The second episode of Fear The Walking Dead was full of symbols and hinted at so many things to come, it would make sense to take notes. School just started. Well,school has ended, in many ways, and I think we have a setting that is going to come back in future episodes. People are learning, and they're getting a taste of what it looks like when civilization ends.
Kim Dickens is the alpha female of Fear the Walking Dead. Her character, Madison, has almost all of this episode to herself in terms of accomplishments. She's learning! She's thinking, and she's doing. So far, Travis has washed blood off of the truck and managed to get his ex-wife and biological son trapped in downtown Los Angeles. Maddie has saved both of her children, re-connected with Tobias, and taken out her first walker. And, she's pretty savvy when it comes to knowing who she can help and who she can't help.
As always, I don't do recaps and I try not to do spoilers, so hang in there with me.
Purely as a look at society as it breaks down, there are so many aspects of this episode that ring true. You see traffic gridlocked in places, and there's a heart-stopping aerial shot of Los Angelenos trying to get somewhere--anywhere. The freeway is blocked inboth directions, nothing is moving, and you know what awaits the people trapped in their cars. They will run out of gas and have to abandon their attempt to get to freedom. This was a crucial scene which contrasts from the original Walking Dead shot of Rick Grimes entering Atlanta on the inbound lanes of a freeway that has abandoned vehicles clogging the outbound lanes. In future episodes, this gridlock will have to be acknowledged, making it all but impossible to get anywhere by car.
There are a lot of simple phrases and callbacks in this episode. There's hoarding happening right under their eyes, people are coughing and getting sick, people are confused about what's happening and that makes what is going on take on verisimilitude and a real sense of purpose. We know what's going to happen; the characters are learning quickly enough to keep us from groaning too much, but you can see how different settings are going to be referred back to in future episodes.
Travis sees a cop ignoring the traffic problems and hoarding water; I suspect we'll see Travis looking at cop cars as potential treasure troves for supplies. There's a real disparity in how people have "prepped" and how people have just ignored the warning signs around them. I suspect we'll learn that some people have known for weeks or months about what is coming and have created little empires for themselves already. Maddie sees the immense hoard of food kept in the high school where she works, secured and locked up and known only by Tobias. She says, offhand, "I have food," while not realizing that nobody has stored and stocked up on enough. When pantries run empty, it will be a resource wall all over again, rivaling anything we've seen in The Walking Dead because, in an urban setting, there will be vastly more walkers and more logistical problems to contend with. You think there were herds in rural Georgia? What about what's coming down the 405?
These logistical issues are where I live. That's what interests me in the show--what would I do and how would I solve problems? That's why this episode is so Madison-centric. She's horrified at doing something necessary, and her own sense of ethics has begun to come apart. At the height of the panic, she washes her jacket and lets precious gallons of water run down the drain; I can't help but think that water shortages are going to play a huge part in future episodes, given their desire to "get to the desert" and ride things out. I doubt they're going to film season two in the high desert, surrounded by blowing tumbleweeds and dry mouths. I do think there will be callbacks to how cavalier everyone is to food, water, weapons and shelter. Tobias gives away the game when he notes that the high school is probably the most secure building in town, in terms of being a former fallout shelter.
It's a much faster pace in episode two, and it stands in stark contrast to the pilot. We have a little more invested in the people we're seeing--they're not the elite, they're not heavily armed--there's normalcy in their lives and it's upended by the transformation around them. There's a little more of Travis' previous family, his son and ex-wife and there's more of Nick and Alicia and their dynamic. This is where you start to see how the dramatics will play out. Much of this episode is spent dealing with the reality of Nick and his drug problem. Instead of using the time to warn her neighbor to get inside or look after their supplies, Madison has to "score" so that Nick's withdrawal from Heroin will not risk his life. This prevents Alicia from looking after her own interests as well, leading to more resentment and more problems between the characters. At least run a tub full of water--just like in an earthquake--right?
This is an example of how Season 1 of FTWD is progressing--leaving the slow and methodical pace behind, with characters being developed while everything turns into "a world of shit." And you can see how that's going to be depicted here, with a focus on police brutality while showing how things end up when the police can't control anything (yeah, the military is going to step into that role later on--can't wait to see how that turns out). So far, we have two and a half hours of show and there's a lot going on here. This mini-season will really create the framework of this world and give us a glimpse of how society breaks down.
What I saw were examples of selflessness and selfishness. You see people trying to help one another and you see others preparing to abandon their responsibilities and get out of town. Are you going to be like the family that takes in Travis and his ex-wife and son or do you want to be like Maddie and leave a neighbor for a walker? Those are the hard choices ahead and that's how we will be allowed to have a view into the process.
You can see a great example of it when Lisa Ortiz, who is Travis' ex-wife, shows no grasp of what is happening because the gradual takeover of the walking dead hasn't touched her life yet. She is blissfully unaware until Travis shares his knowledge with her and informs her of how society is coming apart. In real life, how many people would be swept up in events and become victims? How many would be like the poor cop sitting on the back of an ambulance, having his walker bites bandaged up? Does it do any good to pray? And will religion be mocked at all? I kinda want to know.
The transformation of knowledge into skills and abilities begins to happen. You see a female cop shoot a walker in the chest, center mass, like she was trained. And then, she shoots the walker in the eye and that's it--no more walker. You couldn't have a better a-ha moment if you tried. Instead of everyone seeing this and learning, this, you have anarchy and rioting, looting and wanton mayhem. You have people trapped in open spaces while Madison shuts her door, closes her blinds, and stands with her back to the door, knowing what Tobias knows--don't go outside.
This week, we also learned about the plane trip that will introduce a future character--can't wait for that. I will deal with that separately when it comes out. But, wow. What a great tie-in for next season.