by Thom Yee
1×03: “The Dog”
Y’know what I hate? The weak old woman who gets hurt and needs to be carried by the rest of the group. That’s a tired, old, hoary (as in “the hoary hosts of Hoggoth”, not “whorey”) cliché that needs to be retired. It’s derivative, it’s annoying, and, given our current socio-political climate, it’s also kind of anti-feminist. As I watched the scaffolding start to buckle and fall towards Griselda (the older Spanish lady who doesn’t seem to speak any English), I couldn’t help but wish it would fall on Travis or Daniel instead. Of course, a man carrying another man makes for an odd-looking onscreen moment, at least according to our current TV-watching sensibilities, but it would’ve made for a nice reversal (or at least a conscious rejection of tired, hoary, old tropes).
This week in “The Dog”, the third of six Fear the Walking Dead episodes this season, things go from bad to worse, and maybe back to seemingly okay. Last time on Fear, Madison and Travis were split up, Travis having gone after his former wife, Liza, and son, Chris, and Madison engaging in some afterschool insanity — killing zombified principals and taking drugs from the school lockup and like that — before retiring back home with Nick and Alicia (who we’ll now call the Clarks) to wait for Travis to come back. Travis and his family (who we’ll now call the Manawas) were eventually forced to shack up with the newly introduced Salazars (who we learn this episode are father Daniel, mother Griselda, and daughter Ofelia) after being caught in pre-zombie-hysteria riots, and for a little bit it was looking like we might spend the rest of the season trying to reunite the zombie-crossed couple. Which would’ve totally blown. Luckily, it didn’t take much for the Clarks and Manawas (with Salazars in tow) to get back together in this episode. Almost suspiciously so. It was hard to reconcile the images of chaos and destruction as looters made their way into the Salazar’s barbor shop (to, like, bust up the up-and-down barber chairs and combs and shampoo and stuff) with the pristine condition that Travis and co. found his truck in, not to mention how polite and accommodating the rioters were in staying out of the road so they could make a clean get away. Nevertheless, it’s all quite grim even in those brief moments of incredulity, and it only gets worse from there as we see police shooting [zombified] patients outside hospitals and the L.A. lights going out region by region, our pillars of society continuing to crumble and fall.
Meanwhile, back at the Clark homestead, things are starting to get back to normal before getting really weird and almost unnecessarily horrific. After spotting a shambling, mess of a man just outside their house, Nick hatches a brilliant scheme to grab the shotgun from their neighbours’ house only for Alicia to become trapped and pursued by Susan Tran, former next-door babysitter and current undead (because of course backyard garden maze) while the original zombie neighbor makes their way into the Clark house because they left the porch door open. Though still somewhat on the side of believable, these are the type of slippery-slope moments that could soon give way to the shear stupidity too often seen on the parent show, and I really hope that’s something that Fear manages to avoid, at least in its first season.
We’re still pretty low on the zombie count at this point, but “The Dog” makes up for it (not in zombie dogs, unfortunately) with a couple of shotgun blasts straight to the head, and it’s right about at that point when the cracks in our characters really start to form as we learn how much Travis abhors guns and violence (and that he may be the wet blanket who slows things down by convincing everyone not to kill the undead until it’s too late) and that Daniel is the weary, gun-wielding realist that may be too prideful for his own good. As much as those characteristics may make sense on paper, they too have huge potential for stupidity and contrivance. So far the greatest strength of Fear the Walking Dead has been that most everything that’s happened has felt refreshingly natural or at least not painfully forced, and these character developments feel like they could be just the beginning of the kind of false melodrama that pulls good shows down. For now, I can still somewhat support Travis not wanting to kill the zombies because they really don’t know what’s happening for sure and the zombies they’ve encountered thus far have been intact enough that it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine them coming back to life, and I can still somewhat buy Daniel not wanting to be indebted to others, but let’s hope the writers don’t take values like these and the themes they represent too far or else we’ll be back to character assassinations on the level of Tyreese and Andrea.
And then boom, the army shows up, shoots the zombies, and all is well. See everybody? Everything’s fine. Nothing to worry about. Nowhere to go but up from here. The government’s got this one, guys. I’m sure we’ll soon all be back to cell phones and video games and air conditioning, that the events in Atlanta are a series of isolated incidents, and that the real lesson of Fear the Walking Dead is that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself.
We’re halfway through, guys. I told you this wouldn’t take long.
Fear the Walking Dead — “The Dog” final score:
Items of Note
- Nick still hasn’t changed out of those old-man clothes? I’m starting to think that’s his wardrobe for the entire rest of the season.
- The scenes of the L.A. lights going out may have been good, but the in-car shots of our heroes that accompanied them sure looked fake.
- Why would the elderly Trans of all people have a gun? Asians don’t need guns, they have, like, darts and throwing stars and like that!
- “If you burn him the sickness will not spread.” Where have we heard that before?
- “Hoary.” Just wanted to get another one of those in.