Jun 11, 2020
Fear the Walking Dead: Separation Anxiety
You know what’s suuuuuuper creepy? Slo-mo!
What, you thought we were going to say zombies? Nah, there’s barely any of those tonight. Instead, we’re going wallow in slow motion like we just discovered the setting on our camera.
Done right, slo-mo can create a surreal atmosphere thick with anxiety and suspense. Here, it only emphasizes the molasses-like plot.
We kick things off with a slo-mo shot of the high school principal walking the empty halls of the school. Say, I don’t think I mentioned last episode that he’s black, because it wasn’t ever important. Well, he is… and that should give you a pretty big hint what fate awaits him tonight.
Anyway, that’s the whole scene. We watch him go nowhere and do nothing for a few seconds, then cut away. And that should give you a pretty big hint what fate awaits the audience tonight.
Next up, bitchy high school senior Alicia is walking down the street in slo-mo. Suddenly a bunch of skateboarders fly by and break the spell. The skateboarders are so colorful and full of energy that it completely destroys what little pending apocalyptic doom-and-gloom the slo-mo had managed to achieve so far. Way to waste everyone’s time.
Alicia stops and stares at a house with its front door suspiciously and forebodingly slightly ajar, because apparently she was walking right up Trope Street. She lets herself in and starts calling out the name of her missing boyfriend, Matt. This goes on a while before she stumbles upon someone struggling to breathe. WHO COULD IT BE? We don’t get to see, but I’m guessing Matt. This show has yet to dole out any surprises and instead seems to relish treating the obvious like a huge mystery.
After the opening credits and a few commercials, we jump right in the middle of the action! Dad, Mom and junkie son Nick are speeding away from the zombie drug dealer who attacked them in the pilot. The high-speed excitement lasts maybe a second before Nick calms down, apologizes to his parents for his reckless driving, and takes his foot of the gas—both literally and figuratively. Annnnnnnnnd we’re back to a snail’s pace.
(Only at this point is apparent that tonight’s episode takes place moments after the last, which means the principal has just closed the school for extremely vague reasons related to a police shooting in another part of town the night before and Alicia is walking home.)
While Nick drives, Mom and Dad calmly discuss the pros and cons of getting out of town until zombie-making plague is contained. Ultimately, they decide to skedaddle, and to take Dad’s ex-wife and other son with them.
They call Alicia, but she’s all distraught and babbling about her boyfriend being sick. Mom and Dad tell her to wait right there and stay away from Matt. Then they try to call Dad’s other son, Chris, but he hits ignore on his iPhone because he’s a teenager and therefore a dick.
A few moments later, Mom, Dad, and Nick are at the boyfriend’s place, dealing with Alicia’s “but I looooove him” protestations as they try to drag her away. It’s Matt who gets all Humphry Bogart-at-the-end-of-Casablanca and insists she go away with her family.
Meanwhile, Chris is on a bus headed somewhere for some reason; it’s not important where or why. What matters is that some dude jumps on the bus and shouts, “The cops just shot a homeless guy like 20 times!” Every single person immediately stampedes for the exit so they can gawk at the tragedy. I absolutely cannot imagine this reaction happening in reality, but then again, I don’t live in L.A.
Mom, Dad, Nick, and Alicia arrive at home to find one neighbor setting up for her nine-year-old daughter’s birthday party and another coughing at them in slow-motion. Mom and Dad are totally cool with abandoning everyone else on the street to their fate, but Nick thinks that ridiculously heartless. He insists they warn birthday-party-mom about the zombie plague—but coughing-guy and everyone else can go eat a dick, apparently. Eh, a guy can only care so much, you know?
Still unable to get Ex-wife or Other Son on the phone, Dad washes the zombie blood off the hood of his pickup truck and heads off their house to discuss the situation in person. Mom walks across the street to talk to birthday-party-mom, although what comes of it is never mentioned.
On the road, Dad is finally able to get Ex-wife on her cell, but she won’t listen. But, to be fair, he didn’t really bother to explain anything.
Back at the house, Nick is suddenly locked in the hellish depths of heroin withdrawal. Ten minutes ago he was totally fine and worried about the nice lady across the street; now he’s a miserable, vomiting ball on the floor. Mom makes a few calls to the pharmacy for methadone or whatever, to no avail. She knows her baby needs a fix bad, and we can tell by her face she knows just where to find it. What a sweet and loving mother. She leaves Alicia in charge of Nick.
Dad, meanwhile, comes to a dead-stop in traffic. He sees a cop loading the back of his patrol car with bottled water. Somehow this triggers Dad’s magic ability to instantly get out of standstill traffic, as seen last episode. So he’s got that going for him, which is nice.
Mom enters the empty school and grabs a set of keys out of the principal’s office. She unlocks a storage room where there’s a taped outline of a murder victim on the floor (?!). She completely ignores that, and I guess we’re supposed to, too? Anywho, Mom uses a crowbar to open up an… evidence locker, maybe?… filled with giant bags of pills. She finds the bag she needs, then—BOO! OUT JUMPS A CAT!
Nah, it’s not actually a cat, but that weird dork from last episode. You know, the one student who knows the apocalypse is moments away and thinks the best place to face it is at school with a bowie knife. He’s here to see if he can get his knife back.
Other Son is in the middle of what’s supposed to be a giant crowd, I guess, although we never see more than a handful of extras bunched around him. In “ripped from the headlines” fashion, the crowd starts accusing the cops of shooting an innocent, unarmed man. Other Son whips out his camcorder because why wouldn’t he be carrying a camcorder and not an iPhone? Apparently the homeless guy was pretty well known in the community because the entire crowd knows he was a kind, peaceful, loving soul who’d never hurt a fly.
Back at the school, Mom gives dork-boy his knife back.
At home, Alicia tries to give Nick some soup, but he just barfs it up everywhere. That’s Alicia’s cue to leave, I guess, because she immediately sprints for the door to go check on her boyfriend. Nick freaks out but won’t explain why. For some reason, the vague ramblings of a detoxing heroin addict aren’t enough to change her mind. But Nick’s got a back-up plan… namely, collapsing into a mouth-foaming seizure. It’s super effective.
Dad finally arrives at Ex-wife’s place (thanks, traffic-escaping powers!) and starts telling her about an illness that’s making people violent, tying it to a rash of police shootings lately. She doesn’t seem convinced, but she lets him use her cell to call their son. The kid answers for mom, of course, but when dad starts ranting about fleeing town, Other Son refuses to leave the protest.
In the school cafeteria, Dork-boy raids the pantry for canned goods and suggests Mom do likewise. He also starts lecturing her on how fast electricity and communications are going to fail.
On cue, the electricity cuts out on Alicia and Nick. So… is there some serious zombie problems going on at the power plant or something? If so, why can’t the show be about that? And while we’re asking questions, do seizures have magical curative properties? Because Nick looks 100% over his heroin withdrawal.
The blackout didn’t reach the school, which is fortunate because Dork-boy and Mom are back in the principal’s office listening to the grunts of a zombie over the principal’s walkie-talkie system. They start running for the parking lot. They’re not quite out the door when the principal attacks.
For those keeping track, the first three characters turned to zombies are the only three characters that happen to be black. Here’s the Venn diagram:
Mom tries to reason with Principal Zombie, while Dork-boy stabs him repeatedly in the chest. Neither approach works. There’s a wrestling match between the principal and Dork-boy, and that’s when Mom brings down the hammer. Technically, the fire extinguisher. She smashes the principal’s skull into paste, over and over again.
Mom and dork-boy walk out of the school—in slo-mo, of course. If either is distraught over making zombie brain pâté out of the principal, they don’t show it.
There’s more slo-mo as Dad and Ex-wife hunt through the protest for Chris. Eventually, they find him and start to drag him off. But that’s when a cop has to gun down that iZombie chick in front of the crowd. The protestors must all be CW fans, because they lose their shit. Well, the six extras standing around Chris do, anyway, and I’m sure we’re supposed to believe the rest of the unseen crowd does as well.
Suddenly, there are riot police marching forward. And they’re marching. And they’re still marching. Um… is that file footage? Or did they film the riot police and rioters on different days? Because soon the streets filled with violent protestors while the police are never seen again.
Dad and the ex-fam can’t make it back to the car for some reason, but they spot a barber shop closing up early for the day out of fear of the rioters. A little begging secures them a place inside. Down comes the metal grating to protect the shop, and the rioters are right on their heels. If I’m making this sound dramatic, keep in mind that the rioters consist mostly of the same six extras we saw gathered around Chris at the protest. It all feels about as threatening as your average The A-Team villains, and shot on about the same budget. Then, just to ensure we’re not overwhelmed by all the excitement, the scene lingers on with awkward small talk between Dad and the shop owner until it just kind of peters out.
Meanwhile, Mom, still completely blasé about the whole head-smashing-in thing, is dropping off Dork-boy at his house as if she’s taking him home from soccer practice. She does offer him a spot with the family as they (eventually) flee town, but he politely blows her off. Killing a guy with a fire extinguisher isn’t enough to impress him, and besides, he presumably has his own family to worry about, not that we see any signs of them. But we do see another family driving by in slo-mo in a station wagon, and the two adorable elementary school girls in the backseat are wearing air filter masks that are decorated in creepy-ass gangsta fashion, exactly as two adorable elementary school girls would want.
Suddenly it’s night, and Dad is still stuck in the barber shop with sounds of the unseen riot still raging outside. You’d think they might have moved on to another block by now. Ex-wife only just now thinks to ask Dad what it is he’s seen that has him freaked out. He gives a creepy, cryptic description that’s designed to 100% cool-sounding and 0% helpful. And despite the fact that we the audience already know what he’s seen—and are a bazillion times more familiar with zombies than our heroes—that’s the entire scene.
Mom finally arrives home (I guess Dork-boy lives in Burbank) and subtly places her jacket on the coat rack so the bloodstains aren’t visible to the kids. If you’re wondering, pulverizing someone’s head with a fire extinguisher only results in a tastefully small blood splatter. Mom hands Nick a few OxyContin to take the edge off, even though he seems all better now. Nick rats out his sister for trying to leave, but Mom does nothing with this information. Instead, she goes to the bathroom and cries, for like the third time in two episodes, because that’s what women do, even head-smashing badass ones.
The phone rings, and it’s Dad. We’ve been told cell service is extremely shoddy because everyone is trying to call their loved ones, although no one but our heroes seem to be aware that the zombie apocalypse is imminent. Kind of like the power plant, there must already be huge zombie problems out there somewhere in the world that we don’t get to see. Or hear about. Damn it, show! Take us where the action is!!!
Anywho, Dad says leave without him. Mom says no. Neither bothers to tell the other what’s happening to them, so it’s just as well the call cuts off. Neither tries to call the other back. If that nothing-burger of a conversation left you wanting more, Alicia bursts in on Mom and demands answers. Mom refuses to say. If your idea of drama is two characters steadfastly refusing to communicate for no good reason, there’s a pretty good chance you’re a producer for this show.
MUSIC VIDEO MONTAGE TIME! Because there’s nothing like a bunch of shots of people sitting around doing nothing set to depressing music to hammer home that our heroes are sitting around doing nothing and we’re supposed to feel depressed about it.
Eventually, Alicia asks again what’s up. Mom is saved from refusing to answer by screams outside. It’s birthday-party-mom inexplicably standing out in her front yard getting eaten by a zombie. Alicia tries to run outside and help, but Mom holds her back. Yep, just keep doing nothing, Mom. It makes for great television. Just embrace the fatalism and helplessness.
That advice works just as well for the viewers.