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Fear The Walking Dead, Ep 1.03, “The Dog”

Fear The Walking Dead, Ep 1.03, “The Dog”

Fear The Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 3, “The Dog”
Written by Jack LoGiudice
Directed by Adam Davidson
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on AMC

Realism begins to set in this episode on Fear The Walking Dead. This hour, a mostly quiet one, sees the characters realize that their worlds are crumbling, and not just temporarily. Grappling with these truths is one of the show’s most promising aspects. This pre-apocalypse semi-hell is still an interesting setting, but the show sometimes seems to be fighting against banality anyway.

“The Dog” sees Travis and Maddie reunited after Travis, Chris, and Liza escape L.A. with the Salazar family in tow. Maddie, Alicia, and Nick wait the night in their house for Travis, and deal with threats from a particularly hungry neighbor. The best part of this episode occurs before the opening credits. As we see Los Angeles fall, not to walkers, but to riots, the terror this show can instill is at its height. These scenes are truly chaotic, but directed in a way that keeps them from becoming incomprehensible. There’s a vivid sense of dread, as if these riots are both horrible and inevitable.

As for the rest of the episode, it benefits a great deal from the inclusion of Daniel Salazar, the patriarch and barber who sheltered Travis during the riots. Salazar, as played by Ruben Blades, is less morally upright, a character who tells his daughter, “It is the good ones who die first.” He knows what’s coming and more importantly, he’s the only character who seems prepared to deal with a life that could change drastically. Several key truths come across here. Nick delivers the first of these, saying what everyone around him is unwilling to, that those corpses walking around are in fact dead. Another comes from Maddie, who tells Liza that she must be the one to put Maddie down, if Maddie ever ends up like the walkers that they have seen.

What’s worrisome is that these harsh truths and horrifying moments often don’t land the way they should. The use of Susan, a close friend of Maddie who is now a walker, as a kind of tragic figure should work well. The way her husband Patrick greets her as she is gunned down is well done, but it doesn’t hit particularly hard. Using somebody like this—somebody who Maddie knows she should put down, but is unable to—should bring up questions that can’t be answered in a single sentence. Instead, Travis dismisses Maddie’s attempt to deal with Susan, telling her that this is not a choice that she has the right to make. On paper, this scene could be one in which Maddie grapples with a new reality in which it’s not about what she should do, but what she has to do. But the exchange falls flat.

Alicia Debnam-Carey

That’s a truth that pervades Fear The Walking Dead as a whole. Its concepts are ones which should be fascinating, but they never really seem to be. This show has shown us that it is its own thing. Its ideas are not those of The Walking Dead, where the world is dead and gone. This show looks at what it means for a woman to have to kill her close friend, someone she has known all her life. It explores pandemonium, when people are looking for answers they don’t yet realize they will never get.

In “The Dog”, Fear The Walking Dead makes its characters followers. The only agency they have really taken on in any significant scale thus far is immediately undone when they are surrounded by a military force. These guys seem to have come to save the day. The cavalry has arrived, and the characters may believe that a resolution to this crisis comes with it. If the show understands what’s good for it, though, these military figures will make things worse, not better. Instead of creating the order that many within the show so desperately crave, they will prove that order is no longer possible.

Fear The Walking Dead’s job over the rest of the season can be boiled down to something simple: Travis, who doesn’t believe in guns and thinks that order can be restored, needs to be proven wrong. Daniel, who looks on as Travis convinces Maddie not to bash her neighbor’s skull in and calls both of them weak, needs to be proven right. If the show can do that, its last three episodes will make it a show worth watching. If not, well, there’s always Mr. Robot, right?