Last week, Fear the Walking Dead had its series premiere, and the show broke cable-TV records for both first-episode viewership of total viewers (10.1 million) and the coveted adult 18-49 demographic (6.3 million). AMC has already picked the series up for a second season. The big question now, of course, is: how does the show fare from here?
WARNING: What you’re about to read contains spoilers about this episode and possibly this season of Fear the Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk/reward!
RECAP: The “beginning of the end” for our characters’ world continued on right where we left things last week. Alicia, initially miffed about Matt missing their rendezvous but now growing concerned, swings by his house, where the door is conveniently left wide open for her to wander into. Sure enough, he’s been bitten, but hasn’t fully transformed yet (bringing Alicia’s prophetic post-missed-date text to him “You’d better be dead” essentially full circle).
Madison, Travis, and Nick – fresh from killing their first zombie at the end of last episode – get in contact with Alicia and go to Matt’s house to pick her up, now knowing full well what potential danger she’s in by being around someone who is “infected” (little do these characters know that they are all latently infected already, with the virus being airborne and all). Once the four of them have safely returned home, Nick starts to detox from his drug binge and Travis feels the (understandable) need to go get his son and ex-wife to help keep them safe.
We the viewers start to see the public mentality shift here: news channels are carrying more and more stories of the strange goings-on, encouraging people to “stay in their homes” and avoid contact with unknown persons; schools are shut down and traffic is backed up everywhere; neighbors and acquaintances are starting to stockpile and/or make plans to leave town; and protests from uneducated citizens about “excessive police brutality” in shooting seemingly-innocent people quickly escalate to riots and violence, in the greatest of “typical American” fashions.
Travis and Madison had been making plans to leave town as well, but those thinly-constructed ideas crash and burn when the couple has to split up. Madison heads the school to acquire medication to help Nick with his detox – and she has to kill her first zombie in order to escape back home. Travis does find his ex-wife and son, but they are quickly caught up in a protest-turned-riot and have no choice but to hole up inside a locked barbershop with the Salazar family (whom savvy internet denizens know will feature heavily throughout the rest of the first season, thanks to the actors being credited in production of every remaining episode). Is a reunion for Travis and Madison still in the cards? Tune in next week to find out, maybe!
>>> As Travis, Madison, and Nick are driving home in the initial scene, Nick looks up and quite conspicuously sees an airplane flying overhead – could this be meant to be the same flight that was recently mentioned by AMC as a Walking Dead standalone episode set exclusively on a plane that will introduce a new major character into the second season of Fear the Walking Dead? My money is on YES!
>>> We’re starting to get a sense of not only which characters are “people of action,” but how their personalities and traits dictate what kind of decisions they make. The most telling example of this during this week’s episode came at the very end, when Madison physically would not let Alicia go outside to help a neighbor being attacked. It was a very “anti-Rick Grimes” moment, but remember: Rick woke up from a coma after all this initial outbreak/crazy violence action had already happened, so he didn’t have to live through it and make these types of choices. One wonders what kind of a person Rick would be “now,” five seasons into The Walking Dead, if he had been awake the whole time.
>>> During a traffic jam that he’s stuck in, Travis sees a police officer at a convenience store, loading the back of his cruiser with as much bottled water as it will hold. In line with a few observations from last week’s episode, this further demonstrates to the audience that the authorities clearly know more than they have been letting on to the public – and the real question that I hope gets answered is, how long have they known?
>>> Does anyone else find it amusing that Tobias, the pockmarked conspiracy-theorist student that wanted nothing more in the first episode than to be as far away from school as possible… is now the only student in the entire school building? Gotta give him kudos, though, for knowing where to go to loot that gives him the best chance of not running into other looters.
>>> I feel like we’re being beat over the head with the show drawing obvious parallels between the recent spate of real-life police-brutality issues and what’s going on in this episode – but at the same time, what we’re being shown is exactly what would likely happen in a situation like this. Not to make light of recent real-life situations but, clearly, we’re missing the “bigger picture” here – that the zombie apocalypse is already happening in the real world! Time to run to the store and stock up on the essentials like water, canned goods, and Game of Thrones box sets!
CLOSING THOUGHTS: The frustration that I (and very likely you as well) am feeling in regards to the decisions that the characters are making is one of the most oddly-compelling parts of watching this show. Having seen every episode of The Walking Dead, I already KNOW what’s going to happen – but these characters can’t know these things yet. That doesn’t necessarily excuse their frustrating lack of communication with each other, though; when Travis was trying to get a hold of Chris and Chris sent his call to voicemail, Travis just kept on fighting traffic; a quick text, something along the lines of “Please head home & meet your Mom there, stay away from infected people, they are NOT SAFE” would have went a long way towards helping the situation. Same with Madison telling Alicia what she, Travis, and Nick saw at the LA River… I know it might initially sound strange to hear these rather unbelievable things coming out of “rational” peoples’ mouths, but as the audience is quickly learning: it’s strange times for these characters, indeed.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa
Kim Dickens as Madison Clark
Frank Dillane as Nick Clark
Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris Manawa
Elizabeth Rodriquez as Lisa Ortiz
Mercedes Mason as Ofelia Salazar
Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar
Patricia Reyes Spindola as Griselda Salazar