Imagine you are watching a chess game. It hasn’t quite started yet, but if it’s played well, it could be one of the most complex and intricate chess games ever played. If it’s not, then the game would be one-sided and your guy will lose the match in abysmal fashion. Also, you have a lot riding on this chess game, so factor that it as well.
That is, in essence, the setup for Fear the Walking Dead. It’s a world we know quite well, thanks to the original series, but the premise is different enough and interesting enough that the show could become something special. It could be a tense, on-the-run thriller that showcases the eventual downfall of society. It could make up for a few the original’s mistakes and actually be a great companion piece. All it takes is the right move of the chess pieces.
Instead, nothing happens.
Nobody moves any pieces and by the end of the unnecessary hour-and-a-half long episode, your player has done nothing but lift up the first pawn. It bores the audience AND completely ruins my analogy.
I hate saying “nothing happens” when describing a story, because that’s usually not the case…usually there is important dialogue and character development happening to a subtle degree. But I mean it when I say that, truly, nothing happened this episode. Our characters walked in circles for the first hour and twenty minutes of the episode, telling us the same thing over and over again.
The first character to whom we are introduced, Nick, is your standard deadbeat, drug-addicted, loser of a teen. He’s also the first one, as far as we can tell, who has seen a zombie, so the episode gives us several scenes of him questioning that event. Was it the drugs or was it for real? He asks the same question many times in many different places, and that’s about it. He also whines about his role in the family and lies to his mom about everything, so we can dock a few extra points from him as well.
His sister Alicia, in typical teenage
sitcom, no, soap opera, er, drama, uh, television fashion, is the exact opposite. She’s smart, academically successful, popular, etc. She also has very little screen time, other than to ask questions for exposition reasons, and to feed her brother Jell-O in the hospital while he rubs her hand, something that is awkwardly reminiscent of Luke and Leia, post-Wampa.
Madison and Travis, our two main characters, are solid enough that we don’t hate them, but they have a long way to go before being characters that people like to watch. A good portion of that falls on the writing. When lines like “Something bad happened here” are delivered while standing over a pool of blood, it’s hard not to roll your eyes.
Most of the dialogue is eye-roll-inducing, actually. From the flat characters to the two, count ‘em, two foreboding high-school lessons, it’s hard not to get the sense that this show wants to be so much more, but can’t because it’s told to be this. It can’t be a full-on zombie apocalypse show, since AMC has one of those already, so instead it has to be a melodrama-riddled family show that makes passing references to zombies.
Without characters to root for, we don’t have a whole lot invested in the “action.” Everyone is very reactionary and those reactions are in response to things that don’t interest us. Many of these are small, personal problems that shouldn’t be getting screen time because, well, they don’t matter. Whether or not Travis’s son wants to see him on weekends won’t matter in the grand scheme of things. And we know that because we know the grand scheme of things will involve zombies, not visitation rights.
That being said, the final ten minutes of show were entertaining. The discovery of a friend-turned-zombie gave the show a bit of suspense…our characters are about to ask some questions and learn some new things about the world they inhabit. Were those ten minutes worth the hour and twenty minute build up? No, not really, but at least we have something to which we can look forward next episode.
There was quite a bit of fat that needed trimming in this episode, considering no real character development occurred. The episode treaded water for a bit too long, so we’ll see if the show can make up for wasted time and eventually pull things together.
Odds and Ends
- I wish Jeff Goldblum was Alicia’s math teacher, making the Chaos Theory lesson 4875247896 times better.
- Alicia’s texts are clearly the show’s not-so-subtle way of foreshadowing. So be on the lookout for Zombie-Boyfriend
- The writing wasn’t great, but I am a fan of the two leads. I hope their characters get some form of development in future episodes.
- I hate Call of the Wild, and that book made that scene way worse.
Alex Russo likes to talk about movies. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.