously Travis can’t take the shot. The second he spots the woman’s name tag, he steps away from the sniper’s rifle. One of the guys kills the woman and they’re on the road again.

Not for long. A distress call comes in. A unit is trapped in an overrun library. They take a detour to bail out their fellow soldiers. It’s a train wreck. Moyers is presumed dead. The others jump back in the vehicle and make it clear—Travis isn’t going to see Liza and Nick. They’ll drop him off near the fence before heading out to evacuate their families. If their families are still alive. So much for Travis’ attempt to exert power in his newfound position as mayor of safe zone number whatever.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room—Daniel torturing Ofelia’s soldierboy, Adams.

I had such high hopes after seeing this character turn to embrace necessity to Get Things Done. Problem is, producers failed this character horrifically. They destroyed his reputation as the old wise man to give him a darker twist, the man who’ll do anything to save his family.

This is the same ruthless breed which begat Rick Grimes from season 4. You know, the man who tore a man’s throat out with his teeth. At no point did they hesitate in Rick’s defining scene. Yet when it came to bringing Daniel around to the same character traits, they chickened out. Big time. The man tortured Adams. Daniel cut him open numerous times. We never clearly see the wounds. We don’t actually see more than ten seconds of active “torture.” There’s more detail in the episode 103 scene when he blows an infected man’s face off. Yet we’re supposed to believe it’s so bad his daughter runs away from him. Then they turn around and make Madison so blasé about the torture, it’s like Daniel just gave Adams a bad manicure.

What was the point of kidnapping and disfiguring Adams? Information. Namely about Cobalt, a call-sign Daniel hears repeatedly on Adams’ radio. The same call-sign is repeated while Travis is riding with Moyers and his unit. But what does it mean? The military will pull its forces at 0900 and “humanely” terminate the living within Los Angeles. Really? We waited the entire episode to learn that Cobalt is probably the same call-sign used in Atlanta before they blew it up? Which means these families will be caught in a similar scene as when Lori and Shane met Carol and Ed. Yawn. We already knew this is what would happen, writers. Did you hope fans somehow forgot? That we wouldn’t be able to predict this type of situation happening when it was clear in TWD; blowing everything up was the only solution the military could concoct to stem the rapidly spreading outbreak? Again, they built all this tension and fell far short of the goal line.

Now we know more-or-less what’ll happen in the first season finale. Do you hold out hopes they’ll actually manage to create a clever plot twist or have you given up on this show like so many fans who’ve turned their full attention back to waiting for TWD?


Not Fade Away: Review of Fear the Walking Dead 104

His position doesn’t thrill Madison at all. She’s playing single mom with five extra people to feed and clean up after. Liza can’t help; she’s the only one tending to the injured and sick inside the gates. But what does Travis do all day? Hang around the main gate, waiting for Moyers to need him? Which is exactly what happens after Moyers announces that there is a six-mile buffer between the fence and the nearest infected person. The officer needs Travis’ smooth-talking skills to convince Doug to submit to medical testing. He does the job, only to later find out Doug broke curfew and was taken away to a medical facility.

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Whoa, whoa, whoa. There’s spoilers in this review. You sure you’re ready to read it?

Travis exposed Doug’s mental instability. Anyone not normal and one-hundred percent functional isn’t welcome in Moyers’ safe zone. Is Travis putting the same hyper-focus on his kid? Nope. Chris tells Travis there may be survivors on the hillside outside the fence after spotting someone using a mirror to send a distress signal. It isn’t until Madison hears about the discovery and talks to Travis about it that he brings it up to Moyers. But like Doug, his attempts to make things better backfire. The episode ends with Travis sitting on the house’s roof, watching muzzle flare light up the window where Chris spotted the S.O.S. signal. Anytime he interferes, people are hurt.

FtWD 104 MadAndCorpseHis fiancé isn’t doing much better at keeping her head down to wait out the worst. When Madison is certain Travis won’t do anything about the possible hillside survivors, she breaks out of the fence. Up on the hill, it’s obvious the military have been through there. However, the corpses don’t look right. Madison is nearly spotted by a patrol unit and crawls under a car to hide. It puts her face-to-face with a dead woman. That’s when it dawns on her, most of the bodies stinking up the street weren’t infected. The military mowed through them and moved on, leaving them to rot. At least Madison took some form of action, though she never found the house with the survivors. When the episode opens, she’s more concerned with painting the family room again because she can still see the blood stains from when Daniel saved Travis. She has this delusion that they can host an open house to sell the place. Yeah, like the fickle market will survive a zombie apocalypse. It can’t even handle a drought. Meanwhile, she’s so tense, she’s dropping the ball on her Nick Watch. Like most unrepentant junkies, he found a way to score morphine—stealing it from the men next door with congestive heart failure. Hell rains down on Nick when Madison does find out. She beats him, leaving him with a black eye and a boatload of embarrassment. As for Alicia? Other than breaking into Susan’s house and giving herself a tattoo, she might as well not be in the episode.

FtWD 104 ExnerAndNickThe main action is actually with Liza. The military finally brings in a doctor to evaluate the sick and injured in the safe zone. Dr. Exner’s first order of business is to call Liza on her lie; she’s not actually a nurse. However, Liza’s quick thinking and natural compassion are commended. Exner asks Liza to help her visit everyone in the safe zone in need of medical attention. They eventually circle around to the Clark house. Griselda will need surgery to save her foot. Daniel plans to leave with her. Next, they corner Nick to see if he needs help weening off the junk. Exner sees through his lies, but doesn’t make a fuss. Later that night the soldiers come for Griselda. Before they make it out the door, the switch is flipped. They’re not taking Daniel. Instead they want Nick. He’s caught and handcuffed. Madison is beside herself, blaming Liza. Nick and Griselda aren’t the only ones who leave that night. Exner more or less begs Liza to join her to help these people. After mouthing, “I love you,” to Chris, Liza climbs into the transport vehicle. She may be going to help others, but for the most part I believe she’s going to keep an eye on Nick for Madison.

Daniel is written as the Wise Old Man. It’s annoying. He more or less predicts what happens before Griselda and Nick are taken, ruining the surprise. Sure, he has a cool story to tell, but is it necessary in every episode? We get it. They want to draw parallels to other refugee camps. Having Daniel present is enough without giving him these endless monologues. It’s like they’re telling the story twice per episode. Fans aren’t that dense. Quit guiding them by the nose.

Where did they take Nick? Do we really care? I don’t. But we’ll likely see this mysterious medical facility in the next episode.


So Close, Yet So Far – Review of Fear the Walking Dead 102

First, adding unnecessary time to the pilot, killing what little momentum was in the episode with slow pans of Los Angeles, false zombie sightings, and sandpaper smooth character development. The latter is a huge deal-breaker for fans. They need a character to latch onto and love as a friend. I’d hoped the second episode would be better without the luxury of extra time to futz around, forcing it to focus on the plot. Yeah, not so much. All they managed was to make a bigger mess of the characters. Then, they continuously used slow-mo shots to try and ramp the tension throughout the episode. Except after an incredibly snail paced pilot, starting the second episode with a quiet slow-mo shot of Alicia walking down the street is the exact opposite of what they needed to do to catch fan’s interest again.

Caution: Show spoilers below.

fear-the-walking-dead-kim-dickensThe writers for this show can only write one female stereotype—the strong, independent woman who doesn’t need to listen to anyone, let alone a man, in order to keep her family safe. Madison was locked into this trap from the get-go. In this second episode, Liza is crammed into the same mold—vehemently refusing to deal with Travis even though the tone in his voice when he calls her to warn her about the strange happenings in L.A. says something is seriously wrong. Automatically, she jumps down his throat, much like Madison when he attempted to tell her there was something wrong in the church where Nick got his fix. Alicia does nearly the same thing after visiting her boyfriend Matt, only to discover he’s so sick, he should be in the hospital. Madison warns Alicia to back away, afraid Matt will turn into whatever Cal was before Nick ran him over twice. “People are getting sick. It could be contagious.” Predictably, Alicia fights her mother. “If he has it, I have it.” While it provided a great throwback to the harsh secret Edwin Jenner told Rick Grimes before the CDC building exploded on TWD, it makes no logical sense for Alicia to completely dismiss her mother’s concerns. At no point does she stop to actually process what is going on. The women all give into knee-jerk reactions, simply to create tension. It makes them all one-dimensional, dull, and predictable. Even Madison’s emotional breakdown near the episode’s end is telegraphed. Strong, independent women always cry when alone. Then when someone catches them, they brush it off. Yawn.

So what actually happened in episode two? Travis and Madison concoct a fool-proof plan: gather their kids, his ex as well, and drive out to the desert to wait out whatever is going on. Oh and detox Captain Addict. First, find Alicia. A task hindered by overworked cell phone towers and her stubbornness, as mentioned earlier. After they spend far too long arguing whether or not it’s safe to be around Matt, he finally sends Alicia away. This time she listens. Travis drops everyone off at home and heads out to pick up Chris and Liza. Chris dodges Travis’ calls like a professional disgruntled child. While he’s busy with his metaphorical fingers in his ears, Chris winds up smack dab in the middle of ground Zero for another officer-versus-undead shooting. The public doesn’t understand why the officers unloaded their magazines into the homeless man.

FTWD

In a scene reminiscent of the 1992 L.A. riots, the crowd demands an explanation. Chris films the altercation, which only incites the protestors as they defend his right to film the police who tell him to stop. By the time Travis deals with Liza’s unreasonable refusal to listen to his warnings and they track down Chris, the riot is in full swing. An infected woman shuffles toward a female officer and is shot twice. The second she hits the ground, pure chaos erupts. Travis and Liza grab Chris. They run until the riot is too much to navigate, eventually begging for shelter in a barber shop owned by Daniel Salazar. His wife Griselda is the one who makes the final decision to provide a safe place for the family. Daniel’s daughter, Ofelia, is also there. The episode ends with them still trapped inside the barber shop while outside, the rioters blow up vehicles and loot shops which haven’t been locked up. Back at home, Madison is desperate to score meds to wean Nick off heroine. She leaves him with Alicia to break into the nurse’s office at the school, where she scores enough OxyContin to do the job. Hopefully. As she’s ready to leave, Tobias suddenly appears—never mind that he doesn’t have keys to the school or a reason to be there, really. But since he warned Madison about the outbreak, she relents and gives him back his knife. Oh and helps his steal food. Because that’s what good guidance counselors do, right? Sure. They also hand out drugs and encourage kids to have unprotected sex—my disbelief crash-landed the second she willingly committed a crime with the kid. Tobias and Madison aren’t alone.

FTWD2Artie, the school’s principal, has a new, fresh look. He shambles after them. Stupidly, Madison tries to help and is attacked for her efforts. Her big, bad protector doesn’t so much as make Artie flinch with his itty bitty knife. When the infected principal turns on Tobias, Madison rescues her rescuer by bashing her friend’s head in with a fire extinguisher. She takes Tobias home, leaving the food they stole. Because that makes sense. If you want to die from starvation. The episode ends with the family living across the street becoming Infected Chow and Alicia finally demanding to know what’s going on.

The most frustrating thing about this episode is the fact that they more or less present Tobias as an apocalypse expert. He babbles tons of useful survival information. But when it comes to practicing these skills, nothing. Nada. It’s dumb move after dumb move. First, fruitlessly stabbing a man repeatedly in the chest. Second, leaving the food behind. They wrote him as the Harbinger and Encyclopedia, but negate these traits at every turn when Madison doesn’t accept what he’s telling her. The show is written almost as if each character is trapped in their own bubble, utterly incapable of actual interaction with each other. How do they expect fans to root for what should be a cohesive survival unit when the characters have no vested interest in one another? Yes, it’s early in the game, still. However, the season only has six episodes. There’s not much time left to build up the characters from their current two-dimensional caricatures. Without a connection to this family, all the groundwork they’re laying for the apocalypse— the riot scenes were brilliant if one ignores the family story line— is for naught.

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