by Thom Yee
2×02: “We All Fall Down”
After escaping from their mysterious, yet-to-be-revealed-but-no-doubt-still-a-factor-in-this-story pursuers by sticking near the coastline, our heroes spot the errant lights of a house and head in-land to investigate. Finding a family, the Gearys, whose patriarch, former park ranger George, is determined to maintain their spot for as long as they can, our heroes gather vital information and new insight on the state of their new world. And get most of the Gearys killed. It’s not usually hard to tell when people are doomed on this show. I mean, there are all sorts of outside-narrative, inside-baseball ways of telling if actors will be sticking around, especially following casting news, but you can usually just tell if a newcomer is long or short for this world, and this family definitely wasn’t right, at least not right enough to be added to the cast. It’s not that they were overtly weird or perverse, but you just knew they wouldn’t have fit.
Watching the beginning of “We All Fall Down”, as the two young Geary children almost played with the infected that wash up on shore, it made me think for a moment on how many kids must have been killed in this world. Given the comparative break-neck pace of The Walking Dead and that show’s tendency to stick to adult-aged walkers, it’s a thought I’ve never really contemplated despite its self-evidence, and if there’s a clear strength that Fear the Walking Dead has over its parent show, it’s that it makes you contemplate this zombie-devastated world rather than just accept it. Kids have died, families have been destroyed, institutions have crumbled, and even though we acknowledge these facts as backstory in The Walking Dead, Fear has a much greater capacity to make us feel these facts if for no other reason than we spend most of our time with the parent show watching our heroes raid enemy compounds with military precision or wondering which of our heroes has died at the end of a barb-wire-wrapped baseball bat.
We’re still at the early stages of societal breakdown with Fear, and so it’s not so weird that the Clark/Manawa clan would run into a family that’s not only inviting and friendly, but not harbouring a horrible secret like they’re cannibals or something. It’s still obvious, though, that something’s going to go wrong sooner rather than later, and obviously nobody was expecting a multi-episode arc at the Geary’s beachside house. In this case, it’s an open question as to whether Nick finding the poison pills in George’s study inadvertently led to the young Willa Geary’s eventual death, but it’s not really an open question at all whether our heroes’ mere presence will bring hardships and death to all that they meet. Of course they do, they’re the main characters, without bringing these bad tidings, what would be the point?
Survival is the question at the heart of “We All Fall Down”, and it’s a question that’s answered in two different forms with the Clark/Manawas and the Gearys. Though both have clearly chosen the path of survival, the Clark/Manawas choose to move forward whereas the Gearys, at least the father and eldest son, have chosen to stay behind and hold the fort, mending the fences as George puts it, and you can’t honestly say which approach is best in a world where most of the choices are bad ones. Throughout the episode, the idea that the Gearys are merely biding their time is brought up consistently, with Melissa, the mother, admitting that she signalled the ship with the hope that she could send their youngest children, Willa and Harry, away and on a path that’s not so obviously, inevitably doomed, but even though these two paths are easy to pose as opposites in this extreme world, these are questions that also have parallels in each of our lives in our world. Where are we going? Are we all just biding our time? Is it enough simply to survive?
Back on the boat, Daniel and Ofelia have stayed behind with Strand, where Daniel’s investigations lead to finding possibly incriminating evidence against Strand in a hidden, locked cabinet. Despite previous evidence to the contrary, it appears that Strand has a clear destination in mind, presumably specific plans for all of these people he’s taken aboard, and someone very specific waiting for him. And a really big gun. It’s easy to see these developments as ominous, but for some reason I just don’t get that bad a vibe from Strand right now, and maybe ulterior motives that aren’t so sinister is just what this show needs to set itself apart. Strand is an outwardly tough, untrusting guy, but I feel like there’s another dimension to him, possibly built on personal tragedy, that will make him more than just an eventual villain to our group. On the other hand, who knows why he was being held prisoner back at the hospital (he didn’t appear to be sick) and who knows why he was already so prepared to make a break from the world when (we think) nobody knew what was coming.
I’m still finding it hard to fault Fear the Walking Dead for not being the exciting, fast-paced show that The Walking Dead is, but at the same time, it’s undeniable that most of us just won’t have as much fun watching it as we do the parent show. In an episode like “We All Fall Down”, we finally have the time to really feel some of the drama that The Walking Dead is often so clumsy at, and I can honestly say watching our heroes driving away from the waving-goodbye Harry, one of only two surviving Gearys, as his older brother shot down their zombified mother, I felt sad. It was a melancholic moment, one where the invisible social lines still tell us that leaving a child with his older brother is more appropriate than taking him on yourself, even if they’re both doomed. Still, not a lot of fun, at least not until somebody gets killed.
Fear the Walking Dead — “We All Fall Down” final score
Items of Note
- PSP! We’re still lining up with the timeline!
- Is there any more of a dangerous thing a person can do in this zombie-filled world than walk around with headphones on?