I felt like this episode did a few things well.  For starters, it continued to play on the fact that the audience knows more about the situation than the characters.  When we see Madison and kids shining flashlights through the window to see what is going on at the neighbor’s house, we’re thinking, “OMG you dummies!  Get away from the window!”  Of course, the characters don’t really know what is going on yet.  Even our main characters – who are ahead of the curve – don’t know that it’s a zombie apocalypse and are going to keep stumbling into scary situations that can be played for scares.

Which leads to another thing I appreciated about the episode– the last bits of normality.  When Alicia comes out of the house to leave, she’s got her earbuds in.  There’s a neighbor still taking his trash out to the curb.  Maddy and the kids play Monopoly to pass time.  They make coffee and unwind with a cup of wine.  Much of this is going to come to a screeching halt as things get progressively worse.

However, the episode had some issues too.  Often, watching the characters “learn” the lessons of zombies is tedious. Shooting zombies in the body and being SHOCKED that they get back up!  “That isn’t our neighbor Susan anymore… She’s something else.  Something dead.”  “Why are you teaching my SON about F___ING GUNS!  I don’t like GUNS!”

Sigh…  Just because that is what would actually happen as people came to gripes with zombies, doesn’t mean we need to watch it AGAIN.  Realism doesn’t mean showing everything.  Like, I’m sure someone on the show has taken a dump since the saga began, yet we haven’t had to watch Travis march off to the bathroom with a newspaper.

Another thing that has me concerned is this simmering tension between Travis and Daniel.  It’s very Rick vs. Shane, with Daniel and his mutterings of “good people die first..”  I really hope that FTWD doesn’t go down the same narrative path as TWD-proper.  TWD spends a lot of time on ethics and whether it is possible to be a “good” person in the apocalypse.  Even if you really enjoy that theme (I do not), we don’t needFTWD to be the same show on the west coast.  I almost think it would make sense to let FTWD be more like American Horror Story: Let talented directors/actors tell 6-episode stories in the TWD universe without having to commit to a second/third/fourth season.  All the societies will end up BASICALLY the same, so let’s do a short story about what happens to the astronauts on the space station, let’s see what happens on a cruise ship that decides to NOT dock and stay at sea, let’s see another country, etc.

And since we’re at the mid-point of this first season, let’s do a quick character grading (looking up names on Wikipedia):

  • Travis: C – He’s kinda annoying and preachy.  Not interested in watching his journey from kind-hearted English teacher to tough-man of the apocalypse.
  • Madison: A – Probably because I like the actress.  But she seems real and relatable and practical.
  • Nick: B – I actually like him except for his annoying drug habit.  When that passes, he’ll be okay.
  • Alicia: C – Don’t care.  She seems to exist just to yell about her zombifying boyfriend and to get into trouble and need rescuing.
  • Chris: F – Feed this kid to the zombies ASAP.
  • Liza – C – Hasn’t had much screentime, but I kinda like Travis’ ex-wife.
  • Daniel: B – Provides the gruff-and-grim that the show needs.  Hopefully they tone it down a little bit.
  • Ofelia: D – Whines at her dad too much.  Annoying.  Hopefully she is fed to zombies along with Chris.
  • Griselda: F – Not really a character.  She’s injured and a plot device to make it hard for the other characters to travel.  Eventually she will die and there will be arguing about what to do before she comes back.  If the show is poorly written, tough-guy Daniel won’t be able to put his own wife down (after muttering “weak” when Travis couldn’t kill Zombie Susan) and Weak Travis will have to do it for him, thus completing both of their character arcs.

-Dean Stell

Grade

B-

Conclusion

It's an entertaining show. I generally like it, but I wonder if it is going to turn into just another version of TWD.