Fear the Walking Dead: "So Close, Yet So Far" (Season 1, Episode 2)

Flabbergasted

The title of tonight's episode sums up the series to date: a sure-fire hit that everyone's waiting to see rev up. This hour is better than last week's interminable pilot, but it hasn't found its stride yet.

The main problem remains a failure to creatively work through the show's initial conceit, namely that the audience knows what's happening while the characters don't. This could work. The reason it's progressing in such fits and starts on the screen is an appalling lack of imagination. Tonight's episode generated tension by having characters blatantly and repeatedly refuse to communicate stunning information that anyone would want to talk about with as many people as they could.

Case in point: Alicia finds her boyfriend Matt sick in his house. There are signs of a struggle in the entryway. He has a fever and severe joint pain that we, the audience, know comes from having been bitten by a zombie. And he has been bitten. When Travis arrives, he finds the wound on Matt's shoulder. Now mind you, Matt is still talking and lucid. Wouldn't you think he'd say "OMG--this crazy guy bit me!" Wouldn't you think Alicia or Travis would say "OMG--you've been bitten! What happened?"

Nope. Nobody cares. Not even Matt.

Madison and Travis, who've seen a dead body come back to life, just tell Alicia they have to go because Matt is dangerous. Wouldn't you think they'd say "OMG--a dead body reanimated and attacked us!" That kind of thing is still uncommon. Wouldn't you want to share that?

Nope. It's best Alicia not understand any of their decisions.

That's more than bad parenting. It also makes for bad, forced drama.

After they abandon Matt, our makeshift family of Travis (Dad), Maddie (mom), Nick (drug addict son) and Alicia (A student daughter) high tail it back to their home where again no one shares any information. Travis ultimately decides to go looking for Chris, his son from a previous marriage. Chris has fallen in with an angry crowd that is protesting the police for having shot some homeless guy twenty times. That's mildly clever. Take current events and transport them to a zombie apocalypse where the police would have a perfectly valid excuse for shooting someone twenty times. Only no one understands it's valid yet. More of that kind of stuff would work better than dumb people who don't talk to each other.

Travis and his ex-wife Eliza track down Chris just as a riot breaks out. They mill about in a panic until a local barber who's closing his shop allows them to take refuge. They'll be stuck there for the rest of the episode.

Maddie goes to her abandoned school for supplies. She runs into Tobias, the nerd who understands this is the zombie apocalypse. They both run into the show's first full up Walker in the form of the principal. Tobias goes for a standard knife-into-the-skull kill, but damn the luck--fresh zombies have harder heads. Maddie finally takes the principal's corpse out with multiple blows from a fire extinguisher. It's an effectively staged first zombie close-up. It's also the action highlight of the series thus far.

Nick the drug addict is going into withdrawal. He throws up a lot. Graphically. I could have done without that.

When Maddie comes home, Alicia asks "What the hell happened?" No answer of course. Why would you want to tell anyone about your first battle to the finish with a zombie? And I'm sure that information would be of no help to Alicia if she gets cut off on her own.

A neighbor screams. Alicia wants to help. Maddie won't let her.

"Tell me what's going on, Mom?"

Maddie just stands there. Not a peep.

I'm still kind of pissed off about that. Anyway, I'll do the finale of "Falling Skies" tomoorrow. I'm guessing it sucked.             

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