Jun 11, 2020
Fear the Walking Dead: Good Fences Make Boring Apocalypses
Is there anyone on this show who makes you think, “Oh no, I really hope they don’t get turned into a zombie!” Yeah, me either. There’s no fear because there’s no one to fear for. They’re sitting around playing Monopoly rather than giving us any reason to care. If one of the family were turned into a zombie tonight, the entire audience would think, “Finally! It’s about time something happened.”
Sadly, nothing that dramatic takes place. In fact, all the real action has already happened before the opening shot. Eight days have passed, a fence has been built, and Dad is now the de facto mayor of their quaint little suburban sanctuary/internment camp. That’s quite a bit of activity since last episode, actually. None of it on screen, thank goodness, lest our poor little hearts burst from our chests from the excitement.
We open on detoxing druggie Nick, chillaxing all cool on a floating chair in somebody’s pool.
Cut to Dad, taking a morning jog.
Cut to other son Chris, sitting on the roof with his video camera. He’s shooting the abandoned houses off in the distance, outside the fence, while helpfully narrating to the audience what we’ve missed over the past week. “We’re safe inside the fence,” he says. Inexplicably, his voice is thick with sarcasm when he adds, “We’re grateful to our saviors, those who protect us.” Well, I should fucking hope so. We the audience, who have seen five seasons of The Walking Dead and know what happens to civilization, have every right to be cynical and bored with the proceedings, but you’re just being a jackass.
Off in the distance, a light flashes on and off in one of the houses. Not so abandoned after all, it seems. Chris catches it on camera.
Inside, Mom is staring at a non-working clock, proving that, yes, there is a more perfectly on-the-nose metaphor for the lack of action on this show than last week’s incessant window-gazing. Who’d have thunk it. I’m almost impressed.
The reason the clock isn’t working is because there’s no electricity, and the reason Mom’s staring at it is because the day’s four-hour ration of electricity should have started already. There are huge stripes of masking tape on the clock to inform the audience that the electricity only comes on from 7:00 ‘til 11:00, although who’s anal enough to mark up the clock and then re-set the hands for seven o’clock each time the electricity shuts off is left unexplained.
Dad walks in, and boy does his timing suck. Mom immediately starts bitching at him about how she’s stuck taking care of the house and everybody in it all day because he’s off being a “man of the people” and his ex-wife is always disappearing. Since we’re about to discover that Ex-wife (who’s a nurse) is busting her ass taking care of dozens of sick and injured people all over the subdivision so they don’t die, Mom’s whining is all the more shitty and off-base.
Speaking of, teen drama queen Alicia picks this moment to throw a temper tantrum about her mom and stepdad bickering like “normal people in a normal kitchen.” Um, was she listening to the conversation? Because it was about the stress of a living in a post-apocalyptic internment camp. That’s not normally what her parents bicker about, right?
Chris is still up on the roof (and it’s not hard to blame him). He’s trying to signal back at whoever’s in the house outside the fence. Dad comes out to bark some chores at him, and Chris tries to show him the video. Dad ain’t having it.
Nick is still lounging in the pool. Mom comes up with a Capri Sun and some orange slices OxyContin, which Nick blithely declines. He’s high on life and doesn’t need pills. Hugs, not drugs. “Don’t be a hero,” warns Mom. Don’t worry—no chance of that on this show.
In the middle of an intersection, a solder stands on the back of a truck with a megaphone. “We are on the offensive! The tide is most definitely turned!” he announces to the meager crowd, although how anyone knew to be there for his speech is a mystery.
Since whining and bitching is what passes for conflict around here, that’s what the crowd does. They want electricity and medicine and news of the outside world. The soldier reminds them that they’re the lucky ones, living in the luxury and safety of one of just 12 safe zones in the region.
Nearby, a soldier flirts with the barber’s daughter Ophelia by asking her to spell her name. Yeah, that doesn’t sound very flirtatious, but don’t worry, the two actors lay it on with all the subtlety of Andy Dick at his first improv class so we the audience won’t miss the vibe.
The head soldier summons Dad over to talk about one of the restless natives. How and why Dad got to be the go-to civilian poohbah is never revealed, but we know it happened because no one wastes an opportunity to tell us. Always better than showing, right? Anyway, some dude named Doug is having a little bit of a nervous breakdown. Soldier-guy tells Dad, “You’re going to talk him down, or we’re going to take him down.”
Dad marches into Doug’s house, past Doug’s family, and finds him cowering in the bathroom. “I don’t think I can do it,” says Doug.
“Do what?” says Dad.
Cut to Alicia, wandering around the neighborhood.
Cut back to Dad and Doug. If you were expecting Doug to be agonizing over a monumental decision that might kickstart the plot, I commend your optimism. But no. What Doug can’t do is keep telling his family that everything is gonna be all right.
Dad says you gotta.
Doug says he can’t.
Dad says you gotta.
Doug says he can’t.
Dad says you gotta.
Doug says okay.
Meanwhile, Alicia is wandering around some more. She goes into a house… I think it’s Susan the Zombie’s house, but it’s not clear. There’s an empty bottle of pills. A handwritten note is lying on the bed. Maybe Susan was a zombie because she committed suicide? Alicia reads the note and cries.
Doug is letting soldiers take his blood pressure, so he’s back with the program again, or at least pretending to be.
Elsewhere, Ex-wife is checking some old dude’s morphine drip. The guy’s wife gives her some squash from her garden to say thanks. She’s just as sunny and cheery as can be, which is just bizarre under the circumstances, but the show is clearly trying to make us like her. Something awful is guaranteed to happen to her by the end of the episode.
Back at the pool, Nick hears a noise and gets out of the water. He looks through the fence and sees Ex-wife leaving the nice lady’s house.
At home, Mom at first blows off Chris’s video of the flashing light, but then relents.
Back at the nice lady’s house, Nick is lying under the old guy’s bed, bogarting his morphine drip.
Off on a quiet, deserted street, Ophelia is making out with her soldier boy in the back of his Humvee. He tries for second base, but she ain’t going for it. He tries a little sweet talk. “You’re the only thing that makes me believe there’s still good in people,” he says. Really? Based on what? Because she was willing to make out with you 10 minutes after meeting you? In that case, I know a chick in Memphis who will make you believe in angels in half that time.
The heavy-handed line doesn’t get him a handjob, however. Instead, it’s Ophelia’s cue to let the audience in on the fact that she’s out kiss-whoring herself to see if soldier-boy can get any medicine for her mom. Sorry, Ophelia. He says he can’t help.
That night, Dad and Mom are having make-up sex in the car. At least that’s what Dad thinks it is. But Mom pops out of the car so quickly and callously when it’s over that she was clearly screwing him just so she could show how angry she was by storming off afterwards. Dad stops her and tries to talk it out. Mom urges Dad to take Chris’s video seriously.
Suddenly, Doug’s wife barges in. Doug has taken the car and gone missing.
Next thing you know it’s dawn. Did they search all night or go to bed or what? We’ll never know. Mom is up on the roof with a flashlight, trying to signal the house in the distance.
Dad walks up to the head soldier, who is practicing his golf swing. Dad wants help searching for Doug, but soldier-guy says Doug is already in custody. In fact, he’s been shipped off to a nearby medical facility to get treated for his nervous breakdown. Who’s gonna tell his wife, Dad wants to know. The soldier-guy volunteers Dad for the job and calls him “Mr. Mayor.”
Dad tries to talk about Chris’s video, but the soldier blows him off. No one is left alive outside the safe zones, he says, as he nails another golf shot. Gosh, why not just slap the name Bush on his shirt?
Over at morphine-guy’s house, morphine-guy is gone. Shit, did he die because Nick stole his morphine? Ex-wife starts to freak out, but morphine-guy’s wife assures her all is well. A government doctor came by and took him off to a nearby medical facility. In fact, she’s packing to follow him there shortly. How she neglected to mention any of this on Ex-wife’s way into the house is not important.
Hey, here’s the government doctor now. The doc repeats everything morphine guy’s wife just said, then reveals that Ex-wife isn’t really a nurse. But it’s cool. The doc wants Ex-wife to keep pretending because she’s doing good for the people.
Elsewhere, Mom is sneaking out of the fence. IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME! She walks past a giant memorial wall with thousands of photos. When exactly now-dead people outside the safety zone had time to construct it is not important. She keeps walking, then very—and I mean VERY—suddenly is overcome by the smell of death.
Eventually, she finds bodies. Lots of them. Zombies whose heads were blown off by the military.
And here’s the military now, out on patrol. Mom slides under a car to hide. It’s reasonably suspenseful, so they go to commercial. When they come back, nothing happens. The soldiers march on by and Mom is fine.
Back home, the government doc explains that she wants to take Mrs. Barber to the much-mentioned nearby medical facility for surgery on her injured foot. Mr. Barber is welcome to come, too. Ex-wife points out Nick and mentions that he’s suffering from heroin withdrawal. Nick is not pleased.
Dad shows up and isn’t thrilled either. He wants to know what happened to Doug, but Doc says she can’t discuss other patients.
Meanwhile, all alone, Alicia is cutting herself.
Back home, the doc is gone. Mr. Barber pulls Mom aside and asks what she saw on the other side of the fence. Seems he’s been pulling a Jimmy Stewart and watching everyone out the back window. “Bodies,” says Mom. It’s yet another moment when the show thinks it’s being all dramatic when it’s really just being obvious and trite.
Mom tells Mr. Barber that she say an uninfected civilian who had been shot in the brain just like the zombies. How she could tell that this particular corpse wasn’t infected is beyond me. He was, after all, a corpse. And not a particularly fresh one.
Mr. Barber tells a story from his childhood in El Salvador. Soldiers came to his village one day and rounded up some people. Don’t worry, the people will return, said the soldiers. And they did… floating in the river. His father told him that people do evil out of fear. Mr. Barber doesn’t think why doesn’t matter.
Huh, so apparently the writers of this show can imagine a powerful and horrifying scene if they want to, they just choose not to ever put one on camera. Interesting choice.
The point of Mr. Barber’s story is that he wants Mom and Dad to take care of his daughter Ophelia if he never comes back from the “medical facility.” He also warns Mom to keep a close eye on Nick.
Nick is over at morphine-guy’s house freaking out because there’s no more morphine to bogart. Mom catches him. He smirks and shrugs. She slaps the shit out of him. Repeatedly.
Nick comes home and immediately locks himself in his room. Eventually he lets Alicia in, and they hug. Not only is this scene a waste of time, but it completely derails Alicia’s arc in the episode. She’s got a big finish coming, and coming on the heels of this scene, it makes no sense. So just toss this out of your head and remember Alicia was last seen cutting herself.
Speaking of wasting time, Mom is sitting in the car, alone, drinking from a mug. End of scene.
Inside, soldiers have come for Mrs. Barber. This was totally expected, but everyone is totally freaking out about it. Don’t ask me why. It’s not until the soldiers demand Nick come too that they should realize that things aren’t going according to plan. Alicia warns Nick to run, but a rifle butt to the face puts a quick end to his escape plans. Some of the soldiers hold the rest of the family at gunpoint while others take Nick and Mrs. Barber away.
Outside, Ex-wife is demanding answers. Government doc won’t give her any. Instead, she gives her a job offer. They need (fake) nurses at the medical facility. And for some reason she has to decide RIGHT THIS SECOND without even telling her son goodbye. Ex-wife tries to mouth something to Chris through the window, but I can’t tell what she’s saying and I don’t think Chris can either. Then she gets on the military truck as it drives away into the night.
All of the soldiers leave the house, and the family is all alone. Chris storms out one way, and Mom storms out the other. Which one will Dad follow and comfort? Neither. He just kind of stands there like a doofus.
Later, Alicia is in her roof, penning a letter to her zombie boyfriend. It’s crazy melodramatic, but what the hell, she’s 17. Her thoughts on the whole apocalypse thing? “It’s godly, and it’s overdue.” Two thirds of the way through the first season and it’s looks like we FINALLY have a villain. Too little, too late.
But we’re not quite done yet. In our last shot of the night, Dad is up on the roof, trying to signal the far-off house with a flashlight. Yeah, that’s much better than talking to your wife or son. Keep up the good work.
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