‘Fear the Walking Dead’: Fear the walking teenagers

Fear the Walking Dead
“So Close, Yet So far”
August 30, 2015

OH HI, in fact I have not given up on Fear the Walking Dead, unlike a lot of its audience, I just was sooper busy with the new fall TV season. So let’s catch up, shall we? Last we left, our junkie friend had killed a drug dealer who then turned into a zombie, so he had to rekill him all over again; junkie’s mom and boyfriend were like, “wuhhhhh?”; and junkie’s sister was dumb and awful.

Awful Daughter — what’s her name again, Alicia? — Alicia heads over to her boyfriend’s house to check on him, and finds him in bed, sick with the zombie flu. GET AWAY FROM HIM, DAUGHTER. DO NOT TOUCH THE ZOMBIE, DAUGHTER.

no-touching

Meanwhile, driving away from their own zombie situation, Madison, Travis and Nick make the reasonable decision that maybe it’s time to leave town. So Madison calls Daughter to instruct her to pack her bags, but Daughter is like, “I’m not home, I’m busy at Boyfriend’s trying to contract the zombie flu.” “ZOMG GET AWAY FROM BOYFRIEND,” Madison instructs her, “WE WILL BE THERE IN 10 MINUTES, TRY NOT MAKE OUT WITH HIM BEFORE WE CAN GET THERE.”

Travis also tries to call his own dumb teenage child, but Dumb Teenage Son ignores the call because daddy issues.

Madison, Travis and Nick arrive at Boyfriend’s house, take one look at Boyfriend and are like, “NOPE.” As Travis examines Boyfriend for bite marks, Madison instructs Daughter to fetch Boyfriend a glass of water and say her goodbyes. Boyfriend might be turning into a zombie, but by God, he won’t be a dehydrated zombie.

As they arrive home, they notice that the next door neighbor has the same idea, and is packing up his car. However, they also notice that Neighbor has a nasty cough. Y’all are gonna want to keep an eye on Mr. Neighbor, guys. Maybe get him a glass of water.

Once inside the house, Nick asks his mother if she’s going to mention to their neighbor across the street that they are in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, and maybe shouldn’t count on the guests coming to her 5-year-old’s bouncy house party. But Madison is like, “Yeah, not my problem.”

Travis, meanwhile, keeps trying to call Dumb Teenage Child, who continues to ignore his calls. But to be fair to Dumb Teenage Child, he’s on a city bus headed straight into the urban zombie warzone. So Travis sighs heavily and decides that he needs to go collect Dumb Teenage Child and Ex-Wife, urging Madison to leave without him if he doesn’t return after a while. As he drives away, Madison heads across the street to offer her neighbor a glass of water.

Travis tries calling Ex-Wife to ask if she knows where their Dumb Teenage Son is, but she just gives him a bunch of ex-wife sass, “you can see him next weekend, etc.” And as he makes his way through traffic, he notices a cop filling his trunk with bottled water. Because the police know what’s up: A DEHYDRATION CRISIS.

karen-will-grace-drink-water-vodka

Meanwhile, Dumb Teenage Son’s bus ride has come to an abrupt end, dumping him downtown where people are yelling about cops killing an unarmed zombie homeless man. As the police try to secure the situation, people begin rioting –ZOMBIE LIVES MATTER — and Dumb Teenage Son pulls out a handheld video camera to film the whole thing. (A handheld video camera, but not his phone? OK. SURE.)

Travis arrives at his ex-wife’s house, where he’s like, “no time to argue, zombie apocalypse, give me your phone.” He then calls Dumb Teenage Son who finally answers and tells his father about the zombie lives matter riot. Armed with that information, Travis and Ex-Wife head downtown to retrieve their dumb teenage son.

Once there, they, somehow, are able to find Dumb Teenage Son, and just in time to watch the police kill a couple gutter punk zombies. Riot riot riot. Panic panic panic. And Travis and his family manage to talk their way into a barber shop just before the owner lowers his zombie riot door. There, the Nice Barbershop Family pray and light candles and pour glasses of water.

Back at Madison’s, Nick is going through the glamorous part of addiction: vomiting in a bucket from the withdrawal. Madison decides that it’s too dangerous for Nick to go cold turkey, not to mention the fact that she certainly doesn’t want to drive out to the desert with him puking in her backseat, and she’s pretty sure a glass of water isn’t going to cure this situation. And that’s why she decides to go back to her high school to raid the medicine cabinet and leave her two dumb teenagers to fend for themselves.

Sure enough, the moment Madison leaves, Daughter gives Nick a glass of water even though he’s going through the DTs, not the zombie flu, and announces that she’s going to go get her face bitten off by Boyfriend, BYE. But then Nick starts “seizing,” so Daughter has to postpone her plans to be zombiefied.

Over at the school, Madison grabs all the Ritalin and Oxycodone she can carry, when who should wander in but Mullet Jr. Seems Mullet Jr. had a similar plan for the zombie apocalypse and broke into the school to load up on some delicious industrial-sized cans of baked beans. So the pair head to the cafeteria, grab as many baked beans as they can find, and load them onto a pallet.

However, on their way out of the building, they a confronted by Principal Zombie (because of course Principal Zombie), and Madison has to bash his zombie head in with a fire extinguisher. And she didn’t even offer him a glass of water first.

So Madison drops Mullet Jr. off at his home before returning to her own two worthless children. There she gives Nick some Valtrex or whatever, and he fills her in on the part where her dumb daughter tried to go get her fool self eaten by Boyfriend, and he faked an episode to keep her safe.

After Madison has a good cry in the bathroom, she receives a call from Travis who lets her know that he’s currently tied up in the downfall of society, and she and her dumb teenagers should just go ahead and drive to the desert already. “NOPE,” says Madison, because everyone on this show is VERY DUMB. “We’re going to wait here for you to come back and try to get ourselves eaten by the neighbors.” So dumb. And then the power goes out just in time for Madison and her kids to watch as Mr. Neighbor tries to eat the nice lady from across the street. Quick! Go offer him a glass of water!

So a few things about this episode:

1. The Black Dude Dies First trope, guys? Really? Really? A black man can’t have a line on this show without being immediately turned into a zombie?

racist-dont-dont-dont

2. So, this zombie illness. Why does it seem to be a viral-like infection, giving some people flu-like symptoms and then killing them, whereas other people do not become zombies until they are either bitten or have died?

why

I actually think this is an interesting question — but one that will never be answered. Still, I’m curious: has everyone that we’ve seen come down with zombie been bitten, like Boyfriend? So, if it’s specifically transmitted via bite, where did it start? Who was the zombie chicken who laid the zombie egg? Or was it a virus of some sort? And if it was a virus, where did it come from? Was it artificially created? Did it start with an animal bite? Or was it a spontaneous illness that Mother Nature just unleashed upon us because she is done with us? And, if it is a virus of some sort, is the suggestion here that some people, like our protagonists, are immune to it up until the moment when they die?

3. Nick the “hero.” I’ve seen in many places Nick as being described as the emerging “hero” of the series, and people talking about his drug addiction serving as the starting place of his redemptive arc. And it’s true, we’ve seen glimmers of his heroic nature in these first episodes: we had a glimpse of it in the pilot episode, in which he came out of his heroin fog enough to perceive danger when others were unable. And in this episode, Nick actually utilizes his biggest weakness — his addiction — in a heroic gesture: he fakes a seizure to prevent his sister from leaving and becoming Boyfriend zombie fodder, thereby saving her.

But here’s the thing: Nick isn’t a hero, he’s a shaman, or in monomyth terms, he’s the “supernatural aid.”

Hear me out: On a typical hero’s journey, a hero moves from the world of the known — his comfortable home, the warmth of his family and community, everything that is familiar to him — into the world of the unknown, where he will be challenged and ultimately changed. Once entering into this unfamiliar place, the hero often encounters a figure that has supernatural knowledge and serves as a guide. Your Gandalf, or Obi-Wan figure, if you will. They are wizards, shamans, witch doctors, or prophets, mystical beings, and they often come to their place of wisdom through near-death experiences.

As explained by Joseph Campbell:

    The priest is the socially initiated, ceremonially inducted member of a recognized religious organization, where he holds a certain rank and functions as the tenant of an office that was held by others before him, while

the shaman is one who, as a consequence of a personal psychological crisis, has gained a certain power of his own.

Shaman often gain their powers after a serious illness, near-death experience or through some sort of supernaturalish happenstance, like being struck by lightning. The point being: shaman have seen the “other side” and yet continue to exist on this plane.

While becoming a heroin abuser is a choice on Nick’s part, I think it can still be considered a “psychological crisis” and certainly a serious illness. And I think his experience with drugs, and his experience balancing on the edge of death, has granted him a degree of hyper-awareness that the others on this show do not have. He is first to recognize the danger at hand, and he is the first to warn others, he is the first to pull away the veil.

Compare his experience with Rick on The Walking Dead, a more traditional hero: in the beginnings of both series, both men literally move from unconsciousness to consciousness to a changed (zombie-filled) world. When Rick awakens from his coma, he is confronted with the evidence of the apocalypse everywhere he looks, but still requires someone who has been awake (Morgan) to explain to him what is happening. In contrast, Nick wakes up, sees Gloria, and immediately understands that the world has changed, and that the infected no longer are who they once were. Despite (or perhaps because of) his addiction, Nick has wisdom beyond those around him.

Nick’s the wise old soul of the series, but he is not the hero. Don’t worry: we’ll discuss who is in later episodes.

Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on AMC.

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