I was not a fan of the first season of Fear the Walking Dead. The pace was incredibly slow, character development predictable, and a few moments of glory aside, it simply bored me. For those reasons, I was both dreading the season two premiere, while also retaining a shred of optimism. Maybe the team behind the show would realize their mistakes and see the light! Sadly, it’s still a catastrophe.
The second season of Fear the Walking Dead begins with a simultaneously intriguing and disappointing opening scene. The cast is ready to head out to Strand’s boat, which was teased at the end of the first season. However, gone is the quiet, serene beach community of last season’s finale. Now, the beach—and all of Los Angeles—is on fire. There’s suddenly extreme urgency to get to Strand’s boat before things get worse. Zombies are attacking everyone on the beach, heads are shattered with rocks. Nick attempts a daring rescue and chops up a zombie’s face with the boat motor before everyone gets away. Exciting, right? Gory, right? Cool John Carpenter-esque score, right? All of those things.
But wait. How did LA start to burn? Why this urgency all of a sudden? It feels like between seasons, something really epic and interesting happened. And yet, Fear the Walking Dead decided to skip it—the show totally ignores and runs away from the interesting. In a show that’s supposed to document the fall of Los Angeles as a microcosm for the degradation of the world as a whole, we skip over what could have been the best part. But I guess, why would we want to see Los Angeles actually fall, right? Let’s get our characters on to a boat so they can brood for 50 minutes.
From the opening until the episode’s final five minutes, there’s very little substance or action in the season two premiere. Yes, Chris punches his father Travis for killing his mother. They dump her body into the ocean. Strand decides not to help a lot of other people on the ocean. Nick declares that he is good at medical stuff. Alicia meets some guy named Jack on the radio. Daniel catches an eel while fishing. They all share a nice meal.
But, as has been the case from the beginning on Fear the Walking Dead, none of this really feels important. There’s no weight to it. The show does almost nothing to make us care about characters or to move the plot forward. A boy is mad his mother died. A lonely girl makes a friend. A survivor acts selfishly. It’s all just the most basic, predictable shit imaginable. In a single episode, the characters can’t even make it 100 miles to San Diego.
The big problem with Fear the Walking Dead is that these characters are flat. None of them are particularly distinctive. They’re just normal people. Flawed? Scared? Yes! But ultimately normal. They’re the background characters on the Atlanta Walking Dead. Characters who are disposable in a big action scene. Only Fear the Walking Dead doesn’t have those, so everyone survives.
To be fair, in a quality scene that felt a little World War Z (the book not the movie), there are zombies swimming in the ocean at the end of the episode as the cast encounters a capsized boat. That was kind of cool. Was this the work of Alicia’s mysterious Jack? Is that who is coming for them?
Hold up, though. Do we care? Not really. I had hoped, after an off-season for reflection, Fear the Walking Dead would’ve started with some surprising character or plot choices. But no, it’s just more of the same. After the first season, and now this episode, nothing has changed except the setting.
I’m sure there’s a passionate argument to be made that I’m totally wrong in this assessment. A deep dive could reveal these seemingly innocuous characters and actions actually mean something greater. But I’d have to be invested to do that, and I’m just not.
Here’s the teaser for the rest of this season of Fear the Walking Dead. I don’t know if I can muster up the strength.