TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 1 “Monster” (USA, 2016)

We jump into Season 2 of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead with what looks like a short, confusing time jump. Christopher is still leaning over his mother’s corpse but it seems like the whole city has been fire-bombed, creating this smokey red tone to kickstart the premiere in a surprisingly exciting way. Sure, it feels contrived, but it picks up the pace well and moves the show’s still-slightly-unfamiliar (we only had six episodes last year) characters into what seems like the biggest production point of this season, the open waters. As anyone who watched through the “sometimes good, sometimes bad” first season would know, the purposely mysterious, eccentric, and seemingly wealthy Strand has taken the group onto his impressively large yacht named “Abigal” as they finally start adjusting to the impeding zombie apocalypse, thinking they might fare better at sea.

“We’re not doing The Love Boat with zombies”, said showrunner Dave Erickson in the lead-up to the premiere, and that’s blatantly obvious here; these characters aren’t getting along at all, and they seem rather distant from one another. The pragmatic Strand [why don’t they just call him Victor? or Vic?] wants it to be known that he is the captain of the boat and these are his rules in place, but he seemingly neglects to mention that before anyone else can start making stupid decisions and putting the group at risk.

Lorenzo James Henrie’s portrayal of Christopher’s grief over his mother was nicely done, restrained until just the right moment and then released when he jumped into the water (not because he wanted to die, but because he wanted to feel something – I assume), so his initially frustrating obliviousness is understandable. Alicia’s naive empathy with someone (who is obviously somewhat villainous) over the radio was annoying to watch, but this – along with the criticism of some character choices from season 1 – is counterbalanced with the fact that this is a new group (not Rick Grimes and friends) who are still trying to make sense of what is happening and don’t quite know what to do, how to act, or how to practice caution in a world which we – as viewers – have seen brings out the worst in humanity. Trying to empathise with this psychology requires a bit of patience from us as viewers, so we must first take that into consideration before lambasting the stupidity of pretty much everyone except Strand, Travis, and Daniel.

It’s also hard to buy that, after they just escaped a city on fire, Alicia would keep the radio transmissions to herself to begin with.

The dynamic between Christopher, who is somewhat distant from his father, and Daniel, who may predictably become a figure figure to the grieving kid is slightly similar to the Rick-Carl-Shane dynamic hinted at when The Walking Dead first began, which could be interesting if done right but from that on-the-nose fishing scene, it doesn’t seem like it will end up as anything other than a dull arc. That dynamic is part of a larger family tension that is so far holding this show back, and if that continues to undercut the actual terror that the crew are obviously trying to strike up with the tone and the isolation of the sea then FTWD still may take awhile to find it’s feet. Will it be

So far, any zombie scenes feel contrived to drum up jump-scares, something The Walking Dead didn’t resort to until much later in the series. If they are doing this so early in the show without fully capitalising on the premise then it’s really not looking good for the remaining 14 episodes; on the other hand, it’d be stupid to write a season of any show of based on it’s first episode so let’s just settle for somewhere in between right now.

Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

Highlights:

  • Strand laying down the law
  • Daniel not trusting Strand
  • Travis warming to Stand’s pragmatism
  • Opening scene

Lowlights:

  • Moody Christopher
  • Alicia’s naive radio transmissions
  • Christopher and Daniel dynamic predictable
  • Family tension overshadowing the terror

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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy-Editor-At-Large of the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.

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