‘Fear the Walking Dead’: I have no idea what I’m doing

Fear the Walking Dead
“Not Fade Away”
September 22, 2015

It’s been 9 days since the National Guard has arrived and locked everyone inside a “safe zone,” and in those 200 some-odd hours, people have found ways to fill the time: Nick chills in the neighbor’s’ pool, Travis goes jogging, and Travis’ Dumb Teenage Son, Chris, climbs up onto the roof, turns on his video camera, and tapes the whole quarantine scene while waxing all high school junior poetic about it. As he turns his camera out into the world that lay outside the National Guard’s fencing, he catches a glint of light, seemingly being deliberately shone in his direction from a building in an area the military has assured everyone contains no signs of life. Huh.

(Also, what are you doing in Los Angeles, Carl? Looking for pudding? WE SAW YOU, CARL WE ALL SAW YOU.)

Madison, meantime, deals with the rationed electricity, demands that her kids repaint the family room, and grouses at Travis when he tells her he will be attending a meeting his new BFF, Lieutenant Moyers, is hosting. Madison is grumpy that she is running a refugee camp in her home, has to single-handedly monitor her junkie son and doesn’t think it’s cute that Ex-Wife just up and disappears all day, never offering to help out and paint over the viscera on her dining room wall. Awful Daughter interrupts Madison’s yelly exposition to remind everyone that things aren’t normal anymore, SO QUIT FIGHTING LIKE THINGS ARE NORMAL. And then she and Señorita Barber leave together.

Travis also leaves, but not before checking in with Chris who shows him the video of the mirror-signal from across the way. “It’s nothing,” says Travis. “It’s nothing because the military said there’s nothing out there, don’t worry about it.” Dashing hope = just good parenting.

Speaking of good parenting, Madison finds Nick at the pool, and offers him drugs to help him with the withdrawal, but Nick’s like, “NAW, I’M COOL.” (Spoiler alert: He’s not cool.)

tina fey not cool not ok angry

At Lt. Moyer’s meeting, he insists the infection-free zone now has a 6 mile radius and they’re going to beat this thing. (Spoiler alert: No, they’re not.) In the meantime, everyone is to stay within the compound and observe the curfew. They are working on getting the phones and clean water back up, and are looking for more stores  of medicine. So they are to be patient and count themselves lucky for being in one of the 12 safe zones south of the San Gabriel valley. SO LUCKY. FEEL THE LUCK.

Lt. Moyers then takes Travis aside and is like, “Hey, could you do me a favor and go talk to this Doug guy who refuses to let us give him a medical exam? Because if you don’t do it, we’re going to ‘take him down.’ And by ‘take him down’ I mean forcibly remove him from his family, possibly shoot him in the face.” So Travis agrees, and gloves up before heading into some strange neighbor’s house. There, he finds Mrs. Doug and the Douglings in hazmat suits, looking terrified. Apparently, Mrs. Doug hasn’t seen Doug since dinner last night so Doug is probably a zombie. So absolutely, Travis, go wandering into his bedroom without the assistance of any of the nice men with guns who you came in with, that’s just a good idea.

Fortunately for Travis, when he finds Doug, Doug is still very much alive and not a zombie, just having an existential crisis. Aren’t we all, Doug. Aren’t we all.

Meanwhile, Awful Daughter goes and breaks into Mrs. Tran’s house again, this time to root through Mrs. Tran’s things, and read her private letters. THAT’S NOT OK, AWFUL DAUGHTER. Awful Daughter also tries to give herself tetanus by using a needle and ink to make Boyfriend’s Marilyn Manson arm tattoo permanent. Very great idea. Good ideaing.

no-bad-ideas-30-rock

As for Ex-Wife, she’s busily playing nursemaid to the neighbors, and delivering a morphine drip to one Mr. Hector. (Hold up, where’d she get morphine?) Well, that’s a question Nick would like to know, too, as he slips into Mr. Hector’s room and attaches himself to the morphine line because once a junkie, always a junkie. Oh, Nick.

tina fey not cool not ok angry

Back at the house, Chris shows Madison the video of the light-signal and at first, she tries to dismiss it — if someone were out there, they would have already received help from the soldiers. But Chris points out that maybe they can’t, or won’t, go to the soldiers, and Madison is like, “good point.”

Meanwhile, Señorita Barber makes out with a soldier in an attempt to get her hands on some sweet medicine for her mother’s gross, rotting foot. It doesn’t work. Apparently, the military is secretly stockpiling all the meds in preparation for when they make the push to take back the city. (Spoiler alert: They won’t take back the city.)

That night, Madison and Travis have sexytimes in the car because there’s no privacy in the house already, and afterwards, Madison yells at Travis for being a crummy father and not taking his son’s video of the light-signal seriously. ALSO WHY AREN’T THERE ANY PHONES? WHAT IS TRAVIS GOING TO DO ABOUT THE PHONES? FIX THE PHONES, TRAVIS.

They seem like a happy couple.

Their post-coital bliss, such as it is, is interrupted when Mrs. Doug and the Douglings show up banging on the door, in direct violation of the curfew. It seems Doug has taken off in his car, and Mrs. Doug is understandably freaked out. So Travis walks them back home and promises to go look for Doug in the morning.

Later, Madison takes a flashlight to the roof and flashes a series of signals to the building across the way, and whaddaya know, but she receives signals back.

As for Travis, he finds Doug’s sweet ride parked by a fence, empty. So he approaches his buddy Lt. Moyer, and is like, “Uh, so Doug seems to have slipped out of the safe zone, can we send a patrol to go look for him?” But Lt. Moyer is all, “That guy? Nah, we found him in his car sobbing like John Boehner and we took him away because crazy.” Travis complains that he could have said something to Mrs. Doug, but Lt. Moyer brushes this off as a Travis problem. Travis then tells Lt. Moyer about the building and the light, but Lt. Moyer is like, “Nope.”

As for Ex-Wife, she swings by Mr. Hector’s place only to find Mr. Hector is not there, and Mrs. Hector is packing up her things. It seems that a government doctor, Dr. Untrustworthy, swung by and picked Mr. Hector up and sent him to a nearby medical facility where Mrs. Hector  is going to join him. Dr. Untrustworthy sits Ex-Wife down and explains that she knows Ex-Wife is not even a nurse, but that the work she did was good nonetheless. UGH, EX-WIFE, DON’T TRUST HER. IT’S RIGHT IN HER NAME.

Meanwhile, Madison has a Very Great Idea. She grabs some wire cutters, snips an opening in the fence, and slips out into the great wide open, because absolutely it’s a great idea to create a vulnerability in the one thing securing your neighborhood from the HORDES OF ZOMBIES.

worst idea yet ahs
(http://www.tv.com/)

Hey, at least Madison’s kids come by their bad decision-making honestly.

Anyway, after she passes the 9/11 wall of The Missing, she wanders into a neighborhood that seems to have put up a fight against the military … and lost. Badly. She has to duck under a car when a military patrol happens by, but that’s literally all that happens.

Back at the house, Ex-Wife brings Dr.Untrustworthy to see Señora Barber and her gross foot, and Dr.Untrustworthy is like, “Yep, we need to take her away never to be seen again. Got anyone else you want to show me?” So Ex-Wife introduces her to Nick. Hey, thanks, Ex-Wife! Good plan, Ex-Wife!

no-idea-what-im-doing
Portrait of an Ex-Wife.

Madison returns, at some point, and tells Señor Barber about what she found outside the neighborhood. He’s all, “Bad things happened when I lived in El Salvador, because fear and evil. Also, keep an eye on my daughter for me, and you’re going to want to keep that junkie son of yours close. Also, trust no one. Ok, adios.”

Nick, meanwhile, is killing the mind-numbing boredom of being under military quarantine by searching the neighbors’ houses for drugs to numb his mind. This is where Madison finds her son and puts the slapdown on him.

slap-rick-james
What did Madison say to her junkie son? SLAP.

Later, Nick hides in his room, which is where Awful Daughter finds him and gives him a hug. HUGS NOT DRUGS, NICK. And Madison hides in the garage and drinks straight vodka from a coffee mug because UGH. TEENAGERS ARE THE WORST.

And that’s when the military arrives and storms the house and waves guns in everyone’s faces and grabs Señora Rottenfoot and announces that they are here for someone else: Nick. Nick tries to runaway; he is unsuccessful. Everyone is loaded up into Humvees, and Ex-Wife tries to reason with Dr. Untrustworthy, only to have Dr. Untrustworthy be like, “Shhhhh. Hey, wanna come along?” “WHY NOT,” says Ex-Wife and she drives off with the military, leaving her son, ex-husband and one Very Angry Girlfriend of Her Ex-Husband behind. “SMELL YA LATER SUCKERS!” she waves.

And so Travis retreats to the roof to feel sorry for himself, which is where he sees with his own eyes the light-signal coming from the building across the way — followed by the flare of gunfire. So, I suppose that’s one less thing to worry about.

Alright, so while I am still irritated by the whole “Madison escapes the neighborhood and then absolutely nothing happens” subplot, this episode at least gave this often draggy show a little momentum, and a much more interesting threat to our protagonists: “Order.” Interestingly enough, an easter egg in this episode has someone posting the biblical verse: “Rev 21:4” on one of the neighborhood fences: He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” And indeed, the National Guard has arrived to impose this new “order” upon our heroes.

Also, it’s interesting, the series has used a number of visual allusions to recent disasters: the rioting downtown was an explicit reference to the Black Lives Matter protests and our present conversation about police brutality; in the previous episode, the National Guard marked homes with the giant spray-painted Xs not unlike the way the military cleared each home in New Orleans following Katrina; and in this episode, Madison is faced with a wall of posters searching for the missing, a clear reference to the heartbreak of the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. The overall effect is to make this fictional armageddon feel more familiar, and perhaps to demonstrate how close we actually are to the razor’s edge, how precarious the notion of society is at any given moment, and how one catastrophe could end it all.

As for our “hero” question, I mentioned in an earlier post that while Nick has been on a redemptive arc, he’s not actually going to be our hero this season. Instead, I think the hero — the character who is going  from the realm of the known into the unknown, where he will be challenged and changed and become a leader — is Travis. Travis, as demonstrated in the previous episode, is the one who resists the call to adventure, refusing to accept this new reality even as it is trying to bite him in the face. In this episode, he denies reality at every turn, even when his own son is shoving it in his face, until the very last moments when he is forced to gaze into the darkness. In the coming episodes, I predict he will be tested and tried and at least one someone close to him will die. Eventually, he will emerge a bruised but more heroic figure who will lead a group through this cruel new order.

Or he’ll get his fool self bitten and become a zombie and eat Mrs. Doug and the Douglings after devouring the neighborhood golden retrievers, who knows.

shrug

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

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