Season two of The Walking Dead caught a lot of flack for many things (DAMMIT LORI WATCH YOUR KID), but the biggest complaint was the slow pace. 12 of the 13 episodes were on a farm. A. FARM. Many people felt that a certain box may have helped with the pacing. Ever since, The Walking Dead has moved at a brisk pace, with even the shows creators saying that it’s a new show every eight episodes or so. Hell, Terminus was like three episodes, TOPS.
Fear The Walking Dead is going in the exact opposite direction, and that’s a good thing. It’s a slow burn, and a welcome one, at that.
When it comes to Zombie movies and shows, people tend to get bored and want to see some zombie porn as quick as possible. It seems like more and more reviewers are expressing this desire. When you’re working with a movie and about two hours to tell a story, you can afford to gloss over the specifics of how society fell, focusing on the money shots instead of delving into how the fall affected people. When you’re telling a story in long form, it’s good to focus on the personal aspect of the fall of man.
In The Walking Dead, as I mentioned earlier, many people didn’t like the second season because of it’s slow pace. Shane had a point. Dale had a point. We hate Lori. Herschel came around. Maggie and Glenn sitting in a tree... Beth tried to kill herself. Carol lost a daughter. T-Dog. Fucking DARYL. It took forever. But, the fact that the show was able to spend so much time on each of these characters at the farm has led to season six, where we actually care about these people (Well, the ones left at least.)
If it wasn’t for the second season, Spaghetti Tuesday would have been meaningless. Carol’s rise to complete BADASS would ring hollow. Beth’s rosy outlook on life and ability to diffuse tension with song would have been out of place. Rick’s fight within himself about how to lead and survive would be incomplete without 10 episodes of silently butting heads with Shane. Again. DARYL.
Shows benefit from slow burns. Many people hated the first half (really 3/4) of the first season of Agents of SHIELD, but the slow pace gave us time to get to know the people, and we began to care. That’s why it sucked so bad when Fitz got hurt, and it was so (hurtfully) surprising to see Ward as a Hydra agent. The second season of Agents of SHIELD was better because of it; and seasons three through five of The Walking Dead have ABSOLUTELY benefited from the slow second season.
Fear The Walking Dead is taking time to introduce us to these new characters. This is a good thing. When things go sideways, we will care what happens to them. Pay attention. This foundation will make the second season so much better. The tension is good.
1. In line with my rant about the show’s pacing, I noticed something interesting: After the protest turned into a riot, the show didn’t focus on the destruction outside. The show closley followed Travis and his son and ex wife through the crowed, and then stayed with them inside the barber shop/apartment while the rioting went on outside. Much like The Walking Dead, this show isn’t so much about the zombie apocalypse as it is about the people experiencing it. The show could have spent more time showing money shots of rioting and destruction, but it instead focused on the riot’s effects on Travis’ family. His son is starting to realize something is up. His ex wife is beginning to trust him a little better. Hell, even Travis is trying to figure out how to keep his family (and his girlfriend’s) safe.
2. I have a gut feeling that Alicia’s boyfriend will be a callback to Morgan being unable to shoot his walker-wife. She’s going to go back to his house before they get out of dodge.
3. Last week I noted that the show had a pretty good lock on social media and the role it may play in such an outbreak. That was expanded on this episode in a good way. Recently, if you’ve been paying attention, there have been more and more stories of police using excessive force (up to and including shooting people who had their hands up and choking people allegedly selling illegal cigarettes, for examples). Now, I don’t believe it is happening more often, but I do believe social media is bringing more of these instances to light. This episode showed how the recent increase in videos online of police shooting “unarmed” people was affecting the population of Los Angeles. When that dude got on the bus and told everyone cops shot some homeless dude 20 times, it was completely likely every one of those younger bus riders had seen similar videos online.
Last week, the show began and mentioned videos online of police in many states shooting “unarmed” people. The tension had been building (see a trend?) and people had enough. Remember: in this universe, there have been no zombie stories; people don’t know what’s what. Again, watch the news. Every time there is a shooting of an unarmed person by police, a protest forms somewhere. This show is in Los Angeles. People haven’t trusted the LAPD since years before Rodney King (that was just the straw that broke the camel’s back.)
We’re watching a cycle: Police use deadly force on “unarmed” people. People see this, and think it’s not justified. Protests sprout up. Police encounter another “unarmed” person, and shoot her in the head. Riot starts. People die. Police get blamed, and people lose more trust. Police see everyone as a threat, and are more edgy. More people die. More people lose trust. It’s a spiral, and I think will heavily factor into these characters once the National Guard and Army show up in later episodes.
But seriously, who has a camcorder these days?
4. Note: That blood splatter hood ornament on the truck was glorious. I was actually sad when Travis washed it off.
5. In The Walking Dead, we saw a glimpse of the lengths an alcoholic would go to score some hooch. Trying to scratch that power itch can be a completely different level of desperation. It will be interesting to see how Brother Franco (SHUT UP I THINK HE LOOKS MORE LIKE JAMES FRANCO THAN JOHNNY DEPP) deals with the withdrawals.
6. Madison had her first walker kill, and it was intesley personal. So far, every walker kill (besides the ones done by the cops, and even then, a little bit) has been personal. Franco’s girlfriend and shooting gallery patrons. Franco’s dealer. Principal Skinner. They’ve all been people the characters know, and make the encounters that much more intense. In The Walking Dead, the characters are to a point where the walkers are part of the landscape. For just about everyone (except for the residents of Alexandria and Father Gabriel), walkers are just another obstacle. In Fear The Walking Dead, everyone is Father Gabriel up on that rock.
This show doesn’t have to show hoards of walkers to generate excitement and suspense. These characters have literally never seen a walker before, and have to figure out how to put them down. Madison had to kill (as far as she knew, he could have been alive) her friend to save Tobias. She had to bash him in the head repeatedly with a fire extinguisher. That shit sucks. Because of this, I feel like the walkers on Fear are more intense than The Walking Dead.
I’ve seen some people comment about the fact that Tobias and Madison left the food in the school. Madison thinks she just killed her colleague and friend, and Tobias watched it happen. Real life is much different than watching a video online. I can give them a pass; they’re shook.
7. Tobias is going to need a bigger knife. One thing The Walking Dead has jaded us to is the fact that HEADS ARE HARD. Like, there’s bone up in there and everything. It takes a LOT of effort to stab a walker through the skull.
8. Tobias is our Eugene, except he’s not afraid to help out. He’s also us. It’s almost like he’s watched The Walking Dead and Doomsdayers or whatever that bunker show is on Discovery or TLC. Dude’s an encyclopedia.
9. How long until Travis finds Adam-13 full of water?
10. How jarring was it to see the streets and school empty? When Alicia was walking home, it felt like she was somewhere near Atlanta, just waiting to run into Rick. I was actually shocked when the kids rode by on their skateboards. We’re still in the early days. Don’t forget that! Well played.
I’m sad that I have to wait two weeks for the next episode.