Fear the Walking Dead – Season 1 Episode 2

Aug 31, 2015 | Posted by in TV

“So Close, Yet So Far”

Fear the Walking Dead episode 2 picks up immediately after the events of last week’s pilot.  The seeds planted a week ago are beginning to come to fruition, as L.A. starts to react to the events that will eventually bring about the inevitable zombie apocalypse.  Schools are empty because of a mysterious bug and citizens are responding badly to perceived police brutality.   For now, there are still many more walking living than walking dead, however this episode gives our protagonists’ reason to really fear the oncoming plague.

The signs are plain for Maddie and Travis to see; kids are absent from a neighbourhood birthday party, a coughing man a couple of doors down is stocking up on supplies, preparing for the worst.   The tension is definitely building, and once again, director Adam Davidson plays with audience expectations.  A fine example of this is Nick scanning the truck radio, in the aftermath of the family’s encounter with Cal – one station he lands on blurts out it’s a “catastrophe of biblical proportions” – we as an audience are led to believe that the zombie plague is upon us, before the situation is quickly defused, as it turns out that the caller on the radio was merely complaining about a trade his favourite football team have just made.  This could be a comment on our society’s over use of hyperbole, or perhaps a sly nod to the ‘first world problems’ phenomenon.

The main plot threads of the episode involve Maddie and Travis looking out for their families. They plan to head for the desert in order to escape the chaos of the city, but before they do, they each have tasks to attend to.  Travis wants to take his ex-wife Liza and his son Chris on the exodus from L.A., but he’ll need to find them first.  Nick is suffering from heroin withdrawal, and will be in no fit state to travel.  Unable to contact the family doctor, Maddie elects to raid the school medicine cabinet to get Nick the opiates he craves.


Maddie liberates some drugs from the school

Maddie lets herself in to the deserted school – the long, empty corridors evoke the iconic prison scenes from the parent show, and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine these classrooms being used in a similar defensive manner in the not-too-distant future.   Although the world outside continues to turn, the atmosphere inside the school seems to signal that a class will never again be taught within these wall.  As Maddie reaches the medical supplies, and pries her way into the cabinet she places her crowbar down, and the camera lingers on the instrument just long enough to let us believe that by letting her guard down she may have placed herself in mortal danger.  Again, we’re witnessing our protagonists’ introduction to a new way of life, a new way of thinking, and it’s probable that over the remaining episodes of this season there will be some harsh lessons to be learned.  As expected, a shadowy figure fills the doorway, but for now Maddie is safe.  It’s Tobias, the misfit kid from whom she confiscated the knife.  His predictions about the coming apocalypse are eerily accurate (it’s almost as if he’s seen The Walking Dead) and he’s raiding the school for supplies like a clairvoyant doomsday prepper.  Just as Tobias’ ramblings should be sending Maddie over the edge, the school intercom emits an alarming and very foreboding rasping, growling sound.  This is one of the tensest moments of the season so far, as Maddie and Tobias stare in terror at the source of the noise.  As they run for safety they encounter Artie, Maddie’s ex-colleague, now a zombie.  He lunges for Tobias and Maddie has to save the boy, bludgeoning Artie with a fire extinguisher.  It’s a visceral scene, and crushing human skulls can’t come naturally to most high-school guidance counsellors, but in the face of death, Maddie’s reaction was quick and decisive.  We see her later at home struggling to come to terms with her actions – a theme we should expect to be addressed throughout the season, as our protagonists encounter ever more dehumanising situations.


Travis contemplates a short back and sides

Travis’ storyline takes him in search of his biological son Chris, who has joined a protest downtown.  The streets are jammed with traffic as people take to roads in confusion at the situation of growing unrest.  Citizens have heard of police heavy-handedness in the shooting of a homeless man, and are gathering at the scene chanting against the cops.  The motif of civil distrust of the police is extremely pertinent, especially to recent events in the United States, and it’s interesting to see it deployed here.   The disorder that results from civilians disobeying the law en masse is a factor that will lead to the spread, and ineffective containment of the zombie infection.  Are the writers trying to tell us that everything will be ok if we behave ourselves and do as we’re told?  Nevertheless, as Travis, with Liza in tow, finds Chris at the protest, another zombie looms out from behind a car, forcing the police to open fire.  In the ensuing chaos the crowd begins rioting and looting.  Fires are started and riot police move in, their shields, helmets and gasmasks providing a faceless, authoritarian presence.  Here we’re seeing the first breakdown of society – erosion that will ultimately lead to the zombie apocalypse.  We also get our first glimpse of the sort of charitable behaviour that allows people to band together in The Walking Dead.  As Travis, Liza and Chris look to get off the streets and away from immediate danger, they plead with a local barber (Rubén Blades) to let them take shelter in the shop he’s hastily shuttering.  As the two families hide out in the darkened shop there’s anarchy in the streets.  The mistrust of strangers, but eventual willingness to help fellow humans is well-worn territory for the parent show, but here for the first time in Fear we begin to see how crucial a community, however small, is for the survival of the human race.

As Travis and his family are stranded downtown, Maddie returns home.  Nick is relieved to receive the medication, but Alicia and Maddie are disturbed to witness one neighbour attack another.  Mayhem, it seems, has truly fallen upon Los Angeles.

This episode is short, but still suffers from some of the pacing issues we saw in the pilot.  Providing only one real moment of gripping tension, much of the narrative takes place slowly and steadily.  For now, Fear seems content to tide its audience over with the anticipation of things to come.  With disorder in the streets and the family divided, there’s potential for more frantic action and a speedier narrative tempo in upcoming episodes, but if the issue isn’t resolved soon, Fear runs as great a risk of becoming a shambling mess as its characters do.

  • 7/10
    So Close, Yet So Far - 7/10


Episode 2 continues the slow burn established last week. Police brutality is brought into question again, kicking off rioting that traps Travis and his family downtown. The first signs of cooperation as a survival tactic begin to show as the family seek refuge in a barber shop.

Maddie encounters a zombie co-worker at the school as she searches for drugs to help with Nick’s heroin withdrawal. She’s forced to confront her humanity as she defends herself and Tobias from the attack.
Misdirects and an exploitation of audience expectation continue to be employed, drawing on well-known tropes used in The Walking Dead.

Pacing remains an issue that will hopefully be resolved as society begins to fall apart and the action kicks up a notch.