Fear the Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 2, “So Close, Yet So Far”
Written by Marco Ramirez
Directed by Adam Davidson
Airs Sundays at 9pm (ET) on AMC
Fear the Walking Dead’s second episode sees a divide, of sorts. It is an episode that sees a world in collapse, and sees the main characters coming to terms with a completely new reality. Meanwhile, the world itself seems almost reluctant to believe what is coming. It’s a divide that can be frustrating for viewers, but one that pays off in a series of spectacular scenes toward the episode’s end. This second installment is what the show should always be.
The episode sees the disjointed family we met in the pilot split up, as Travis attempts to collect his son and ex-wife while Maddie deals with Nick’s withdrawal. Eventually, Maddie is forced to go to the high school to get pain medicine for Nick, and Travis decides to wait out the riots that are occurring in downtown Los Angeles in a family owned barber shop.
The episode starts slow. It picks up right where last week’s ended, and it takes a little while for the plot to kick in. Once it does, the world of the show begins to truly unhinge itself. It’s a world filled with uncertainty.
The most notable moment of the episode comes when Maddie bashes the principal, Artie’s, head in. It’s clear here that Maddie understands that those who have been infected are beyond help. As far as the progression of the disease is concerned, it’s now a question of survival, not containment.
This scene is great. The moral quandaries are right there. As far as Maddie is concerned, she just killed someone, an act that would usually be unthinkable. Maddie doesn’t stop there, though, as she stops Alicia from helping their neighbor, who is likely being eaten to death just outside their door. Maddie became the most interesting character on Fear this week by making her goal the survival of those she cares about. She’s ready and willing to make sacrifices. In other great news, this means that Kim Dickens gets to act in this episode. She plays Maddie as overwhelmed, a character that only holds her life together because the situation demands it.
Unfortunately, Dickens holds up the banner of great performance on her own this week. Otherwise, the characters still come across as one-dimensional. Frank Dillane’s Nick, who was the highlight of the show’s first episode, is still a strong screen presence, but Nick does little besides deal with this withdrawal and act petrified this week. Dillane does this well, but he needs more to do.
The real key to this week, though, are the scenes in downtown LA, where Travis’s son Chris is. What starts as the shooting of a homeless person who is likely infected becomes a massive riot on the streets of the city which is truly terrifying and utterly real. What it amounts to, ultimately, is a logical human response to the kind of chaos that would be brought about by an epidemic of this level.
A disease like this, one that forces cops to shoot down unarmed civilians, could only bring utter chaos as people stop trusting those in power and begin looking out for only those closest to them. It’s a perfectly real and legitimate result of a public consciousness that initially unites to demand justice and ultimately discovers that pandemonium may be the new world order. The direction in these scenes, and the episode in general, remains superb. This may be in part the result of the consistency provided by Adam Davidson, who also directed the pilot. He brings a suspenseful tone to this world that it may not have otherwise, and this tone proves essential in keeping the show involving. The riots in particular are noteworthy, and they hit particularly close to home given some of the protesting that has recently made headlines.
These scenes are what this show should be. If it examines the societal implications of a world without laws, a world on the brink of complete anarchy, then it can make something of itself. It can step out of the shadow of its older brother in The Walking Dead and look at the way in which massive groups of people fight with and mistrust one another, a feat that the original show’s small numbers leave it incapable of doing.
The characters on Fear the Walking Dead are thin. This is not entirely the fault of the actors. The show itself suffers from dialogue that can range from frustratingly on the nose to remarkably expository. Right now, the show is not great. It’s good, and it shows us here what can make it great. Fear and uncertainty are what this show’s about, and it’s also what this show is good at. Keep the focus on that. Oh, and also?
Listen to Tobias. That kid may be the only one in this universe who’s seen a zombie movie.