Of Characters and Contagion on Fear The Walking Dead

AMC

AMC

We’re 3 weeks into Fear The Walking Dead‘s premiere season.

And, believe it or not, we’re half way through it as well. (Yep. The first season of The Walking Dead companion series is only 6 episodes long.)

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in its short series life, you cannot take it in thinking it’s moving too slowly. You can’t gloss over it concluding there’s little substance within it, you can’t second guess the characters knowing what we know and what’s to come. It doesn’t work that way. Fear The Walking Dead is an entirely different animal from The Walking Dead.

Of the pilot episode, I stated trying to explain the apocalypse in a mere 90 minutes would be foolhardy. It can’t be done properly … and it shouldn’t be done. Three episodes in we’re still waiting, champing at the bit, to see what tale unfolds. And I’m just fine with that. Overall, I like what I’ve seen in the three aired episodes.

So far (for me at least) this is a series that needs to be thought about and absorbed for a while before being commented on. If you don’t — if I don’t do that — things will get glossed over. Stuff will get missed and the true story of these people will be denigrated, shrugged off as not matching what The Walking Dead brought to us before it.

We’ll get there, don’t worry. We don’t need the instant gratification of knowing right this instant what goes down.

I like it unfolding layer after layer, I’m good with letting it come to me in its own time. tweet

If you’re one of those who can’t stand that sort of storytelling, you might have a long and frustrating time ahead. That is, if you stick with it at all.

In the meantime, I thought I would reflect on a couple items, some of which are shaping up quite nicely … and will continue to do so as the series progresses.

Characters

The standout characters as I see it are Madison Clark (Kim Dickens), her son Nick (Frank Dillane) and Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades).

Madison is confused, frightened and protective, places that line up right where they’re supposed to be at this juncture in the series. It’s interesting seeing her rise up to the occasion of bludgeoning Artie the principal with a fire extinguisher to save Tobias’ life when the former attacked the latter after turning and then, later, worrying herself over how much medication to give her addict son and when to do so. I like the directions the writers keep sending her in and I’m pleased with the progression thus far.

Frank Dillane has impressed me greatly as the episodes have booked along. He’s come far in the few hours of show, from the pain-in-the-asshat, self-centered twit wondering where his next fix was coming from to someone who is becoming more cognizant of what’s taking place in the world around him as his drug-addled mind becomes clearer and clearer.

It’s easy to see how many watching the show initially could give a rat’s ass about the kid. And many still do. tweet

But look how far he’s come in the few chapters of FTWD; his character is slowly pulling it together, albeit with tons of angst and a lot of internal pain, mental and physical. Dillane is a kick of an actor with relatively little front-of-camera experience to his credit. But, man, is he leaving an impression.

Quiet, take charge and solid, Daniel Salazar (Blades) is no-nonsense and boasts a calm assurance in what he does. He hasn’t said much, he hasn’t done a whole lot but what he’s said has spoken volumes and his actions leave no questions lingering. I rather dig that about the guy. He’s a thinking man and doesn’t waste time with blather — he expects you to figure things out quickly and be decisive about it. On the flip side, he’s the type who assumes you will interpret his actions and requests with a minimum of questions. I’m looking forward to what Daniel does and says as the show goes on. Not only do I anticipate him mixing things up but I expect there will be consequences as a result of his forwardness.

The remaining characters? No one stands out right now. The biggest disappointment so far is Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) who has just “been there” more than anything else. I’m hopeful his befuddlement fades as he realizes more of the gravity of what is going on around him. At least he has his family in his sights.

Contagion

Over the last few months during interviews prior to FTWD debuting, there was a nice little tidbit tossed out for us to chew on:

Creator Robert Kirkman promised us the source of the outbreak, the lowdown on what it is and where it came from. tweet

It hasn’t happened yet but it’s building. Heck … we might not even know the whole story with the conclusion of the season finale. And if that’s the case, I’m good with that. Keeps the viewer on their toes, you know?

But it will come. And it might come around the corner with a lot of questions attached to which there are no immediate answers.

Here’s what we know so far, however …

The contagion is contracted when the affected scratch, bite or otherwise injure a person such that the skin is broken. That gets the nastiness coursing through the system and on its merry way to wreaking havoc. We have gleaned some of that information courtesy of episode “TS-19,” The Walking Dead’s first season finale and the explanations from Dr. Edwin Jenner.

But … where did it originate?

And, wait a minute … didn’t we see a few of the undead without any scratches or bites so far in the series? And didn’t a character or two call out that fact? Yep. They did. Which makes things even more puzzling and anticipatory. What’s going on? How’s it all going to shake out? There seems to be some contradiction going on as to its contraction, doesn’t it? Which makes us want to know how the contagion came about in the first place and how it propagates, among other things. I guess we just have to relax and let things move along in their natural order of revelation. It doesn’t mean we have to like it but I’m good with the way it’s building and playing out so far.

(Note: There’s another contagion in the series as we saw during the riots in the streets of L.A. in episode 2 “So Close, Yet So Far.” It’s called “dumbassery” and it takes of the form of random, seemingly normal folks being led like sheep into the troubling, dangerous and nonsensical state of herd mentality resulting in wanton destruction of public and private property. It’s better known as “rioting for rioting’s sake.” And it has nothing to do with the epidemic at hand. It does have everything to do with stupidity, however, which is its own disease.)

So here comes the last half of the season with just three episodes to go. I predict there’s a lot packed in the final trio of showings with a few surprises to boot. I’m looking forward to them.

Just as I looked forward to FTWD making its debut. I mean … wasn’t it just a few weeks ago when the series began?

Oh, that’s right … it was.

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