Fear the Walking Dead: “The Dog” (S1, E3 review)

"Hey Susan, just thought I'd come over and see how you are, and ... oh, you're dead? Um. well, never mind ..." (image courtesy AMC)
“Hey Susan, just thought I’d come over and see how you are, and … oh, you’re dead? Um. well, never mind …” (image courtesy AMC)

 

*SPOILERS … AND DOG TARTAR ON THE MENU*

I have long held to the idea, rather romantically I must admit, that being a dog in a movie or TV show is a pretty sweet deal.

In pretty much every case I can think of, while humanity goes to the dogs – surely a good thing; unless you’re a cat lover of course – the dogs themselves sail through relatively unscathed, ready to face another post-apocalyptic day.

But not in Fear the Walking Dead, where this week’s episode, appropriately entitled “The Dog”, made it patently clear that even man’s best friend doesn’t stand a chance against a newly-turned flesh-hungry neighbour called Steve.

Yes good old Steve, the man glimpsed an episode or so back standing on his driveway coughing in that portentous “uh-oh Zombie Patient Zero” kind of way was dining out on the town, eating dogs, and when he got too close, trying to chomp on Travis (Cliff Curtis), who despite seeing a member of the undead do their rising from the dead thing, still thought Steve might be OK.

You know, OK and just a little, you know, dead.

You can’t blame the guy I suppose.

After all, even though he and girlfriend Madison (Kim Dickens), and her son Nick (Frank Dillane), who’s got a nice Oxycontin habit going thank you very much, to stay somewhat lucid for the zombie apocalypse, had witnessed Nick’s drug dealer do a twisted Jesus resurrection thing, they were still coping with the idea that something like a zombi could exist, though that’s not what they’re calling them, of course.

It’s one thing to see something, quite another to bring it fully and completely into your frame of reference, make it an inalienable part of your worldview, and Fear the Walking Dead, which is nicely capturing humanity’s ability to deny the bleeding obvious when it scares the hell out of them – as the end of the world should do; you aren’t fully alive if that doesn’t scare the hell out of you – brought that beautifully to life (or death) in this week’s episode.

 

 

The show appreciates that we all want to believe that things can get better, that even the most dire circumstances will improve, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that things are going to hell in a handbasket made of the slavering undead.

And its those kinds of insightful observations that are marking this show as one to watch, a finely-nuanced look at the way humans process great trauma, and how even in the face of all evidence to the contrary, that we will believe a situation or a person can be salvageable.

Take Madison dealing with the zombiefication of her neighbour and good friend Susan Tran (Cici Lau).

She can see her onetime babysitter is not who she once was – it’s well nigh impossible to miss all that aimless shuffling and raspy gurgling, try though she might – but it takes quite some time to accept that Susan along with life as they know it, is gone, undead baby gone.

And that’s exactly how any of us would likely react to the same situation.

If you put aside for a moment that we have seen this all on The Walking Dead and countless other zombie movies, the reality is that a plague of this kind, the dead getting up and mindlessly walking around, is so far out of the scope of human experience that coming to grips with it would be a slow and frightening thing.

And that we’d do our best to block it out.

Madison and the kids play Monopoly, and tried to act like its just another family board game night until the apocalypse will not be denied, and they’re forced to get a gun (from Susan and her husband Patrick, played by Jim Lau, who has the mother of all business trip homecomings), kill Steve, pack their belongings up and flee to the desert.

Oh and cope with the US military storming into Susan’s backyard while they all stand watching, and kill all the zombies in sight and order them to stay put in the house.

 

 

Yup, the one they were just fleeing.

You could tell Travis, who manage to shepherd his ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez) and son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), as well the family who gave them shelter, the Salazars, out of a warzone-resembling inner city LA – and Madison were torn when the cavalry came into town.

They wanted to believe this marked the beginning of the end of the end of the world but deep down they knew it was just a faint echo of hope springing eternal.

The Salazars – father Daniel (Rubén Blades), Griselda (Patricia Reyes Spíndola) and daughter Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) – know all too well that all the hope in the world cannot make up for a nightmarish reality.

Nor alter its trajectory.

Having escaped El Salvador for a much safer life in the US, they now face a repeat nightmare on a far greater, and far more terrifying scale, and are determined to deal with it on their terms.

Daniel refuses Ofelia’s pleas that they head to the desert with the Manawa/Clark blended family, believing he has the life skills to deal with the situation at hand.

And while he likely has significantly more experience with life going right royally, and grievously, to shit than Travis or Madison, or any of the others, the truth is that the zombie apocalypse is unlike anything anyone has ever faced before.

Only no one, even those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, wants to fully admit that.

Just yet anyway.

And that is the continuing brilliance of Fear the Walking Dead, which is continuing to perfectly capture that moment when hope dies and unpalatable reality kicks its nasty way in, and we all have to find a way to deal with it, like it or not.

* Coming up next week … “Not Fade Away”, in which you very much suspect humanity is about to do just that …

 

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