The first season of Fear The Walking Dead was an undead wheeze of putrid air, which is to say I loved it. It was great to see the outbreak as it happened, chaos surrounding our heroes on all sides, and they can only watch the world descend into madness. It did feel a little rushed; the destruction of western civilization only took a few episodes before the back half of the season was spent in quarantine. Still, I was able to relate to the urban setting, the claustrophobia of a densely populated city, and the urgency that was always pressing against our heroes. Season 1 ended with the death of Elizabeth, Travis’ ex-wife and mother to his son, Chris. It broke the serenity that was found at Strand’s house and was a heavy way to end the season. How do our heroes fair minus one?
The episode begins with the world on fire. I may like this show as much as I do because I’ve always wanted to see LA burnt to the ground. Whether the destruction has travelled to the coast or there is active bombing to contain the outbreak, things are blowing up and burning down left and right. Strand, Nick, Daniel, Ofelia and Alicia take a boat out to the Abigail while Travis, Maddie and Chris wait onshore. The dead have pushed them to the shoreline and before Nick can reach them with the boat, Travis and Maddie have to fend off some walkers. I can forgive the fact that these people are a little green, as opposed to the killing machines we’re so used to in TWD, so a bit of clumsy fighting is expected. What I can’t forgive is Chris being so attached to his mother’s dead body that he’d just sit there and watch his father almost gets chunks bitten out of him. Nick arrives and they load up, Liza’s literal dead weight in tow. Seeing a walker get his faced diced by the outboard motor was oddly satisfying.
As Abigail takes our heroes further out, they take one last look at the coast, and further beyond we see the entire megalopolis of Los Angeles is engulfed in fire. Two jets deliver more bombs in what we know now is a futile attempt at containment.
Not even a few minutes into the episode proper and the group is faced with its first moral dilemma. A small raft crowded with people begs for assistance and while the consensus is that they should help these souls adrift, Strand makes it very clear that mercy has gone far enough and survival is top priority. Indeed, whether or not they like it, Strand is right. As Alicia listens in to the radio, she hears nothing but distress calls. The Coast Guard themselves are up shit creek. Chaos reigns.
While Strand navigates the open ocean with a clear conscience, seemingly content with hell on earth, the rest of the group struggles with the reality that they aren’t in any position to be Samaritans of any kind. Alicia hears someone playing music on the radio, a blessed soul who knows that at the end of it all, we’ll still be listening to David Bowie. Over the strains of Five Years this post-apocalyptic DJ coaxes Alicia into communicating with him. Whether he just wanted to know he wasn’t alone with Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars or has more sinister intentions remains to be seen.
Chris seems to have finished mourning his mother and joins Daniel on the aft of the ship for some fishing. Afterwards, Travis and Daniel have a moment. I like Daniel’s character a lot. In many ways he’s representative of the darkness in the world but also an almost heartless practicality. But what he does, what he’s done, has always been in the service of his family. Meanwhile Alicia and the music lover continue making nice over the radio.
Strand is an odd fellow, but Daniel thinks there’s more to him than eccentricity and tells Maddie as much. The two seem to make an unsaid plan to keep an eye on his actions. It also seems that the time has come to bid a final farewell to Liza and the group attempts to have a burial at sea. This is an opportunity for closure, to pay respects and to symbolically let go. Being able to bury someone and say goodbye is a luxury as we’ve seen in TWD. I try to put myself in the position of these characters before judging their actions. What would I do if my wife/parent/friend was bitten? How would I feel if they were killed? How would I react? Well, let me tell you: I certainly wouldn’t have a full blown blasphemous emo meltdown and dump my mother’s corpse into the ocean (that I spent days crying over, but no one else gets to pay respects to) before punching my dad in the goddamn mouth. Chris, I officially crown you Most Hated Character. You have big shoes to fill. Remember when people wanted Carl, a literal child, to die?
Alicia contacts her DJ friend, Jack, only to find he’s in a bit of trouble. His boat is sinking. She tries to rally support for a rescue but Strand puts his foot down. We’re not at a point where our heroes can make decisions and act on them because as Strand so eloquently put it, “it’s my goddamn boat.” He reminds them of their fates had he not taken them along, and when Nick goes up to explain Alicia’s good nature, the two have a great moment. I didn’t like Nick at first but his fuck-it-all attitude grew on me, the way it did Strand. Nick doesn’t equate his addiction with survivor’s instinct or fearlessness, to which Strand poignantly asks,
“What does fearlessness look like in this world?”
Later the group seems to have one single moment of unity and community at the dinner table, before Chris makes Shithead Move #3 and jumps off the back of the boat. Demonstrating aforementioned fearlessness, Nick dives in after him. After it’s clear that Chris was just begging for attention, they come across walkers in the water...floaters? They were part of an overturned boat that looked to be riddled with bullets and purposefully sunk. After some exploring Nick finds a yacht log, which might prove to be useful in some nautical sense that I’m not aware of. Strand gets an alert and surmises that whoever sank the other boat is still nearby. While Chris may be the emo jackass of the series, the Asshole Champion might just be Alicia for being chatty with a potential pirate and ostensibly giving away Abigail’s position. We are left to wait until next week to see if our heroes find themselves in a Negan-esque situation, but with gangplanks instead of baseball bats.
Since there is no comic series for the show to loosely follow, there really is no telling what’s going to happen on FTWD. That’s part of the draw for me, but at the same time the writers aren’t beholden to the top notch storytelling of the comic. Season 1 was engaging in my opinion but let’s see if the storytelling stays afloat (ha) in season 2.
Written by A Play On Nerds contributor, Jerry Herrera - Lover of horror, sci fi, and fantasy in that order. Semi-permanent Disneyland resident. I'm at least one of the droids you're looking for. Twitter: @FrankenJerry - Instagram: @GeraldoPedro