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FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Review: “Monster”

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD Review: “Monster”

Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the season 2 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead! Proceed with caution, survivors. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched tonight’s episode, “Monster,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.

Well, it’s back. The most polarizing horror television show of last year has returned for a full second season. But has Fear the Walking Dead improved since we last saw its protagonists stranded on a California beach awaiting what they thought was their inevitable slaughter by a horde of hungry newborn walkers? The short answer is yes and no.

I’ll confess right now that I tend to give the characters in horror movies a lot more leeway than most folks I’ve spoken with when it comes to making dumb mistakes. That’s not just because I believe I’d be dead in seconds in the event of an actual undead outbreak, but because I’m firm in my belief that paranoia all too often makes human beings stupid as all hell. And that’s just the paranoia that sets in when one is prepping for a college exam or a driver’s test. A zombie apocalypse? Good God. There’d be no end to the number of mistakes made by the average untrained civilian. So when the Manawas, the Clarks, and the Salazars are saved in the opening moments of “Monster” by the still-mysterious Victor Strand and his state-of-the-art super yacht the Abigail, and mistakes immediately begin getting made, well, I don’t want to play apologist for the actions of these characters, but I can understand them.

I suspect the most egregious error made in the season premiere, the one that will have many fans throwing things at their TVs, is Alicia’s decision to open communications with a voice on the radio, which at first appears in need of companionship and then lifesaving aid. She is, after all, a kid; possessing little experience with genuine grownup dishonesty and even less with bonafide murderous pirates. Essentially, she’s Carl Grimes before he learned to shoot. The problem some folks have with Fear the Walking Dead, however, is that there are a lot of Carls on this show. Since we were told from the moment it was first announced that the series would focus on unskilled, everyday people, and how they respond to the unthinkable, as opposed to The Walking Dead‘s battle-hardened warriors. The big question then, the one that each fan must make for him or herself, is whether or not they want to watch this kind of show.

Maybe it’s due to a lifetime spent watching horror movies, but I’m okay with watching idiots get butchered as long as it’s done in an interesting way. These days there isn’t a depicted lot on screen, big or small, that genuinely scares me. Instead, I find that mood, tone, and atmosphere are everything. And that’s why I hold hope for this season. The boat on which much of it will be set already lends a layer of claustrophobia to the tension, and a completely different flavor than that of Fear the Walking Dead‘s sister show. And I love watching Colman Domingo chew out the rest of the cast. The actor exhibits a great deal more chemistry with star Kim Dickens than Cliff Curtis, her character’s dull, nominal love interest. In fact, I’m already rooting for a zombie to climb out of the water and chew his face off. All the more for how it will further screw up his son Christopher, who continues to blame his father for his mother’s death (even abruptly dumping her body in the sea in the midst of her makeshift funeral service). While I sympathize with some of the show’s humans, I’m guessing most of this season will be spent rooting for the water walkers, whom I hereby nominate calling floaters.

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Undead Afterthoughts

— “Five Years”, the opening track of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, my favorite album of all time?! That’s just cheating, FTWD.

— While the crew of the Abigail doesn’t include a medical doctor, thanks to Daniel Salazar, they will at least all have quality haircuts.

— Part of me wonders if the decision to set this season on the water was motivated by the often heard complaint/internet meme that someone always appears to be mowing the lawns on The Walking Dead.

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

Image Credit: AMC

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