It’s hard to tell when Fear the Walking Dead will start living up to its potential. The tone is there, and the scenes with the infected are deliciously dark and effective, presenting with the kind of horror The Walking Dead took four years to perfect, but these are only small flickers in what is an otherwise relatively dull, plodding show (so far). “We All Fall Down” followed on from the interesting prospect of open-water zombie horror that we saw in last week’s “Monster”, and the cold opening showcased the setting’s strengths as a context for the apocalypse. Watching those walkers slowly pop up from the water and head towards the kids only to be stopped by a protective fence on what would end up being the episode’s anchor, Catalina island, was unnerving – what this show should be aiming for.
The prospect of stopping and exploring these eerie islands does keep a few tricks up the crew’s sleeve here, and it’s for this reason that our expected impatience with a show that’s so slow to build – and one which retreads themes we’ve seen in The Walking Dead – is off-set with how good things can get, if the right decisions are made. Those right decisions require a lot of character deaths this season, or some really, really large steps in order to make even half of this character set as engaging as Rick, Daryl, Glenn, et al.
Ultimately this character set is relatively flat without the personalities necessary to make Fear the Walking Dead a hit, but it’s not hard to tell that the writers are heading somewhere, albeit slowly. Having them stop over at Catalina Island was a good decision though, introducing us to a nihilistic father and his slightly terrified family, weighing against the inexplicable obliviousness of Madison (no, Madison, it is not a good idea to adopt a small child at a time like this), Alicia (no, Alicia, do not walk around unexplored territory with earphones in), and a few others.
Eventually it was revealed that the father, played brilliantly by David Warshofsky, plans to kill himself and his family in a very Jonestown-esque way via poison pills, identified by Nick because being an ex-junkie is useful after all in the zombie apocalypse. It’s a dark turn to what was an uninteresting story on the surface, diving even deeper when the young daughter, Willa, died via pills and then gnawed her own mother’s throat out. On paper, this sounds more intense than it actually was, but at least it – hopefully – served as a sort of wake up call for those characters (mostly Madison) still clinging onto a sense of community.
None of the characters had a wake up more than Christopher though, who seems to be moving more and more towards someone who deals with grief by becoming a capable zombie-killer. It makes sense given the timidity and bottled-up anger we’ve seen from him so far following his mother’s death and his differences with Travis, and hopefully the writers can capitalise on this semi-interesting turn for someone who was becoming the second most frustrating character on the show (second to Alicia).
Inevitably, we’re going to have to watch these characters sort their shit out first before they really adapt to the state of the world and start making decisions that don’t make us, as viewers, want to throw things against other things. It might be tough to stick with this, especially since The Walking Dead is getting so intense, but there is still enough here to hook you in.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
- New family storyline wrapped up in a dark, eye-opening way for lead characters
- Christopher finding purpose in killing zombies
- Strand rightfully pointing out Madison’s foolish decision at the end.
- Madison and Alicia making really bad decisions
- Madison’s decision to take on the children felt incredibly rash
Fear the Walking Dead screens in Australia on FX every Monday at 1:35pm and 7:35pm.