As we talked about two weeks ago, the biggest weakness so far on Fear the Walking Dead is the greatest strength of The Walking Dead, namely the zombies. They’re a peripheral threat on The Walking Dead, but over the course of the series, the walkers have taken a backseat to the more menacing human threat. That’s what makes The Walking Dead so interesting: Villains who are more than undead stormtroopers.
The zombie outbreak was the powder keg that set all the events in motion, but it’s people like The Governor and Gareth and The Wolves on The Walking Dead who are more compelling because their motivations go beyond the simple need for brains. Zombies aren’t evil; they’re just executing the demands of a virus. It’s people who are evil, because they have free will, and when they choose to use that free will to endanger the lives of others to satisfy their own selfish motivations, that’s when it gets interesting.
Fear the Walking Dead is finally coming to that point.
“We’re from the government, and we’re here to help you” was singled out by President Ronald Reagan in 1986 as one of the most terrifying phrases you will ever hear. That was the exact phrase that came to mind when, surrounded by the military, Travis uttered to Madison: “The cavalry has arrived. It’s going to get better now.”
No, it’s not. When has that ever been true?
Now the characters on Fear the Walking Dead have something more terrifying than walkers to fear: They have the United States government. The zombie genre has long had an axe to grind with the government, dating all the way back to Night of the Living Dead, a movie with the underlying theme of disillusionment with that very institution. I suspect we’ll find out exactly why that is in the coming weeks on FTWD, as the military continues to mark their Xs on homes, unnecessarily quarantine certain survivors, and ultimately hasten the zombie apocalypse rather than quell it.
It’s also a more dangerous threat to the characters on Fear the Walking Dead because zombies they can kill. The military, on the other hand, is not only more powerful, but they’re expected to be trusted. We’re expected to believe the best in their intentions, but when real people step out from behind those uniforms, I suspect they’ll be as or more dangerous than people like The Governor.
Fear the Walking Dead may finally be arriving at its take-off point, and it couldn’t have come sooner. The series has done the work of introducing this season’s main characters, and so far, it’s come up lacking. The performances have not been particularly compelling, and the dialogue hasn’t done the characters any favor, nor have the scripts, which have kept the characters dumber than they ought to be, considering the evidence around them.
I will say this, however: Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) has been a huge boost to the series. He’s finally a man smart enough to know what’s up and to take some initiative. He may ultimately prove to be the series’ Rick Grimes, while Travis — the nominal lead — is more of a Carol. He’s a passive, anti-gun character who is still trying to reason with the zombies. If he survives long enough, it should make for an interesting evolution.
Everyone else besides Nick has come off fairly flat, while Nick — clearly the more charismatic of the characters — is also saddled with an annoying addiction. It makes it hard to root for him because he’s also so self-destructive, and snooping around in other people’s homes while the military is buzzing about is a terrible idea.
However, if you don’t like the characters on Fear the Walking Dead so far, you probably won’t have to worry about being saddled with them for too long. Consider this: Of the 15 characters in the third episode of The Walking Dead, only five — or one-third — still remain. Given that same ratio, of the nine people currently living in Madison’s home, only three will likely survive until the fifth season of Fear the Walking Dead. For some of those characters, death will be a blessing.
— Were we supposed to assume that the plane wobbling at the end of the episode crashed? And why was there even a plane in the sky, if the FAA had already grounded all flights?
— “You know how I feel about guns.” — Travis, who clearly doesn’t know that NOW IS NOT THE TIME, MAN.
— The first person likely to be endangered by the new military presence? Nick, whose withdrawal symptoms mirror the zombie sickness. That may be what drives the conflict between Madison’s family and the military.
— Do you think that when the military “quarantines” the others, they’re really just killing them? That’s my guess. It’s funny that Madison is quick to catch on to that, but slow to catch on to everything else.
— Notice that, in The Walking Dead, there’s not a lot of military survivors. We may soon find out why.
— Folks from New Orleans may have found the X’s painted on the houses unnerving. That’s the same FEMA Marking System the government used after Katrina.