MONSTER – 5.5/10.
Everyone has their own survival strategy for the zombie apocalypse; maybe you would hold up in a shopping mall like in Dawn of the Dead, maybe you’d head as far north as you could in the hope that the zombies would freeze, or maybe you would find a boat and head out to sea. The boat strategy seems to be a particular popular idea, but it is one fraught with complications when given further consideration. Fuel, food and water would be in constant demand, meaning sooner or later you would have to come aboard land. Even worse, if one were to come under human attack at sea the options for escape would be severely limited. The idea of zombies at sea is a new one for TWD franchise but it is one that Fear the Walking Dead will be exploring in its second season.
The first season of FTWD was a mostly frustrating experience. Despite the presence of a few interesting characters it felt like we were covering old ground. Having spent 6 years watching “our” group become elite survivors it was irritating to watch these new characters make such poor decisions without the benefit of hindsight. But its greatest fault was in failing to live up to its promise to provide us with a front row seat to the zombie outbreak. If the second season was to win viewers over it would need to address its pacing issues, do a better job of endearing us to the not Ricks new characters and most importantly, find a way to differentiate itself from TWD beyond the new location. The nautical setting gives FTWD the opportunity to do exactly that, well in theory anyway.
The episode begins with the remaining survivors fighting their way off of the zombie infested beach and onto Strand’s yacht. The action comes hard and fast as Travis & Madison use rocks to fend off zombies and Nick uses an outboard motor to separate a freshly turned walker from its face. They make their escape from dry land as Madison watches LA burn in the background, it’s a visually stunning shot and there is an inescapable feeling that that is what we wanted to see from season 1. Eventually Nick gets everyone to the yacht and Strand makes a quick getaway from shallow water before they get any unwanted guests, dead or alive. So we find ourselves nicely set up for the season with Madison, Travis, Strand, Salazar, Ofelia, Nick, Chris and Alicia all aboard The Abigail.
After the adrenaline rush of the opening sequence things settle down into the more dramatic elements of the story, as the traumatised passengers try to process what has happened. Chris is in a particularly bad state, having just witnessed his father shoot his mother in the head to prevent her from turning. Again this is a new world, so the characters would have no concept of mercy killings at this stage. One person who very quickly grasps the new rules is Strand; when The Abigail happens upon an overloaded speedboat full of desperate survivors he refuses to help them, much to Madison’s disgust. Madison was the main offender when it came to making bad/kamikaze decisions last season and it seems like she still hasn’t learnt that morals come with a price in this world.
Her daughter Alicia also appears to be a slow learner. Despite the warnings of an increasingly paranoid Strand, Alicia uses a HAM radio to make contact with another survivor named “Jack”. He claims to be a teenager like her whose boat is taking on water and is in need of help. The overly trusting Alicia gives away details about the yacht and their position which proves to be a mistake when the group makes a grisly discovery. After an angry confrontation with his father, Chris jumps into the water for a swim. Nick follows after him and the two soon find themselves floating amongst a shoal of zombies from a nearby wreck. In yet another incredibly horrible decision, Nick swims out to it. The boat is riddled with bullet holes, showing the clear signs of human attack.
Travis makes his way into the water in a dinghy to bring back Chris and Nick, who risked his life to rescue a yacht’s log from the wreck. Back on The Abigail, Alicia breaks the news to Jack that she has failed to convince Strand to come and rescue him. The conversation takes a sudden dark turn as he assures her that he knows where she is and is on his way. Despite saving everyone, Madison and Salazar still don’t trust Strand but thus far he has been right about everything. It seems almost certain that “Jack” and his friends were responsible for the attack on the zombie boat and now they are making their way to a seriously unarmed and under prepared Abigail. They say that worse things happen at sea, it appears that we’re about to find out just how true that saying is.
FTWD is still suffering from the issues that plagued its first season. Its pacing is problematic now that the show is confined to one, minimalistic location. After a high impact opening, we suddenly found ourselves trapped on a boat listening to people bicker for the next forty minutes. Yes TWD has always done this, but this isn’t TWD and these people aren’t Rick, Daryl or Carol. While the show does have some interesting characters (Strand, Nick and Salazar), others completely fail to resonate; ranging from irritating to more or less invisible. After a whole season we should be connecting with these people, instead they still feel like strangers. Running a spin-off while the parent show is still on air is risky, extending the season is even riskier and it remains to be seen if that risk will pay off.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- It seems that group is now heading to San Diego. Strand seems like a man with a plan, what could be his motivation for wanting to be there. Is someone waiting for him?
- Salazar raised a very good point about Strand; he was packed and ready to go. Does he know something about the outbreak or did he already have a motive for wanting to flee dry land?
- Nick seems to be completely free of his withdrawal symptoms for now, but how long will that last and what will he do when they come back?
- Never forget the rules of Strand’s boat: Rule 1 – this is his boat. Rule 2 – this is his boat. Rule 3 – this is his goddamn boat. That kind of attitude makes a mutiny seem like an eventuality.