Review Scorecard: Fear the Walking Dead 'The Dog'

Monday, 14 September 2015 - 10:20AM
Fear the Walking Dead
Monday, 14 September 2015 - 10:20AM
Review Scorecard: Fear the Walking Dead 'The Dog'
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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

Madison is a bad-ass +10
The Walking Dead has had its ups and downs with female representation, to say the least, but Fear is doing a much better job so far. The women are generally portrayed as stronger, more practical, and more complex than the men (with the possible exception of Daniel), and Madison is the most well-rounded and interesting character of all. She demonstrates the ability to quickly accept reality, especially when she tries to kill Susan. She's clearly a caring person, but unlike Travis, she understands that sometimes a seemingly brutal action can be more kind. On a less feminist show, two male characters would have had the conversation that occurred between Madison and Liza, in which Madison tells Liza to put her down in case she becomes a walker because it would "break" Travis. But reversing the usual gender roles made this dynamic much more compelling.

The struggle to maintain humanity +5
There is a serious danger of the audience getting sick of Travis's pacifism. Since we've already seen 100-plus episodes of The Walking Dead, we understand that Madison, Liza, and Daniel are all correct in thinking that the walkers are dead, that they're lost to the world and no longer retain any qualities that make them human. This seems like a foregone conclusion to the audience, but realistically, if people were experiencing this "disease" for the first time, it would be difficult for any compassionate person to accept that killing them is automatically the answer, especially while they don't know for certain that there isn't a cure. 

But that being said, Travis also just generally seems like a weaker personality than Madison, and appears to have a talent for denial. Even if he thought there might be a chance for a cure, his objection to toting a shotgun even after witnessing the riots, and especially saying "good morning" to a zombified Susan while he takes out the trash demonstrates that he simply can't accept reality. It will be interesting to see how this contrast between his and Madison's personalities causes tension in their relationship, and hopefully the writers won't let him get too irritating.

Racial diversity +3
Although the central family is primarily white, there is a strong Hispanic presence on the show, and it's refreshing to see characters actually speaking Spanish, as this is much more reflective of the demographics in the United States The Asian characters have either been stereotypes (Tobias) or one-offs like Susan and her husband, and like the parent show, they still can't seem to keep any black male characters alive, but it's still progress.

Run-of-the-mill family bickering +3
The character development still needs a lot of work, but at least the families occasionally acted like real families in this episode. I loved that Madison, Alicia, and Nick had set Monopoly pieces, because all real families have assigned Monopoly pieces that reflect each member's personality (I'm always the thimble). Alicia's critique of the game: "This game's evil. Kindergarten capitalism" was the only genuinely good line of the entire episode (and portended her eventual defeat).

But the most family-ish moment might have been when Alicia held up the caravan because she had to pee. Of course that would happen on any family road trip, even in the zombie apocalypse.

Los Angeles turns out the lights +2

We already saw this in the above teaser, but it was still a frightening, "shit's getting real now" kind of a moment. 

Up close and personal zombie kills +3
The zombie kills on The Walking Dead have become impersonal and often perfunctory. We don't often get to see a high-stakes kill of a single walker anymore, but seeing Daniel blow the top of their neighbor's head clean off did the trick. And even though we didn't know Susan, the almost-hug between her and her husband was both suspenseful and genuinely sad.

The cavalry arrives +5
Once again, Travis is incredibly naive, as he places his trust in the authorities and opines that "things will get better now." Madison is canny enough to know that isn't true, and the show does a great job letting the audience know as well. The tanks are extremely intimidating, the soldiers are immediately sinister, so we know Madison is doing the right thing by lying to them, and the quarantine is terrifying, especially considering that we know how this story ends. For the entire episode, when Daniel talks about burning the bodies, when the soldiers ask if they've been exposed, all I could hear in my head was Rick's game-changing words, "We're all infected." This is how it happens.

"It's already too late." +2

+33 points

The Bad

Chris is a whiny baby -5
If Madison was the MVP this episode, Chris was definitely the LVP. All of the teenagers on this show can get a little whiny, but Chris is by far the most irritating. All he's done so far is whine, and unfortunately, it seems a lot more likely that Liza will be the first to die (aside from Griselda), especially considering that they may be setting up a weird quasi-incestuous romance between him and Alicia. 

Madison tries to keep Alicia ignorant -3
It makes sense that Madison would want to protect her children's safety, and maybe even their innocence as much as possible, but I don't believe for a second that the otherwise pragmatic Madison would think she could possibly shield Alicia from the mere knowledge of what's happening, or that she wouldn't understand that Alicia's ignorance would put her in more danger.

Fairly terrible dialogue -10
The writers have a nasty tendency of spoonfeeding us information about the relationships between the characters like we're five years old. Alicia says "I can't sleep when I'm waiting for someone to come home," Nick's eyes bulge at her, and then she continues, "Getting a major case of de ja vu." He's a drug addict, WE GET IT. And then Nick and Chris both have essentially the same extremely explicit conversation with Madison and Travis in order to cast doubt on Travis's attachment to Madison's family. I know Chris is a brat, but you'd think he could be a little more subtle than whining, "What can't we just go without them?" And then Nick tells Madison, "I don't need you, Mom, I need my medicine," as if we needed to be reminded that Madison is an enabling parent. The list goes on and on.

-18 points

Total: +15 points

I wouldn't quite say I'm "hooked" yet, but this was the first episode that convinced me I could be. The characters aren't exactly compelling, but they're starting to resemble human beings a little, and the militarization of what's left of society should be fascinating to watch. The panic has been the scariest part of the prequel so far, and while "all we have to fear is fear itself" is not exactly an original thesis statement, it's still a pretty damn exciting one.
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