Episode 2 opens on a creepy note, with daughter Alicia walking into her boyfriend Matt’s house. The door stands half open and when she walks up the stairs she finds—a commercial break, just minutes into the episode! Terrifying.
Once we get over that, Matt’s just sick. Real sick. Oh crap, it starts with a fever, right? Travis, Madison, and Nick are on their way, piled into the cab of the pickup together like a big happy redneck family. Travis finds a bite wound. Oh shit. Matt is stoic. He knows what happens to black guys in horror movies (little does he know that in the world of the Walking Dead they are subject to a far worse fate—being chronically miswritten).
There is some kid on a bus, and maybe that is Travis’ son from his first marriage? Let’s go with that. Somebody runs on the bus and yells that the cops shot a homeless dude like 20 times, and everybody runs toward it like they haven’t seen coverage of Ferguson.
Madison goes to the empty school and breaks into a locker looking for…a gun, knife, methadone? (Nick is tweaking.) The creepy but smart kid Tobias comes in and quite reasonably asks for his knife. This is how civilization crumbles! People forget all about rules! —My wife, petty fascist. I say give the kid his knife back. This is why southern Appalachia will be ok—lots of guns and the kids can pull their pocket knife if necessary.
Back to Travis’ son and it’s getting all Ferguson-y. Who’d a thunk it. He’s videotaping and cops hate a record of their actions.
Blah blah and we’re back to the school. Tobias is genre-savvy and is schooling Madison. I kind of like the idea of all zombie fiction taking place in a world where there is no zombie fiction, and everybody is all “what the heck is this crazy stuff no one ever would have thought of?” Aliens that turn back time and we’ll have a plan. Zombies and 90% of the human population are dead before we figure out how to stop something about as imposing as the town drunk.
Oh wait, I’m supposed to be talking about the show. Another zombie shows up and it’s Artie the (black) principal. It’s like the writers saw how much criticism they got for killing some of the many black characters in the main series and just decided the throw up a big middle finger. Tobias stabs him in the chest, so that’s at least one thing he doesn’t know. And it’s that much more satisfying to see Madison hit him in the head a few times with a fire extinguisher.
Travis and his ex find their son, but things are popping off. The police drop another zombie and it turns into a full scale riot. Travis talks his way into a barber shop (they don’t have metal doors and window covers like that in southern Appalachia, so LA has that).
By the end of the episode Travis et al. (Liza and Christopher—I had to look it up) are still locked in the barbershop and Madison et al. (Nick and Alicia) are at her house. The phone lines and power are cutting out already.
It’s another slow episode, if only two-thirds as long, and not as creepy as the pilot. I really want to see the details of how things fall apart, but I don’t trust Fear the Walking Dead to do it without resorting to clunky, too-on-the-nose exposition as they did in this episode with Tobias.
The big question I’ve always had is how do things get so bad if people only turn into zombies if they get scratched/bit or die from some other cause? And many people who get scratched or bit are left with enough body to shamble around. I thought we were going to get a hint with Alicia’s boyfriend Matt, but we find out he was bitten. It seems to me that things could never get as bad as we see in the main series without some people succumbing to the virus without getting bit or anything. And it wouldn’t take a huge portion of the population either.
I also want to see details on how the electricity grid goes down, why the phone lines go down, how the military fails to stop it (whatever Max Brooks thinks, walkers aren’t going to be doing much walking after a little light ordinance). That sort of thing gets precious little attention in mainstream post-apocalyptic fiction. I understand that there is a thriving indy sub-genre of post-apocalyptic work by survivalists that goes into that stuff in great detail, but I also understand that it’s mostly awful. It’s probably too much to expect from a spin-off of a show that has its characters finding perfectly good food and gas years after the fall. And brand new cars.