Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Fear the Walking Dead: The Dog

I really dug the first two episodes, but the third went (a bit) off the rails.

First, the characters flubbed my idiosyncratic Viewer Turing Test.

Oh, not all at once, and not instantly, to be sure.

I liked the drug addicted kid in the first two episodes, for example. And the dad, Travis. He always seems believably concerned. And the mom… she's awesome. Always something going on behind her eyes. The daughter not so much, but she hasn't been given a lot to do yet, other than wear short-shorts.

Not that I'm complaining. 

The show's atmospheric and creepy and has some fabulously charged scenes. The drive by the hospital was great. Incredibly well staged and expensive looking. The earlier scenes in the church were freaky. The video of the undead attacking emergency response workers, chilling.

And the scene with Travis entering the house invaded by the undead positively crackled with tension.

It was, dare I say, scary.

There's a lot of good stuff here. A lot of potential.

But something underneath all the cool superficialities doesn't sit right with me.

The characters felt more like Writer Puppets rather than Independent Actors. Yes, I know. All characters are puppets.

I mean, duh.

But you don't want the readers (or viewers) to see the strings That's the trick and admittedly it's much more difficult to do than one might think.

This time, I was noticing those darn strings, making the episode an odd mixture of 'okay, I dig it' and 'WTF?'

Travis' resolute pacifism, even in the face of the zombie apocalypse, in particular feels more and more… forced. More of a writer's point, even, or a personality trait written in bold on a character sheet, than a real attitude.

They need to ground his anti-gun position solidly, and soon, or abandon it.

I mean, he's seen infected people peppered with bullets, yet keep on coming. He's seen a guy get his face blown off and not go down. The very same guy who just tried to eat his face, I might add, moments before. Even after his near face-off, Travis lectures Daniel to NOT teach his son Chris how to defend himself with a gun.

The simmering hostility bit between Travis and Daniel felt forced, just there to ramp up the tension a little more.

Ah well. As Daniel says, "The good people die first."

Let's hope so.

Second, the ending of the episode felt… off.

It wasn't the arrival of the cavalry. I have nothing against cavalry charging to save the day, every now and then. They can be fun and uplifting and all that, but here, it seemed like the army dropped in literally from out of nowhere.

This may be me being too picky, but think about it.

One minute, the street is empty. All our heroine sees is Patrick arriving home in his car. The street's otherwise deserted.

The next moment, troops are all over the block.

I know she's all tunnel vision on Patrick, but come on: a convoy of huge army trucks isn't going to catch your eye? Especially when flanked by soldiers running around with automatic weapons out, shooting walking dead people?

Perhaps I didn't understand the staging, but then, it's the responsibility of the filmmaker orient the viewer.

Shouldn't the army trucks have been right behind Patrick?

They were coming from the same direction, after all, down a long street they did a crane shot of later, which means Patrick would have had to PASS the army to get to his house. He would have seen soldiers running house to house, guns out, like they were in active combat. Yet he asks no questions? In fact, he seems completely oblivious to what's going on, other than acknowledging that the airport is closed. He has no idea why. How did he drive all that way without seeing anything?

And considering it was an infected area being cleared by the military block by block, surely the US Army would set up road blocks and not let people back in until the job was finished.

Wouldn't they?

I don't mind the army showing up. I just wish they'd staged it in a more believable way that didn't leave me going wait, what, huh, how, where, why…?

This could all be put down to the short hand necessary to write and produce a TV show on a tight schedule and limited budget. Still, it was in such sharp contrast to some of the well staged scenes (like the hospital drive by), it brought the whole unnecessarily down.

But I'm still watching. I'm looking forward to seeing how the army loses control of the situation.

I did notice that soldiers put a big 'X' on a house. This signaled to realist Daniel (who's in simultaneous love-goggle denial about Griselda's impending demise) that things are already too late. I'm guessing because the army is only containing zombies in homes, rather than going in and clearing them out: the difference between spray paint baby blue and big black infected X.

A fascinating touch. 

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