‘So Close, Yet So Far’
While last week’s Fear the Walking Dead premiere was by no means a failure, it wasn’t quite as good as it could have been. That left some sizeable margin for episode two to capitalise and improve upon. Of course, I’ll go into more detail below, but it’s an easy thing to say straight away that week two was a massive improvement.
The key issue I had with the premiere was the pace, a concern that the plot was moving slightly too quickly. This week kept a great balance though, neither continuing the rapid evolution of the previous instalment nor stagnating to compensate. Instead, the events that transpired knitted together to form an atmospheric parable on social paranoia. The two key strands – the 3 Clarks at home, and Chris (joined eventually by Travis and Liza) at the crime scene protest – both built towards simple, yet effective side-resolutions; the neighbour who ‘had the right idea’ gathering supplies turning and attacking another, while Maddy bars the door; the protest being kettled before turning into something eerily reminiscent of the start of the Rodney King riots of ’92.
This kind of entirely intentional integration of outside events into the show is vital to how effective it is in maintaining the tension and relevance. While TWD focuses on the effect of the epidemic on a post-modern society, Fear is all about the world we live in now, one still affected by politics, ideology and outlooks governed by precedent.As we moved towards these two points in the plot, the show was admittedly hit and miss in exploring the fact that we’re still early on and, having established that pop culture isn’t really a thing in the show, it’s hard for the characters to know what on earth is going on. Maddy’s actions around having to kill her friend and boss, Artie, were brilliant for her character; her reluctance giving way to a clear resolve that it had to be done was a scene packed with emotion.
The fact that Travis almost refused to explain what the big deal was to Liza was less endearing, especially as it effectively lead straight to their current predicament. I get that he can’t believably explain that the dead are coming back to life, but there is surely a happy medium where he convinces Liza of the severity of the situation, she calls Chris in time for him to escape the troubles downtown, and that whole scenario is avoided. The fact that we ended up with them stuck isn’t the issue, but rather that the dialogue didn’t really make an attempt to force this, beyond Travis basically giving up trying to explain.
None of that came across as Cliff Curtis’ fault, however, with Travis’ demeanour portraying superbly what the dialogue failed to get across. The other characters also did admirably, with the dynamic between the two Clark siblings a growing highlight dramatically – an entertaining balance of faux-hatred and a deep-set bond.
This second episode has left us in a far better position than last week, hopefully signalling an upward trend to continue through to episode 6. As long as the pacing is at the right speed, we might have witnessed something fantastic by that point.