Fear the Walking Dead: "Cobalt" (Season 1, Episode 5)

Flabbergasted

I guess it's official now that this show is just marking time in a six-episode season until the finale. But did it have to be such a structural mess?

Lazy is the word that pops to mind. Los Angeles is the most densely populated urban area in the United States, clocking in at 7,000 people per square mile for a grand total north of twelve million. If that city has fallen to zombies, it just might be the single worst place on the face of an appalling earth. The mayhem would be unimaginable. Yet we're supposed to believe that 2000 zombies locked in the Staples Arena is a big deal on a stage that massive. We're also supposed to believe the military would be driving around essentially empty streets. We're even supposed to believe that an eerie calm is the natural state of affairs.

Horse***.

I'm sorry if that's harsh, but I didn't propose this prequel. The creators are the ones who supposedly wanted to explore society falling apart. They just don't have the budget or the imagination for it. Instead we're now getting the umpteenth rendition of the tired old "evil military" trope. And a particularly anemic representation at that. Operation Cobalt is the focus of this episode. Turns out it's a command for the military to evacuate LA and kill every able-bodied civilian on the way out. One more tired, lame plot device that exists solely for this show to wheeze its way to the finish line of Episode 6.

The military are simultaneously incompetent, bombastic, friendly and evil. Daniel Salazar, the barber from El Salvador, captures a grunt to torture him with razor blades until he reveals the truth about Cobalt. Think of every hack movie or TV scene purporting to explore the need to torture since 9/11, mash them all together, drain off any oily trace of vitality floating on the top, dumb it down by fifty percent, and you're there. In between is a bunch of boring stuff.

Liza is working at a military field hospital with Dr. Exnor. For some reason there are about thirty people in a barbed wire fence in the basement. Nick is one of them. That's just the military being simultaneously helpful, evil and inept all at once again.

Travis is still boring and ineffectual. He whines to Lt. Moyers about last episode's removal of Griselda and Nick to the field hospital. After some manly asshole banter from Moyers, the lieutenant agrees to take Travis to the hospital. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Moyers stops along the way to berate Travis into shooting a zombie, but is completely cool with it when Travis can't. Then they stop off to get involved in some incident with zombies. Travis stays in the car. We stay there with him. Some interesting stuff may have happened off camera. Moyers does die off camera. The surviving soldiers dump Travis back at his neighborhood.

Long, pointless and uninteresting. That's the Travis vignette this week. Same as any other week..

Alicia and Chris go to some upper middle class house, try on nice clothes, get drunk and break stuff. Then they go back to their house. They meet Travis. Believe it or not, that's even less thrilling than it sounds.

The grunt Daniel is torturing is the one who liked Ofelia last episode. This episode the nameless grunt keeps Ofelia from being seized by the evil military, even walks her back home for safety. He also offers to tell Daniel whatever he wants to know. That makes sense because he genuinely likes Ofelia, and we can assume he doesn't want her shot the next morning (Cobalt starts at 0900 tomorrow). Daniel tortures him anyway. After all, we've got ten minutes to kill in Episode 5.

One of the guys in the field hospital's fenced prison is an uber alpha male named Strand. He makes the epic Alex Baldwin salesman from Glengarry Glen Ross look like a pansy mama's boy. He'd be entertaining if he weren't so absurdly over the top. He saves Nick because he'll "need his skills." Really? Who needs the skill set, not to mention the behavior, of a heroin addict in a life and death situation?

Daniel treks all the way to the Staples Arena. That's a long way. He can do that because he has awesome hiking skills and the evil military is incompetent. I guess he's going to break loose all 2000 zombies inside (out of a population of 12 million) to wreck havoc on somebody.

I'm sure it will be poorly thought out and presented next week. Something to look forward to.

Who could have guessed what "Fear the Walking Dead" really meant? It's a commentary on their own show.    

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