‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Season 2 Premiere Review: Dull ‘Monster’ Finds Characters Issues Galore
Recap and review of Fear the Walking Dead – Season 2 Premiere – Monster:
Where to start? Well, I managed to enjoy a decent chunk of Fear the Walking Dead last season, in spite of some of the character beats that just didn’t land. But “Monster” is a terminally dull season premiere that finds its drama through characters doing stupid things for no discernible reason other than to move the plot forward. I have hope for Season 2, although I’m not entirely sure why. These character issues are just as likely to get worse before they get better.
It isn’t even necessarily that I didn’t appreciate what the premiere was going for. I thought there were a lot of interesting possibilities here, with the characters adrift on a yacht, working through the residual conflicts of last season, such as Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) resenting Travis (Cliff Curtis) for the death of his mother, while also struggling with his own culpability in her death (which I don’t really get, but I guess a teenager has to be angsty about something). But the conflict suffers due to lack of any meaningful communication between those involved. The script has Chris angrily punch his father in the face, because he’s somehow too shortsighted to recognize that Travis shot Liza as an act of mercy. And somehow, Travis never bothers to explain that he was simply fulfilling Liza’s request, which is something he could have easily said to his son from the other side of his locked cabin door. But, for whatever reason, this issues just continue to hang in there, while the world completely falls to ruin. Sure, it’s the early days and weeks of the zombie apocalypse, but you’d think Chris has seen enough by now to deduce that what his father did was necessary. At the very least, one would hope that even an angry teenager could appreciate that giving your old man the cold shoulder isn’t exactly going to help any one right now. But then, maybe the show is simply being true to life, and depicting how a teenager would react? In which case, I’m not entirely sure this is a situation that benefits from teenagers acting like teenagers.
Case in point, the unpleasantness with Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who strikes up a friendship over the radio with a guy named Jack, who claims he’s stranded on a boat inside a cove with his brother and sister-in-law. Alicia makes the case to Travis that they should turn the boat around and go pick them up, at which point, Strand realizes Alicia has not only been talking with a stranger on the radio, she’s given away details about them. They’re not even 24 hours into the trip before Strand has to remind everyone that this is his damn boat, which means his word is law. It probably wasn’t intended to be a moment of catharsis, but Strand being one of only two people on the boat with any intrinsic survival instinct (as in, look out for myself and/or my people, to the detriment of everyone else) puts him in a position to be far more sympathetic than any of the other characters. Dude is just trying to survive. He could have easily left everyone behind to burn in Los Angeles (and the fact that he didn’t is part of what makes him interesting; he’s not a sentimental guy, so he must have some ulterior motive, no?), but he chose to help them escape.
And how do they repay Strand? By acting a damn fool at every opportunity, whether it’s Alicia talking to Jack, Chris going for a dip without giving anyone a heads-up first, or Nick (Frank Dillane) deciding to swim TOWARDS the giant, capsized boat in the distance that’s pouring out walkers like candy from a gumball machine. He salvages a log of the people aboard the capsized yacht, but at the cost of nearly getting chomped by a walker. It’s as if the drama comes not from the circumstances, but from the characters choosing to do things that their common sense should dictate is a bad idea. Hell, the episode comes to an end with the yacht being tailed by an unknown vessel that’s coming right for them. Considering Jack signed off with a “see you soon,” it stands to reason that Alicia has inadvertently led hostiles directly to our group. I understand that these are people who’ve been suddenly thrust into a disaster, and they’re still trying to learn how to survive, and how they should be acting in a situation like this. But a lot of these mistakes seem like errors of common sense. Hopefully, we get characters actually learning from the mistakes they’ve made as the season rolls on. Talk to your dad, Chris. Stop taking stupid risks, Nick. And for the love of God, Alicia, stop talking to strangers on the radio! Oh, and Maddie, just accept now that you’re not going to be able to save everybody. Otherwise, this is going to be a really, really bad experience for you.
What’s frustrating is that the confined setting could have made for really interesting TV. This hour could have been a sort of mystery drama surrounding Strand (Colman Domingo), as the passengers attempt to get to the bottom of just who he is and why he saved them all by searching the boat for clues. Or we could have spent a little more time focusing on how Daniel (Ruben Blades) is holding up following the loss of his wife. Outside of the brief talks with Chris and Travis, Ruben seems like a non-entity here. Even when he talks with Maddie (Kim Dickens), and she comes to realize that he doesn’t trust Strand, we don’t get any real follow-up. It wouldn’t be so irritating if Blades weren’t so damn good in the role. Instead, we get people making rash decisions without really thinking them through. On the one hand, I get why Maddie wanted to stop the boat and help a group of stranded survivors. But she really shouldn’t have to be lectured by Travis about why that’s a bad idea. Even if they knew for a fact that these people were angels who meant them no harm, the fact remains that they have limited food, limited supplies, and no clear plan for the future. They have no idea how long they’re going to even be at sea if San Diego proves uninhabitable. With any luck, these characters grow and come to understand the enormity of their situation. The argument isn’t that they should stop being good people who want to help others. The argument is that they should assess their situation a little more carefully than not at all. Fear the Walking Dead has potential to be great, but for right now, I’m not entirely sure what this is.
But what did you think of the season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead, “Monster”? Sound off in the comments!
And for more on The Walking Dead, read our review of the controversial season finale here!