Fear the Walking Dead: a review of a series that showed potential but fell short

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Be aware, this post does contain spoilers of Season 1 of Fear the Walking Dead. If you haven’t seen the series, you are warned that this might ruin the show for you.

 

 

Robert Kirkman’s latest venture in The Walking Dead franchise takes place in Los Angeles, or rather a suburb of LA. The main characters are two employees of the LA school district, Travis, portrayed by Cliff Curtis and Madison, portrayed by Kim Dickens. This is a blended family as Travis appears to be Hispanic and divorced with a son and Madison a widow with a son and daughter.

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Again: Be aware, this post contains spoilers for those who have not watched the first season.

 

Madison’s son, Nick, is a drug addict. The viewers first glimpse of the infected takes place when Nick sees a female that he connected with to go into a shooting house (that means a location where addicts use drugs not a location where people practice breach, bang and clear operations), to use whatever their drug of choice was. Nick, in his coming off the high, stumbles around amid the carnage and sees the female eating one of the residents of the house. He gets outside, starts running and ends up being hit by a car. Not fatally which is too bad as his character adds nothing to the series at all but needless drama and stupidity.

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Through a series of events, we see that there are a few students who are informed about what is happening across the nation. Keep in mind; these events are supposedly happening at the same time the first season of The Walking Dead is occurring. The first episode of Fear is taking place at the same time as the first episode to TWD.

As the plot develops, we see that Travis and his ex-wife don’t exactly have a great relationship. There is no mention as to why they divorced but from their attitudes, one can gather something must have happened to put them in the situation they now find themselves. Travis is presumed to be engaged to Madison, whom he refers to as his girlfriend possibly fiancé. Somewhere around episode 3-4, it’s revealed that Madison is a widow but that’s it for her back story so far.

While the first few episodes focus on the family’s search for loser, drug addict Nick, there are some little clues that people, as in medical personnel, are aware something is happening. The patient in Nick’s room has an emergency and when it’s determined that they have died, the doctor insists that they be taken to the 3rd floor along with all the others. Usually, the morgue is in the basement of most large hospitals but in this case, the viewer gets a little insight that what one student, Tobias, mentioned to Madison, is really happening and not some internet prank. Consider this, for an event to be sweeping nationwide that means controlled release points for whatever agent this infection is. Usually there are concentric rings of infection emanating from Patient Zero. If that were the case here, then there would be response and ample time to ramp up treatment protocols, containment, quarantine, etc. But, that is never touched upon and it’s assumed that the infection is somehow spontaneously breaking out all over the nation and possibly the world, at the same time.

Travis and Madison see some these events but, either they’re totally wrapped up in finding Nick, who by this time, has escaped the hospital, or are just the normal idiots who view things that happen outside their little world as not important. Keep in mind, increased police activity and helicopter traffic in LA is not all that noticeable to the residents.

Once Travis and Madison find Nick, they have an epiphany, a moment of clarity, a holy shit moment, where they see what is happening and Nick saves the day. Finally removing their heads from their fourth point of contact, they start to get their shit together and realize that maybe, just maybe, all that police activity and helicopter traffic actually means something bad is truly happening.

Travis sends Madison home and heads to his ex-wife’s house to gather up her and his son and return to Madison’s house. Who does this? Based in the interaction between Cliff and the ex, they don’t seem to care too much for each other. The son? Yeah, go get the kid. But the ex-wife who argues about visitation days? Nice idea but, reality check, they divorced for a reason. Chris, Travis’ son, is a total idiot. He’s downtown on a city bus when someone steps onboard and announces that the police have shot a homeless man for no reason. Instead of doing the ‘normal’ thing, like stay on the bus or get away from the mob that has gathered, he moves with the crowds to get close to the event so he can record it and post on social media. Yeah, a true social justice warrior. Travis and his ex finally track down Chris but are caught up in a riot and end up taking refuge inside Daniel Salazar’s barber shop. Salazar, portrayed by Rueben Blades, adds some sensibility to this otherwise directionless series.

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Salazar, his wife and daughter, escape with Travis’ family but Griselda, Daniel’s wife, is injured and needs medical attention. They head for several hospitals but find them overrun by SWAT units and infected. The group ends up heading to Madison’s house and arrives shortly after Madison and the kids have evacuated to a neighbors because a dog has drawn infected to the home. Some minor tension here as Travis walks in the front door and sees the infected, who turns out to be a neighbor, eating the dog. It takes Daniel, who uses a shotgun, to take out the infected. The next morning, Daniel is explaining to Chris the differences in shotgun ammunition and the operation of the shotgun the group has appropriated when Travis goes anti-gun on his ass. WTF? Infected are roaming LA, a neighbor just ate a dog in your living room. In your living room. Let that sink in for a few seconds. The infected was a neighbor in your living room and you have an issue with your son learning how to protect himself and your family? Another reality check. In a situation like this, 9-1-1 is not going to send anyone soon. You need to self-rescue any way you can. That means learning how to use firearms and other tools that keep you alive a bit longer. Nick had to shoot a long time friend and then run his ass over not once, but twice, and Travis has a problem with his son learning how to prevent being the next meal? Bad plot and writing right there but, sadly, reality in some locations.

The group decides to leave but, as usual, they have waited too long. The military has arrived and cordoned off the entire neighborhood. Why, one should ask is this neighborhood so important when the most common military logic would be to seize the high ground or a location that has limited access? Instead, because it’s in the plot, they spend time erecting a large fence around the area and a high security gate. By episode 4, 9 days have passed and the military has secured a 6 mile radius around the new ‘green zone’. Big whoop. This is a LA, 6 miles means nothing. It’s at this time, I had to wonder how in California, the military response was this fast and they had some kind of logistics train as well as air support up in that short of time, but somehow in Georgia, they lost containment? Sure, California has far more military installations but it also has a much larger population than Georgia.

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At this point, the plot and story runs further off the rails. If that was even possible. Once the writer’s introduced a military unit, it appears to be a US Army unit or possibly a National Guard unit, one can’t really tell, any pretense of realism was left far behind. The officer in charge, the OIC as it were, is a lieutenant. Not a problem except he appears to be about 35-40 which makes him way beyond the age bracket of a lieutenant. More in the age bracket of a Captain to Lieutenant Colonel. Maybe he was senior enlisted and was ‘battlefield commissioned’ to the rank of lieutenant? We’ll never know. Whenever the unit is on screen, there are issues with it. No battle buddy, the improper usage of terminology and a lack of proper equipment. In several scenes, there is a mention of a corpsman. This is an Army unit; there are no corpsman in US Army units. There are only medics. Easy to understand. The US Army has medics, the US Navy and Marines have corpsman. The Navy provides corpsman to the Marines. If there was anyone in a MARPAT (Marine camouflage uniform) or NAVCAM (Naval shipboard duty uniform) then they might have been a corpsman. But, there wasn’t so therefore, no corpsman, only medics. Maybe the MTA, a retired Marine Sergeant Major with 25 years of service wasn’t aware of this?

Not only are the Hummers the military use not equipped with the SINCGARS communication systems, Blue Force Trackers, a lack of antennas on the vehicles and a host of other problems. In one scene, there is a unit patrolling in full MOPP in LA in the summer. Really? Is the virus airborne? Why are they wearing full MOPP? No soldier wants to wear MOPP in the summer because it’s a sauna inside and you end up wearing the charcoal filter on you afterwards so everything you had on under the suit is now black tinged. And where is this unit deployed from? Certainly not from the unit that is guarding the neighborhood.

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When Madison sees a patrol in MOPP, she also saw a handgun lying in the street. The patrol doesn’t police this weapon up but leaves it there and just walks on by. Why? Military units don’t want weapons falling into someone else’s hands that could be used against them. By this time, it’s already been proven that there are survivors outside the wire and the military removes them. For what purpose? Maybe we’ll find out in season 2. Who are these survivors outside the perimeter? And why are they a threat? If you won’t come inside the ‘secure’ perimeter then who really cares?

Another wtf moment comes for Travis when he is taken on a ride to see Nick, who has been sent to some other facility. The vehicle has the aforementioned older lieutenant and he insists on using the M82A1M .50 rifle to engage a single infected. The officer, Moyers, gives Travis a chance to shoot the infected but he stutters and doesn’t take the shot. Later, in the finale of season 1, Travis shoots someone he knows. This does not make any kind of sense. In one instance, he could shoot someone who he has no connection to, and is clearly infected, and refuses, literally chokes. Yet, in the finale, he ends up shooting someone who has been bitten but hasn’t turned yet.

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In the finale, the viewers are introduced to a man known as Strand. He seems to be someone who knows what’s going on. He brings the survivors to his home and shows them Abigail, a potential escape option. In fact, a very potential escape option except for one thing.

Spoiler alert

Abigail is a large yacht but when you watch the scene where the viewers are shown the vessel it’s sideways to the waves not bow on. Some of you will know what I mean. The broadside of the vessel is facing the approaching waves and is in danger of broaching or doing a Poseidon Adventure.

Overall, Fear the Walking Dead is not too bad. It’s far better than Z-Nation. But, it falls short in technical detail, good writing, and plot development. Like The Walking Dead, the only reason certain characters are still alive is because it’s written into the plot. So many mistakes, so many literal dumbass scenes of dialogue and a wtf double face palm for the viewers as they painfully, at times, watch the characters stumble through the decision of get out of town or stay and see what happens. To me, Rueben Blade’s character has the best hope for survival. If Travis doesn’t have an evolution in his character, then the show is lost as he is supposed to be the main Rick like character in the series. Hopefully, season 2 will clear up the mess that is known as season 1 and explain more.

Time will tell.

 

On a side note, I have to ask where are all the Doomsday Preppers or Survivalists during all this? There was a documentary some years back by Discovery Channel, which interviewed people who were actually planning for a zombie apocalypse. That was their sole purpose behind prepping. Where are those people?

bring it on

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