So last week, Fear the Walking Dead returned with a new direction that didn’t float everyone’s boat but now that transition has been made and the characters re-introduced, it has the chance to show the real value in this oceanic adventure by making its first port of call: That rather than just keeping the group milling about on a confined boat, it can utilize their mobility to traverse many new locations for different encounters along the way, and that is excellent. Survival-based shows can often be criticized for becoming too static (like The Walking Dead spending too long at The Prison or in Alexandria), so this is an ideal way to stop the show fathering any moss. This chance to take in surroundings and meet new faces opens the door to many different themes as this episode revolves around adapting to survive versus giving up on a future.
We All Fall Down – With the unknown vessel still on their tail, the group dock the Abigail on a nearby wildlife preserve island and encounter an interesting survivalist family. Nick and Madison sense something isn’t right about them with dramatic consequences.
We meet George and his family, who have equipped themselves well to deal with the realities the new world but at the same time, abandoned all hope for any form of recovery of new society. This comes across well through Kate Barnow’s script as for all the bigger declarations George makes about losing contact with other ranger stations. It’s the little details that convey his resigned mindset: that he accepts this is the end and is just trying to make the best of his family’s final days. As he encourages Travis to take one of his books because he doesn’t believe anyone will ever write another; or that even his young son Harry has been instilled with the at least the headshot basics of anti-walker dispatching (not to mention the elder Seth being a certified expert). When you compare this to the still-lingering hope of Travis and the group as they search for a place of salvation, it all comes together to form a vital chapter that The Walking Dead skipped over. When Rick wakes up from a coma, however many months down the line, everyone he meets, right from the start, are resigned and accepting that there is no going back, only survival. Whereas here, we get to follow people working through that emotional transition made all the better for knowing the inevitable conclusion. Nobody aboard the Abigail has completely given up on civilization as shown by Strand’s mystery phone call meeting arrangement. Yet the antics of the islanders also give us a few fun Easter Eggs of slowly developing the group’s survival skill sets, the best of which is Seth taking Chris for a prison style fence duty; Seth showing him the familiar weak spots to target for a single blow takedown. Now that knowledge is within the group. This is also high beneficial to Chris’s character as it gives him something else to do. His dead mom triggered emo phase is quickly getting annoying and he needs more story material like this rather than just moping about the boat.
The cat and mouse subplot between Strand and Daniel is entertaining as it later subtly probes Strand for information about his past to support his suspicions. There’s an interesting uneasy tension between the two as if Strand knows exactly what Daniel is trying to do, but at this point does not consider it a threat to act upon while still laying the groundwork for a big confrontation between the pair. The passing comments of his daughter Ophelia remind us that Daniel’s past makes him no stranger to violence and general unpleasantness, which sets up for a big showdown which may even see Daniel taking over. The clues Daniel uncovers are intriguing and point towards a more illicit use to the Abigail (which may not even be Strand’s boat). Was Strand some form drugs smuggler or human trafficker?
Nick’s character gets a good examination in this episode as well as he pushes the idea that should still be trying to help people despite Strand labelling any new arrivals as dead weight. He has some fun lighter moments of playing with the younger kids, especially Harry but still searches their medicinal supplies for something to give him a hit, implying his inner junkie is still merely just bellow the surface. The obvious comparison (especially while on an island) is Charlie from Lost, who despite being an all-around nice guy, was still constantly vulnerable to the addictive side of his personality if the opportunity presents itself. Here, we see the same from Nick he starts the episode being calm and laid back but the moment Harry mentions pills, something clicks inside him. Sadly, not all of the cast get the same treatment, and it’s mostly the ladies that are suffering. Although Madison is on the frontlines of the story, Alicia becomes little more than a passenger to the events, and for the second episode running, Ophellia is little more than a speaking extra.
It’s an improved episode from last week as it returns to the season one strength of using its characters for psychological examinations the events and greater world. Despite not having the city blazing money shot of last week, it produces plenty of good visuals across the island setting with a particularly well framed and powerful final shot. After last week’s change up return, the show settles into its new format and justifies its value. Rather than falling down the show picks itself up.
For more articles like this, take a look at our Anime and Reviews page.