[Note: I skipped reviewing episode 2 because I found myself saying all the exact same things that I’d said with my review of episode 1 — in a good way. Episode 3, however, brings something new to the Fear the Walking Dead table.] “The Dog” serves as the completion of director Adam Davidson‘s opening salvo of Fear the Walking Dead. He directed all three episodes so far and I have to say it was a wise choice on the part of the brain trust behind the scenes. It creates a creative flow that remains consistent throughout as we watch the world slowly start to fall apart, while allowing a steady development of characters and situations without any jarring shifts in tone or approach. Essentially we’ve just gotten a two-hour feature film version of a pilot that segues smoothly into the military arrival in the episodes closing minutes. The script, by Jack LoGiudice, is solid, relying less on exposition and more on the performances to tell the tale. It accomplishes everything it needs to do to bring all of our main characters back together, establish some tension, and give everyone involved a heaping helping of Zombie 101 with only a few stumbling blocks here and there. By episode’s end, none of our central cast is under any illusion that this is some ordinary sickness sweeping the city. Travis (Cliff Curtis), however, is holding out some hope for a medical solution. Madison (Kim Dickens), on the other hand, is already on-board the Zombie Apocalypse train and is shifting her attitudes about life, death, and morality accordingly. This is a nice touch, especially as she’s the school counselor – the one on the front lines who deals with the worst problems her kids are dealing with right alongside them, and she has already been shown to be sympathetic to those who are targeted and bullied. Hell, she brained the principal already. Her moments in the backyard as she considers killing her zombified friend and neighbor, and the telling moment in the kitchen with Travis’s ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez), are exactly what we should expect from someone set to survive the apocalypse. Madison is easily my favorite character so far and Dickens is nailing her emotional struggle and giving us what is already, in my book, a classic zombie narrative hero. She’s not only making the right calls on gut instinct, she’s holding her family together, keeping her junkie son under control, and demonstrating more natural leadership than anyone else on the show. This show serves as a nice contrast to the way The Walking Dead began. There was a freshness to that, diving into the story once the apocalypse was already well underway and society had pretty much collapsed. We never got to see how the original group formed, how they reacted to everything changing around them. Watching Fear the Walking Dead makes plain the psychological problem Rick had being dropped into that world without actually watching it happen. He was always cursed with a blind spot; he always had a hold on the old world that undermined most of his actions. That has caused his eventual awakening to what the world really is to be so dramatic that he’s over-reacted, bringing us what should be the most intensely psychological season of The Walking Dead yet. Here, however, getting a ground floor view of everything falling apart, we should get an equally interesting look at the psyches of the characters involved. At the same time, Fear the Walking Dead is giving us an intriguing – and sometimes difficult – incorporation of contemporary social politics that really doesn’t appear in the original series. By focusing so much in these first three episodes on, if not questions of police brutality and the morality behind social protest, at least co-opting that imagery, Fear is staking some controversial ground. And by controversial, I mean that it’s establishing that law enforcement and the military are entirely misunderstood in this scenario. The lethal violence that is being unleashed against these homeless people and people of color, is justified because they are really zombies. Because this is a fact that the general public is not privy to, therefore makes the police look like their murdering people in the street without provocation. When this narrative approach is combined with the way protesters are represented in the last two episodes, one might wonder just where the film makers’ political alliances lie. I mean, let’s just say it: the protesters we saw last week are almost immediately swapped out with masked rioters reveling in unchecked violence and the destruction of property. And when the faceless police line arrives with its billy clubs and police shields they are unquestionably dehumanized, but in response to the unprovoked chaos that has exploded, they are essentially presented as being justified in their shutting down of the violence and the closing off of the rioters’ points of access and escape. Still, watching a faceless police line open up fire hoses on protesters – given images we’re seeing on the news almost every evening these days – is troubling. Given the political subtext of the show so far, with its casual acceptance of metal detectors and listening devices in the classrooms, it’s hard to see Fear the Walking Dead taking a critical stance against these actions. In fact, as far as Fear the Walking Dead seems to be concerned, we really don’t know the whole story when a police officer guns down someone in the street. And hostile reactions to what appear to be cold-blooded murder are misguided liberal over-reactions that lead to more chaos and ultimately contribute the apocalypse as zombies feed unnoticed on police officers in the middle of chaotic riots. As traumatic as scenes of police gunning down people shambling around outside a hospital is to the characters and to viewers, we understand even if the characters don’t really yet, that the police are doing a good job. They’re justified in their gunning down of civilians because in this narrative they’re an actual threat. The cognitive dissonance this creates when we can simply turn on the computer and see police officers gunning down innocent people, choking them to death on the street, planting guns, etc. is troubling to say the least. In the closing minutes of the episode, the military arrives in the nick of time to kill Susan (Cici Lau), Madison’s neighbor, before she can feed on her husband, Patrick (Jim Lau). While this serves as a way to justify Madison’s earlier impulse – hampered by Travis’s pacifism – without saddling her with the emotional impact and potential guilt, it also serves as reinforcement that the police and military are the good guys. This isn’t The Walking Dead, where the power structures have collapsed and it’s everyone for themselves. Fear has a very clear agenda to establish that we should trust in established power; they have our best interests at heart. Resistance and questioning of authority undermines everyone’s safety. Ultimately we know this is going to collapse. In the meantime, don’t worry. They will kill the right people at the right times. Because, really, fleeing to the desert isn’t really a serious option. Fear the Walking Dead 1.03 "The Dog"Paul's Rating4.5Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.