Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.
Man, Fear the Walking Dead is such a tricky show to latch onto now. As we slowly creep into its second season, the series has become more difficult to invest in. Maybe first-timers – as in, those who never actually watched The Walking Dead (there have to be some) – are able to find the clumsy exploits of the Manawa/Clark clan engaging and exciting. But given how so much of this story, these mistakes, are retreads for those of us who’ve already watched six seasons of Walking Dead, including the slow and laborious second season, FTWD has become a bit sludgy.
There’s just no spark here. The characters are flat and often muddled in motive. They’re still raw from a fresh zompocalypse outbreak so they’re having all the familiar “what is the world now even?” conversations. So we get to watch Travis get needlessly upset about Chris stabbing fence walkers with a pick. All because, like every dad, he never imagined his son would ever have to kill zombies. Then we’d bear witness to Alicia walking around a place she’s never been before wearing earbuds. So she couldn’t hear any possible danger around here. Granted, she’s new to the zombie hellscape, but that was pretty much ground zero for dumb.
“We All Fall Down” had a small leg up on the premiere in the sense that there were other people in it. New characters for our heroes to converse with so that they wouldn’t just be locked inside their own respective circles of ennui. New characters in the form of an isolated, semi-survivalist family on Catalina Island, not far from the tiny tourist town of Avalon. A family with, I suppose, a dark secret if you consider the fact that the dad had planned on them all quietly dying together via poison pills. We’re not sure when, exactly, he intended to do that, but things came to a head near the end after the daughter, Willa, swallowed one of the “power pills,” become a zombie, and then ripped her mom’s throat out.
On the surface, that’s a decent story. And David Warshofsky’s dad character – the “amateur anthropologist” – had the potential to be a really creepy dude. Unfortunately, things never truly clicked the way they should have here and the only thing that really stood out was Madison’s terrible idea to take the couple’s young kids with them out to sea. Like, that was awful. I understand that everyone’s still trying to figure out who they should save, or try to save, but it felt like this decision was made too quickly. And with way too little information. Everyone just assumed the worst very fast and were like “Well, I guess these children are ours now.”
Which made Strand, once again, the voice of absolute sanity after he flat out refused to let young Harry join them on the Abigail. As usual, he was dead right. Madison’s reasoning that things could be better for Harry if he went with them, on their boat with dwindling supplies and an entire coast full of major cities that had been napalmed to bits, was off-the-charts insane.
Still, the threat of that boogeyman boat out there, the one that was pursuing them, was a nice background threat. And who was it that Strand was contacting? We still know nothing about him or what he wants, exactly, from everyone he’s saved. I mean, he has to have a more concrete reason for keeping people around him, right? He’s Strand.
Learning that Travis was actually Māori (Cliff Curtis’ actual ethnicity) was also a cool little tidbit. The show’s not bad, it’s just still finding itself. As mentioned in my review of the premiere, more immediate dangers might help. Crucibles that don’t exactly require ideological discussions about altruism and such. Because that’s landing all these characters in hot water from an empathy standpoint. And the fact that each episode comes with a laundry list of bad character choices isn’t helping the climb.