This review is going to be different, folks. I almost didn’t bother writing it at all. Week one, 3 out of our 4 in the Bubble watched the show and of that, one didn’t bother with the final 30 minutes. Week two, 2 out of the 4 in the Bubble watched the show, both of whom messed with their cell phones nearly the entire episode. [Audible Sigh]
For those of you who would like a spoiler-filled play by play of what went down in the second episode, please click here.
Let’s see…where should we begin? I’m just looking over my notes, what few I bothered to write, and there really is no good way to do this other than to jump right in. So here goes, an open rant with thoughts coming in no particular order…
First off, the mom…what’s her name? Madison? Right off the bat, that should give you some indication of my ambivalence towards these characters; I don’t care enough about them to remember their names. In fact, going by many of the posts I’ve read on Twitter and Facebook since last night, that seems to be a unifying factor among viewers: they don’t like the characters. Anyhow, the mom has this quality about her. I can’t quite put my finger on it. But, whatever it is, that quality repels me. It makes me miss both Lori and Andrea, maybe even Amy, too. She is a terrible mother–this is a unanimous sentiment on social media. Talk to your kids, for god’s sake! They aren’t toddlers. They aren’t stupid, in fact, one of them has already mowed down a walker. Get over yourself, woman. You are not in control. Then, on the other end of the spectrum we have Travis, who nonchalantly tells his ex, while holed up in a barber shop, people die and they don’t necessarily stay dead anymore. I’m sorry…what now? No sugar coating at all. But, the bigger surprise? No one batted an eye when he said it. Not a single one of them called bullshit or ran to the window for a peek. None of these reactions (or lack therof) are genuine. I’m sorry.
Let’s go back to season 1 of The Walking Dead for a few minutes. By the time we see the survivors at the camp at the quarry, it’s been 6-8weeks since things began to fall apart. Imagine all that they have seen and experienced in that time. Yet, look at their faces when a lone walker wanders up and eats Daryl’s precious deer. They are scared. They are repulsed. They don’t kill it properly. Later, when their camp is invaded by about a dozen walkers, slow and shambling, the humans (who have weapons and greater numbers) are freaking the eff out. It is a scene of total chaos and panic full of screams and tears and sheer terror. In last night’s episode of Fear, Madison beats the principal with a fire extinguisher like a BOSS, never batting an eye. The few tears she shed as she attempted to wash the blood stains off of her clothes were entirely empty and void of real emotion. Sure, you can blame it on shock or adrenaline. But, the title of the show is Fear, and it is exactly what the series is lacking.
The only person who showed genuine fear was Tobias. I felt sympathy for him….right up until he gave the Justin Long-explains-a-fire-sale-to-Bruce-Willis-speech from Live Free or Die Hard. Then, he became expendable to me.
I find it interesting, as always, the myriad ways that the series attempts to turn a mirror on society, giving us a reflection of what it is we are doing to ourselves and how we will ultimately be our own demise. This isn’t a new concept. It is the benchmark of any good ‘zombie’ story. Romero attacked commercialism with Dawn of the Dead. And, when compared with Fear, I have to say that I think Shaun of the Dead did a much better job of commenting on how we isolate ourselves and ignore the world around us, virtually blind to death at our door. The characters in Shaun’s world were self-absorbed, lost in video games, television programs, partying with their friends at the pub, having relationship issues, and so forth. So wrapped up in their own drama that they can’t see the forest for the trees. Sound familiar, Fear? This isn’t new territory you are exploring; you’re just doing it with a bigger budget.
Seeing the police officer stocking up on bottled water was an indication that they knew what was coming down the pipe and were trying to be prepared. (I think we’ll see squad car 13 again at some point, when Travis and co. get thirsty, as that officer will have bitten the dust). It made me uncomfortable to see that scene, innocuous as it was, given the state of civilian-police affairs lately. It presented the idea that police officers are self-serving. And, I disagree wholeheartedly. While there are ‘bad apples’ on every police force since the concept of a police force began, that does not mean that they are all like that. We reflected on the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina this weekend, 10 years after the gulf coast was devastated. Roughly 1/3 of the NOPD abandoned their posts as the hurricane hit; some to rescue loved ones, others out of pure cowardice. But what about the other 2/3 of them? They stayed. We don’t hear much about their stories because it’s easier to report on the less favorable aspects of a police department, rather than the personal sacrifices made by the good. Fear showed us an example of an officer clearly looking out for his (or his squad’s) best interests, rather than the public’s. This scene was followed by the chaos and unrest of the protests over the supposed shooting of an unarmed “homeless” man. Given the state of the actual world, I see this series as an opportunity for Fear to try and bridge that communication gap, offer a salve for the gaping wound in our society that pits those who serve against those they protect. We expect our corrupt government and warped media to withhold information from the public, but wouldn’t it be nice to see examples of some more “Officer Friendly” types in the world?
I guess it’s difficult to rectify their portrayal of the police given that the show effectively pulled off a racist hat-trick. In episode 1, Fear introduced a whopping 3 black characters (one of whom, naturally, was a drug dealer). By episode 2, they were all gone. Don’t think your fans didn’t notice. I’ve seen more #blacklivesmatter jokes regarding FTWD and TWD in the last 8 days than I ever care to. It took a few seasons for TWD to drop their Highlander routine (“there can be only one”) and learn to represent Georgia properly, though the numbers of living and undead blacks on the series are entirely skewed. I’ve never been to California, myself. But, I imagine that it is a diverse place. We’ll soon see.
I can’t say that TWD has desensitized me to the undead. I mean, maybe a little. But, to this day there are episodes that make me yell at the television and/or cause nightmares. Numerous episodes during the first 2 seasons still upset me when I watch them all these years later. I haven’t felt myself tense up during Fear. And, the few times where tension was starting to build for me, AMC threw in another commercial break. 16 minutes into the episode, we’d had 2 commercial breaks and I was already playing on Twitter. Television doesn’t lend itself to that level of tension. The disruptions break the momentum and do little to make us feel connected to these characters.
Check out this article I found. It highlights 5 things that are actually positives about the series, and I am not going to argue with any of them.
I had a nice conversation with a friend after the show aired. He’s someone who’s opinion on TWD I absolutely trust, and for good reason. Anyhow, we both shared the same sentiment: Would this show matter to anyone if it wasn’t associated with The Walking Dead? Come on now…be 100% honest with me and with yourself. Would you care that much about it? Are the actors good enough to carry the story? Is the writing on Fear strong enough to support a series? Should this have been a mini-series? “Better Call Saul is a quirky, dark character study that manages to stand on its own without being overshadowed by the series that spawned it.”[Rotten Tomatoes] Can you say the same thing about Fear? AMC has already ordered a second season, but do you think it will make it to season 3? I really want to know your thoughts!
Lastly, the kid’s birthday party with the inflatable on the lawn….nod to Zombieland. And, Nick’s withdrawals need a dead baby; give us an homage to Trainspotting!!