Review Scorecard: Fear the Walking Dead 'So Close, Yet So Far'

Monday, 31 August 2015 - 9:51AM
Fear the Walking Dead
Monday, 31 August 2015 - 9:51AM
Review Scorecard: Fear the Walking Dead 'So Close, Yet So Far'
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Welcome to our review scorecard, where we (semi-arbitrarily) assign points to the parts of an episode that we loved and hated, the parts that worked and the parts that definitely didn't. We'll weigh more significant aspects of the show with more points, either positive or negative, and tally all the points up at the end for a final score that will reflect the quality of the overall episode.

The Good

Travis's lingering look at Matt +3
We can give Madison and Travis the benefit of the doubt that they don't know as much as the viewer, but they're in the know enough to suspect that Matt could hurt his parents. They have plausible deniability, so it's somewhat understandable that they leave him to take care of their own children, but from the look Travis gave Matt before he left, at some point they're going to feel incredibly guilty about leaving that entire family to die.

The first walker kill +5
Technically, Nick killed a walker in the first episode, but this was the first time we've seen a main character kill an infected person by means that were up close and personal. Madison was forced to kill her colleague and friend, and afforded more layers to the character by demonstrating both compassion and mental fortitude. Of all the characters, she is the most developed and is most likely to have what it takes to survive.

"I'm about to step into a world of shit. You know that, right?" +2
It's a little ham-fisted, but it's interesting to see the writers continue the extended metaphor of addiction-as-apocalypse from the pilot. Nick is shown to have the same symptoms as Matt, as heroin made Nick a zombie before the virus ever started. I'm guessing we'll see an arc in which Nick pulls himself out of his own apocalypse, out of his own personal hell, in light of the apocalypse happening around him.

Police brutality +5
It's a little dangerous for this show to appropriate the tragedies in Ferguson, New York, etc., especially considering the show's race problem (more on that later). But it was still extremely powerful for a mainstream show to demonstrate the pervasive mistrust of law enforcement, and the veritable army of militarized cops might have been the most chilling shot of the episode, no walkers necessary.

The relationship between Alicia and Nick +3
Granted, Alicia's a little bratty, but it would be unrealistic for her to be a saint, especially considering everything Nick has put their family through. The actors work well together, and certain lines perfectly captured the dynamic between the perpetual screw-up and the reluctantly obedient "good daughter." The "I hate you," "I know" exchange was a little too much, but I loved Nick's aside of, "I'm an asshole, I'm an asshole, but..." as if that's just a given.

The panic +10
This is what I was looking forward to in the first place: the Hazmat suits, the confusion, the looting, watching civilization utterly fall apart. The writers still aren't taking advantage of the epidemic aspect as much as I'd like, but they're quickly ratcheting up the tension after that entirely underwhelming pilot.

The kids with surgical masks +3
This was f*cking creepy. We need more shots like this.

Morally ambiguous choices +5
Between Madison and Travis leaving Matt to presumably kill his parents and Madison preventing Alicia from helping their neighbors, who were brutally torn apart by a walker amid bloodcurdling screams, we're already starting to see average people make impossible choices for the sake of survival. It will be fascinating to see them all become more hardened, much like Rick Grimes.


The Bad

An inherited race problem -10
Many are worried that Fear won't live up to The Walking Dead, but it does in at least one respect, as not one, not two, but three black characters met their maker in the first two episodes. It's progress that approximately half of the main characters are Hispanic, but that doesn't give Fear an excuse to introduce black characters for the sole purpose of killing them off (especially if they're going to pretend to care about race issues by drawing parallels to Ferguson). I thought that Matt, at the very least, would last a little longer, if only so the writers would have a chance to manipulate us into caring about the relationship between Alicia and Matt and melodramatically make the point that innocent love can't survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

The most tepid teen romance this side of Hayden Christensen and Natalie Portman -3
Speaking of Alicia and Matt, we are given zero reason to care about this relationship. It doesn't take much for me to ship a couple, and I really don't care about them. The writing isn't doing them any favors, but it doesn't help that the actors can't muster up a shred of emotion or chemistry for their last "I love you."

No one cares about Liza or Chris -5
Speaking of people we don't care about, Eliza and Chris are still devoid of any distinctive personality traits. Chris was made a little more sympathetic when he was shown to genuinely care about perceived police brutality, but I hope they become less annoying and more three-dimensional posthaste. 

Tobias -5
Between his role in the first episode as the only person who had any idea what was going on, and his sage wisdom in this episode: "When civilization ends, it ends fast," and "This doesn't end," he's generally becoming the Greek chorus, when the entire point of a prequel is that the viewer doesn't need a Greek chorus. We already know exactly what's going on, which eliminates the need for spoon-fed exposition.


Final Tally: +13

Honestly, this episode almost would have worked as the pilot, which highlights just how unnecessary those first 90 minutes were. But this was a solid second episode, taking advantage of the premise and delivering a few solid hair-raising moments and atmospheric tension. Now if they could just develop the characters and stop killing off all the black people, we'll be in pretty good shape.
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