Fear the Walking Dead: Rioters Gonna Riot

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Is it an artistic feat to capture the sheer banality of being stuck at home while the apocalypse rages outside, or is it just another excruciatingly dull hour of television? We’ll let you be the judge, but if this entire recap were nothing more than, “Dad makes it back home with his other family and the barber’s family, then the army shows up,” you would be completely up to date and ready for the next episode.

But fear not, adoring fans, we will recount every snore-inducing scene as Fear the Walking Dead continues to creep in its petty pace towards a well established future we’ve already been a part of for five years.

We open in the barber shop, where the riot continues to rage right out front. Other son Chris watches through the metal-gated window. Dad tells him to move back. He doesn’t. End of scene.

TV Writing 101: If your characters are perpetually looking out windows at more interesting scenes, you're doing something wrong.

TV Writing 101: If your characters are perpetually looking out windows at a more interesting scene, you’re doing something wrong.

At home, obnoxious teenage daughter Alicia is also passively watching the apocalypse through the front window, only nothing is happening here. Detoxing son Nick worries about his OxyContin supply, while Mom assures the kiddos that Dad will be home soon. End of scene.

At the barber shop, Chris pleads with Dad to abandon his new family and flee the city with just Ex-wife an him, because all teenagers are dicks. The rioters finally break into the neighboring shop and start looting. Dad says not to worry because there’s nothing in a barber shop worth stealing. Mr. Barber pulls Dad aside and whines that there is too stuff worth stealing here. Dad assures Mr. Barber than he was just bullshitting his son to keep him calm. Since the entire conversation is loud and angry, there’s no way Chris—just 10 feet away—didn’t hear, but everybody pretends he didn’t so I guess we’re supposed to, too.

Just then, Chris warns that the wall is getting hot. If we’d gotten to see flames or the room started filling with smoke, we might feel some immediacy or danger, but nah. Dad says they’ll have to flee through the riot towards the pickup truck. Mr. Barber says he’s taking his family in a different direction, then doesn’t. They open the metal gate, and rioters immediately pour into the shop but ignore our fleeing heroes because they’re looters, not a lynch mob, so of course they ignore them. Duh. Not a single rioter gives a shit about them, much like the audience.

In the middle of the street, a zombie is munching on a police officer, but somehow NO ONE CARES. What the fuck, show? I know it’s a riot, but if someone is KILLING AND EATING A LIVING PERSON, I think that might draw some attention. Instead, the rioters continue their rioting, joyously. In fact, it seems more like they’re reveling. Are we sure the Lakers didn’t just win the national championship and this is all just a giant Three’s Company-esque misunderstanding?

At home, Mom pulls out a board game—Monopoly. This may be the biggest middle finger to the audience ever seen on television. Monopoly isn’t fucking interesting when you’re the one playing it. THERE IS A ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE GOING ON, and we’re watching Monopoly. The family picks their game pieces (Nick is the racecar, if you’re interested, which you’re not, because why the hell would you be?) and immediately starts playing, despite the fact that we all know it takes 20 minutes to set up a game of Monopoly because all the cards and money are a big mess in the box and nobody remembers how much money people start with and is there supposed to be money on Free Parking or no?

You know, for a runaway druggie and a surly egghead, these kids are every bit as docile and subservient as the Duggar girls. I can only imagine their mother beat them severely as toddlers.

"Couldn't we at least play Words with Friends?"

“Couldn’t we at least play Words with Friends?”

In the riot, people are rattling scaffolding. Just rattling the hell out of it. Look at them rattle that scaffolding. Ooo, scary. Until this moment, it seemed like the show might be 100 times more interesting if we were following one of the rioters, since they’re the ones who are emotionally and actively engaged in what’s going on the world, but apparently not. The government is hiding a deadly plague and the cops keep killing the infected, so I’m going to go rattle this scaffolding until I get answers!!! Sigh. Somewhere, somebody with agency is making decisions and taking action, and we’re going to avoid them like the zombie plague.

The scaffolding comes crashing down! Mrs. Barber’s foot is caught underneath. She is quickly carried to the pickup and dumped in the back. Good thing no one bothered to flip over or set fire to the truck. That scaffolding was a much more tempting target.

Good thing Dad drives a Ford POS.

Good thing Dad drives a 1983 Chevy POS.

Back home, Nick buys Boardwalk to go with his Park Place. Yes, that’s what’s happening. On television. It wouldn’t be watchable even if Al Michaels and John Madden were calling the play-by-play. Mom hears a noise and silences the kids. But it’s nothing. Yeah.

TV Writing 101: If your characters are perpetually looking out windows at a LESS interesting scene, you're doing something wrong.

TV Writing 101: If your characters are perpetually looking out windows at a LESS interesting scene, you’re doing something wrong.

The family plays on in silence. Finally, Alicia says, “I’m having major déjà vu right now.” Monopoly is what the family usually plays in the zombie apocalypse? No, she’s talking about waiting for her real dad to come home, only he never did.

In the pickup, the radio tells us things we already know. Our heroes arrive at a hospital, but it’s barricaded off. Only, the SWAT team is facing toward the hospital, keeping people in, not out. Wow, imagine all the kickass stories going on inside there!!! THAT WOULD MAKE AN AWESOME EPISODE! Instead, we’re stuck with these boring assholes. Through the car window, they watch the cops gun down a lone zombie shambling out the hospital door, then speed away for home, figuring all the hospitals in town are in the same FUBAR situation.

"STAY INSIDE THE HOSPITAL! DO NOT BRING YOUR INTERESTING STORIES OUT HERE!"

“STAY INSIDE THE HOSPITAL! DO NOT BRING YOUR INTERESTING STORIES OUT HERE!”

We spend a solid 60 seconds watching them drive in silence, and then they see the lights start to go out across the city. Whoop-de-shit, the lights cut out last episode, too. This is not a dramatic moment, show! DON’T YOU DARE TO COMMERCIAL ON TH—

Damn it.

Our dramatic escape.

Our dramatic escape.

Back home, the lights go out. Again. Mom orders Alicia to clean up the board game because she lost, although presumably either Mom or Nick did, too. Nick takes this moment alone with Mom to suggest maybe Dad already skipped town with his old family and they should do the same. Gosh, what will Mom do?? Yeah, there’s no real drama here. She’s not even tempted. It only makes Nick look like an asshole and wastes the audience’s time.

Once again, there are noises outside. Will it lead anywhere this time? Yes, but nonsensically. They discover a dog in the backyard, so they let him in. The dog’s magic zombie radar system apparently goes off because it runs for the front door and starts barking its head off. Yep, there’s a zombie there. Fortunately, the front door has a lock.

…or maybe it doesn’t because the family immediately skedaddles out the back door, over the fence, and through a… shanty town? Halloween maze? What the hell is with the labyrinth of chicken wire in the back alley between them and their neighbors?

By the time they break into the neighbor’s house, the zombie is in their kitchen somehow. Maybe the stray dog opened the door for it. The dog growls and barks and snarls but otherwise just stands there until the zombie reaches down and kills it with its bare hands and THAT’S A GERMAN SHEPHERD HOW STRONG IS THAT DAMN ZOMBIE TO REACH DOWN AND CASUALLY KILL IT BAREHANDED??

In the neighbor’s house, the lights come on, then go off again. Great, that was a waste of 30 seconds.

"I wonder if they have a Scrabble board we could steal."

“I wonder if they have a Scrabble board we could steal.”

Mom grabs the neighbor’s shotgun and loads it. That’s when Dad finally drives up the driveway back at the house. OH NOES! There’s a zombie in there!! Somehow!

Mom shoves the shotgun into Nick’s hands because… he has a penis? What the absolute fuck? He’s a detoxing junkie, and she’s the badass who bashed a zombie’s head in with a fire extinguisher. SHE SHOULD HAVE THE GUN. But instead, Mom goes running off empty-handed toward the house with the zombie. Nick follows—so not only did Mom disarm herself before sprinting into a dangerous situation but she made it absolutely necessary for her own child to follow her. That’s not just bad zombie survival skills, it’s bad parenting.

Dad enters the house and searches around until he finds the zombie eating the dog. “Ketchup?” he offers. No, not really, because that would have been awesome. Instead he tries to get through to the guy, whose name was Peter. Okay, I’ll accept that Dad has to try talking first because he doesn’t know anything about zombies, but does he really have to stand perfectly still while he does it? Is this guy too stupid to talk and walk backwards at the same time? The zombie grabs him, and they struggle.

"Is this because I accidentally mowed over your daffodils last spring?"

“Is this because I accidentally mowed over your daffodils last spring?”

In the chicken wire labyrinth, Nick realizes they forgot the box of shotgun shells, so he sends Alicia back for them alone.

In the house, BOOM! The zombie’s head explodes. It’s Mr. Barber with Nick’s shotgun. (Making it that much more ridiculous that Mom handed him the shotgun to begin with.)

fear 1.3 shotgun

Rule #1: Double tap.

In the labyrinth, on her way back with ammunition, Alicia gets grabbed by a zombie. Please die. Please die. Nah, she pulls away. But then she gets grabbed again trying to scale the fence back into her backyard. Other son Chris grabs her and yanks her to safety, but a freaked-out Alicia flails wildly and smacks him in the face on the way down.

While Alicia and Chris run off in separate directions to pout, Nick and Dad stare through the fence at the zombie… It’s Susan, the nice Asian-American neighbor whose shotgun they stole. At least it’s not a black guy for once.

 

Dad laments Susan catching the mysterious illness, and Nick says—all mugging for the camera—“She’s not sick. She’s dead.”

It’s an okay dramatic line to end the scene on, but that would require some competence on the part of the show makers, so instead we tack on one more line: “Why would you say that?” says Dad.

Not only does it ruin the moment, but it points out that our heroes aren’t really learning anything. Nick shouldn’t know for sure that zombies are dead yet. Are they going to try to capture Susan, who is their close friend, and try to treat her? And then figure out she’s got no heartbeat and isn’t breathing? That’s something that should have happened in episode 1, but it’s not even going to happen now. Instead they just walk away, leaving her reaching through the fence trying to kill anyone who wanders too close. And that’s exactly where Susan is in the morning, still reaching futilely through the fence. So that’s how they treat a close family friend who they think is alive, sick, and delirious. Just let her wander around, alone, all night.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. It’s still night. Inside the house, Dad checks out Chris’s bleeding nose and pronounces him fine. The kid demands to know what happened to that zombie man in the kitchen and the zombie lady at the fence. “People are getting sick,” says Dad. THANKS FOR THE INFO.

TV Writing 101: If your characters are perpetually looking out windows, you've probably picked the wrong protagonists for your story, no matter what they're looking at.

TV Writing 101: If your characters are perpetually looking out the window for any reason, you should probably just start again from scratch.

A bit later, everyone is gathered in the living room. Dad insists they wait to flee town until morning when Mr. Barber’s cousin will fetch him, his wife, and their daughter. Everyone else protests, but Mom eventually strikes a deal that they’ll stick around ‘til morning if Dad cleans up the zombie corpse in the kitchen.

Mom is clearly a psychopath. This is the second friend TODAY whose head has been reduced to mashed potatoes right in front of her, and she couldn’t care less. Since she didn’t care about leaving the principal’s remains splattered all over the school without notifying police or anyone, we can only assume she’s mostly concerned about the zombie in the kitchen because she might want eggs in the morning.

In fairness to the cinematographer, the table is slightly more important to the scene than Alicia.

In fairness to the cinematographer, the table is slightly more important to the scene than Alicia.

As Dad drags the zombie corpse out into the yard wrapped in a rug, Mr. Barber suggests burning the body to prevent spread of the disease. This is entirely reasonable since they don’t know dick about the zombie plague, so naturally Dad refuses.

Dad returns to the house for a heart-to-heart with his ex-wife. “It’s true what you said. They don’t die. They keep coming back,” she says. How she knows this is a mystery given what little she’s seen so far, and why she seems so blasé about it is even more so. She’s more concerned that Mrs. Barber’s foot injury is going to get infected and she’ll die without hospital treatment.

Speaking of Mrs. Barber, her husband and daughter are hovering over her, bickering. Daughter knows there’s no cousin coming since their entire family is dead in El Salvador. It seems Mr. Barber has fled the collapse of civilization before, which is why he’s so jaded.

"We can't stay here. They don't even have HBO."

“We can’t stay here, Dad. They don’t even have HBO.”

Mom and Dad speak briefly about nothing in particular.

Next, Mom and her hubby’s ex-wife are watching zombie Susan out the window (!). Mom asks the ex-wife to kill her if she gets infected so that Dad won’t have to. Girl power! Sisters are doing it for themselves.

The next morning, Dad is burying kitchen zombie dude in the backyard while Susan reaches lazily for him through the fence.

Inside, Mr. Barber is teaching Chris how to load a shotgun. Dad gets mad. “You know how I feel about guns!” he whines. Maybe that’ll come up again in some future episode, but at this point, all of these little 30-second scenes are feeling like filler. And even if it does come up again, a character announcing to the audience that he doesn’t like guns and then being forced to use one does not an interesting conflict make.

Outside, mom is eyeing Susan through the fence. She’s holding a hammer and trying to muster the courage to bash Susan’s brains out. They have a shotgun, but Mom chose a small hammer. Clearly a psychopath.

Stop. Hammer time.

Stop. Hammer time.

Out comes Dad to talk her out of it. He’s not worried about Mom’s chosen method of execution, but he does think they should leave Susan alone (literally alone, wandering aimlessly and looking for victims) if there’s even a slight chance that she can be cured. Mom wonders where Susan’s husband is, mostly just to establish that she has a husband because that’ll become important later.

Mr. Barber watches from the window (!) as Mom and Dad walk away without killing Susan. He scoffs that they’re weak. Hey, I don’t see you out there with a hammer, dick.

Mom eventually remembers that they’re supposed to be fleeing for their lives and gets in the car. Nick is already in the backseat and begs for more OxyContin. Mom admits she gave most of their remaining supply to Mrs. Barber, and Nick whines. Where’s Dad and Alicia and the rest of the crew? Eh, they’re around. No one’s in any particular hurry.

Inside, the Barbers’ daughter whines that they should flee with our heroes. Mr. Barber says no.

Alicia finally gets in the car, and Dad gets in the pickup truck with his other family, so we’re finally ready to leave. We watch both cars slowly back out the driveway and slowly drive away. Another well spent 60 seconds of silence.

Absolutely no one else is on the road. Presumably they all fled hours ago. Except, oh no! There’s Susan’s husband on his way home! As he pulls up to their house, he helpfully announces to the audience that he’s been on a business trip (that ended first thing in the morning?) and can’t wait to see his wife whom he loves with all his heart and soul.

"Also, I just bought two plane tickets for the honeymoon we never took and I'm three days from retirement."

“Also, I just bought two plane tickets for the honeymoon we never took and I’m three days from retirement.”

Mom, of course, turns around to warn the guy about his undead wife. By the time she reaches them, he’s just discovered Susan in the chicken wire maze. “Don’t touch her!” screams mom. But he doesn’t listen. He reaches out to embrace his poor sick wife. She’s about to bite him when her head explodes. It’s slightly more surprising than the last time this happened, but still, that’s twice in 15 minutes.

It’s not Mr. Barber or Psychopath Mom with the shotgun, however. It’s the U.S. Army, which swarms in with a million soldiers who were all waiting just off camera in complete silence for this dramatic reveal.

"If you're not going to be actively involved in a plot, lady, then get off camera!"

“If you’re not going to be actively involved in a plot, lady, then get off camera!”

A little while later, a soldier is collecting the names of everyone in the house. Dad wants to know what happened to Susan’s husband, and the soldier points out that the guy was covered in infected blood. He’s been hauled off to quarantine, duh. (I’ve always wondered why on The Walking Dead people can get splattered in the face, eyes, and mouth with zombie gore without getting infected. No one even worries about it. It bugs the crap out of me.)

Elsewhere, Nick is wandering through people’s backyards, peeking through their windows. Sure, while the neighborhood is neck-deep in soldiers is a great time for petty burglary. But it’s not a soldier who catches him about to break into a house; it’s an adorable six-year-old girl next door. Nick is shamed and goes home empty-handed.

Back at home, Dad halfheartedly assures Mom, “The cavalry’s arrived. It’s gonna get better now.” But across the street, soldiers are dumping a body in a garbage truck.

Sounds like a line to go to credits on, but instead we head upstairs to Mr. and Mrs. Barber. “What’s up?” she says in Spanish.

“It’s already too late,” he answers. And that’s our melodramatic cue for credits.

TV Show: Fear the Walking Dead

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  • Cy Chase

    Wait, I thought we knew why they can get splattered (and smear themselves with zombie guts) on TWD.