By now, it’s pretty fair to say that Fear is a flawed show, but that was to be expected given that it comes from the same team as TWD. So, each episode is a jumble of pretty solid attributes and “Wha? Moments”. Your enjoyment of an episode depends mostly on which batch of scenes left the strongest impression on you.
This episode had some truly bafflingly bad garbage. Like when Travis tried to make Chris go apologize to Maddy. Or when Alicia and Chris were playing around in and later trashing the rich people’s house (guess it was a mixed income neighborhood?). I mean… Those scenes just really, really sucked and it makes me lose confidence in the creative team they got on the air. To be clear, I think those are reasonable ideas to have for scenes when you’re at the rough draft stage of writing an episode, but somewhere in the drafting/filming/editing process, someone should have said, “This scene is lame.” and removed it.
But there was some pretty good stuff too. And I was more impressed with the strength of the good things than depressed by the weakness of those lame scenes.
- Strand – For those who didn’t catch his name, the fast-talking black guy in the holding cell with Nick is named Strand. Don’t feel bad, I had to look it up on Wikipedia too. But, confusion about the name aside, it was so nice to see another actor on the show with some charisma. Characters are what we come back to TV shows for and charismatic characters are the best. You can see the actor who plays Strand (Colman Domingo) is just chewing up the scenes and already knows what his character is going to be…..even if the writers didn’t reveal much about him. I’ll watch a show with Strand in it. And even though a lot of the other characters are kinda lame or doing lame things, you have a nucleus of charismatic actors on this show: Maddy, Nick, Eliza, Dr. Exner, Daniel. (Just need to jettison Travis, Alicia, Chris, Ofelia, the Corporal, etc.)
- Confusion – While I find it frustrating that the show doesn’t introduce a character like Strand until episode 5 of 6, it does make some sense in the flow of events. He obviously comes from a different location than our other central characters and part of the confusion of society disintegrating would be people from different backgrounds tossed together. We’ve got characters scattered everywhere now and even people “in the know” like Dr. Exner don’t know much. And that confusing scene where the soldiers made Travis wait in the Humvee was wonderful. You don’t know what is happening, but you can tell it is bad.
- Daniel – I don’t enjoy him obliquely referring to all this stuff from the past, but he’s still becoming a more interesting character (again….that charisma thing). Ruben Blades kinda knows how to play this character well, even if the writers aren’t giving him awesome material yet.
- Horror – One thing that has always stood out in TWD is that the horror scenes are wonderful. I’ve speculated in the past that TWD has top notch horror talent on the show and their passion for their work shines through when you let them do what they love (like a dog at the dog park)…..and their disinterest shows when you make them film a campfire singalong (like a dog at the vet). That one scene with Maddy investigating a bump in the basement with a dodgy flashlight was great. It’s nice to see that Fear has similar horror talent…..especially because the zombies on Fear are fresh and human looking. This will be a scarier show than TWD with it’s rotten zombies that are starting to look more like orcs from Lord of the Rings.
In fact, I’m finding myself feeling a lot more positive about this show this week than last. We got a really interesting new character and a pretty obvious set-up where Travis/Maddy/Chris/Alicia/Daniel/Ofelia will be escaping from the military next week and need to find Dr. Exner/Strand/Nick/Eliza. That quest to reconnect will be the action driver for the beginning of Season 2. And you can safely assume that SOMEONE is going to get eaten in the season finale. As long as it is Alicia or Chris getting gobbled (or BOTH!), we don’t have a lot of useless characters left….just some decent actors who need better material from the writers. I was even pleased by some of the writing choices that DIDN’T happen. For example, I fully expected to have a scene where Travis and Co. learned that Lt. Moyers was cut off and operating without orders…..but instead they decided to just kill Moyers off-screen. Nice omission.
I actually feel like this show is headed in a positive direction and has a lot of potential, even if there is still too much teenage angst (and English teacher angst). Let's look forward to the season finale and whatever that suggests for Season 2.