Sunday, 3 September 2017

Fear The Walking Dead Season 2 - review

2016 (USA)

With Season 2 and the group forced to flee a ruined Los Angeles up in flames, it's back to more familiar The Walking Dead ground. I say ground; as led now in part by Victor Strand (Colman Domingo), a single minded entrepreneur for want of a better word, the group are actually out seeking misadventure and intrigue on the high seas.

Setting the heroes on a boat and not on land was an inspired writing choice differentiating the series at the earliest opportunity from the mid-country claustrophobia of The Walking Dead. That being said the narrative is the same; with the companions dealing with increasingly maladjusted and dangerous situations, all the while picking up the skills they'll (some of them) no doubt need to survive into seasons 3 and 4. I say some; not everyone is made for the end of the world, but it's not as obvious as before, with all characters more closely vying for ineptitude and naivety.

The first eight episodes very much take over from the first series. Theirs is a discrete road (ok boat) journey of discovery; both literally to Mexico, and metaphorically, as they're actually forced to come to the conclusion that the shit-show is real, and there's not likely to be some magic paradise at the end of it. It's good post-apocalyptic drama, well presented and written, though now, out of the apocalypse into the post-apocalypse the characters aren't quite enough to keep things feeling as original or fresh. The journey being a tad too linear and the trials and douchebags on the way a tad too familiar. Then just as I was starting to worry, bang!

Whatever the reasons for what appears to be the huge injection of confidence and cash, the second half of Season 2 literally explodes in scope and ambition. Scattering the characters and their aspirations across a suddenly complete and city full of communities, power-play and danger, Fear The Walking Dead turns the dial up a notch and the results are stunning. The Mexican city of Rosarito and its surrounding area makes a great playground for the characters and also differentiates itself from The Walking Dead, with what appears to be lower population density; and hence fewer zombies, and an entirely different culture and landscape. The Americans too are the outsiders, itself creating a new dynamic in the story.

I've always been surprised how quickly and efficiently zombie survivors adjust to bashing in skulls and sticking sharp things into eyes and ears. One minute it's doing chores or revising for a mock history exam, and the next it's slicing and dicing like a seasoned killer; and to say the group's young'uns Alicia Clark (Alycia Debnam-Carey), Christoper Manawa (Lorenzo James Henrie) and aforementioned Nick haven't adjusted to the bloodshed would be an understatement. Then again, stories are told by the victors; those that did survive for them to be told. Just mulling over my own existence and all the coincidences and wins that would have to have occurred to each and every ancestor, however big or seemingly insignificant, is it not plausible that the survivors of zombie dramas such as this, could be as capable, or fortuitous as they are? Take Nick; the guy who stuck poison in his veins in Season 1, and the guy who thought he could walk with the zombies. The odds of him not only surviving all the things thrown his way in both Seasons, let alone come out of it all with a girl on his arm, is astronomical and it could almost be too glaring; too incredible; yet Fear the Walking has the feel of a great epic and it doesn't seem too much at all.

Finishing Season 2, I feel here is a show that's finally found its confidence. With a more expansive playground and seemingly larger budget the already well developed characters have found their post-apocalyptic strength, and yet still haven't succumbed to the despair and resignation that seems to be main ongoing trait for Rick and his gang. Also, yes, other humans did once again rise to take centre stage, and that's a small pity in my mind, but it's still top tier zombie story telling with huge promise and mammoth potential - 8/10.


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