“Good people are the first ones to die.” — Daniel Salazar
After a two week break we’re finally back to a new episode of Fear the Walking Dead. The show has so far been very consistent in establishing one simple fact about the most of the cast in this companion series. They are, deep down in their hearts, very good people. Travis is very much your typical enlightened man who shows compassion towards his family and others. Madison loves her family no matter the sort of trouble they find themselves in. The show in it’s third episode seem very intent on pushing against their very good-nature to see who will be the first to break.
“The Dog” finds both Travis and Madison separated during what looks like the first major outbreak of the zombie apocalypse. Travis has just found his estranged son and with his ex-wife have had to seek refuge in the boarded up barbershop of one Daniel Salazar and his own family. Madison waits back home in their East L.A. suburban home with her own two children. With such a truncated season the episode doesn’t wait too long to put the families of both Travis and Daniel in danger. The riots which broke out during the last episode have begun to spun out of control and businesses in the neighborhood have begun to get looted and burned. It’s during their attempt to flee the riot zone that we see the extent of the damaged caused by the continuing riots and more signs that rioters won’t be the only danger around these two men’s families.
Back with Madison we see her attempting to shield her daughter from the truth of what she has seen during the day (it’s been less than two days in series timeline since the events of the pilot episode). Her son Nick seems to understand more of what’s truly going on around them and is more than willing to be the one to voice the ugly truth to his mother. If they’re to survive the storm that’s coming then she needs to tell Alicia what she has seen. As with the events around Travis, Madison and her kids must soon flee their own home when an infected and turned neighbor has decided to follow the barking of a dog Nick had let into their home.
Both sequences were edited with equal amount of tense-filled moments as Travis and Madison must rely on their protective instincts to try and keep their respective families safe. The scenes with Travis and his group fleeing the barbershop have much more of an action tone to them as rioters, looters and police clash all around their group. With the Clark family it’s a sequence that wouldn’t seem out of place from any horror film. We see how resourceful Madison is starting to become since her time during the visit back at her high school in the previous episode. Some of this resourcefulness seem born out of keeping up with her junkie son Nick who has taken the initiative to do the the best thing to keep the family alive.
The writers have so far written up Nick not just as a troubled, loser drug-addict of a son, but as a survivor. His very addiction and time spent out on the streets feeding his habit has given him a sort of advanced survivor instinct that many around him still haven’t developed. It’s very clear from the first half of the season that his sister Alicia is still quite clueless to the events happening around her. She still believes that she must cut loose from her troubled family and be with her boyfriend to start a new life. Even after seeing the results of those infected, one of which happens to be her boyfriend Matt, Alicia still denies what she has seen and heard. Madison, on the other hand, has had some first-hand experience of what’s going on and has begun to fully believe Nick and gradually adapting to the new reality descending on her family and the world.
Travis, on the other hand, continues to cling to his inner goodness. His compassion for his neighbor Peter Dawson, who he finds in Madison’s home eating the remains of the barking dog that attracted him to the house, almost gets him killed if not for the fast thinking of Daniel Salazar. We see contrasting fathers in Travis and Daniel in this sequence. Travis’ good-nature almost gets him killed while Daniel’s more pragmatic approach to the deteriorating situation around them saves everyone. Even the scene where Daniel tries to teach Travis’ son how to handle the shotgun speaks volume on the differences between the two men.
Travis is the enlightened and educated man who abhors guns and violence. Daniel, we learn through some brief exposition, has survived his home country or El Salvador when many of his family didn’t and has carved out a life for his family in a new country. Travis still thinks that those in power will settle things and get everything back to normal. He even comments in the end of the episode that the cavalry has arrived when the National Guard pulls into the neighborhood to search, isolate and destroy the infected. Daniel sees this and knows that whatever has begun with the riots has spun out of control and too late for everyone still hoping for a peaceful resolution.
Fear the Walking Dead has had a tough task of making itself feel both new and familiar to fans. On the one hand, the series does feel new from the fact that this is a world still inhabited mostly by the living. It’s a world still unaware of the storm bearing down on it. Yes, we’ve seen instances of zombies making an appearance, but never in the large numbers audiences have become used to from it’s parent series The Walking Dead. The familiarity comes from the audience seeing the chaos caused by these first moments of the zombie apocalypse. We as an audience has seen the result once civilization finally broke down. We know the rules of this world even if most of the characters in the show are oblivious or slowly learning about them.
It’s that very familiarity that could make or break the series. So far, the series writers have made each character’s reaction to the events these past couple days range from dangerously naive (Alicia) to hard survivor (Tobias) and everyone in-between. While for some viewers the very naivete that some characters exhibit despite what they’ve seen or heard could become frustrating, it does sow the seeds in filling in the blanks of why civilization fell. Mistrust helps in the populace not believing what those in power has been telling them. Yet, it looks like misguided optimism and compassion also might have had a hand in speeding up the zombie apocalypse.
We’re now halfway through the first season of Fear the Walking Dead and things have begun to move along faster than it’s parent series did with it’s first season. We still have slower scenes with people just talking, but the writers never linger too long before ramping up the tension. This companion series has had the advantage of working with a world still learning the rules which makes for some dread-inducing scenes which the parent series rarely had. With the back-end episodes of series set to start it’ll be interesting to see if the writers will continue to mine the theme and focus of this first season.
Will the good people be the first to die and if they don’t then how will these horrific events change them? Will it be for the better or for the worst?
We will just have to tune in the next three Sundays and see what happens.
- Tonight’s episode was written by Jack LoGiudice and directed by Adam Davidson.
- Nice sequence after fleeing the barbershop as Travis and his group slowly drive past a hospital and see the chaos unfolding as zombies (looking like both patients and healthcare workers) were confronted by responding LA police and SWAT. Earlier in this sequence we even see a brief glimpse of a doctor who looks to be a zombie staggering amongst the fleeing civilians and responding police yet remaining unnoticed by both.
- The rioting, once we see it in full, doesn’t show whether the chaos is due just to the rioting or to the zombies amongst the rioters and riot police causing their own form of disturbance.
- Neighbor Pete Dawnson being put down by Daniel Salazar with both barrels from an over-under Turkish shotgun marks the arrival of the series’ first gory moment. Some very nice work by the effects gurus from KNB EFX.
- The point-blank headshot of Pete via shotgun blast was a nice homage to a similar shotgun blast to the head in the original Dawn of the Dead.
- Funny how even though people heard the two shotgun blasts and the screams of their neighbors from the night earlier, some of them seem to still have to take the garbage out in the morning. I guess living in the city with it’s constant sounds of gunshots and screams have become routine for these Los Angelinos.
- I guess the neighbor who had the party for their girl the day before and who was being attacked by neighbor Pete Dawson didn’t survive the night uninfected if the markings left by the National Guard was to be believed.