I constantly find myself wishing better things for apocalypse stories. Some are very, very well done, and they’re usually found in literature. Take Station Eleven, an absolutely fantastic book about connection in a world that is ending. Its brilliance comes from the way that it humanize star people in the stories, doing more than showing them defeated or struggling. There’s beauty in people learning to live with the notion of death as an expected reality. However, many apocalypse stories today are falling back on tedious plot points and predictable characters, which is frustrating because we want to see real people figure out how to contend with their unique situations.
That being said, for a pirate raid on the Abigail, that sure was boring. That it teased this storyline continuing for the time being is even more frustrating. But why was it boring? Well, the “bad guys” had distinct personalities, but they weren’t dense enough to feel any way about them. One was a jerk, another was anxious, another was sympathetic. They were diverse enough to be characterized differently, but they still felt cookie-cutter, especially next to the rest of the cast, which didn’t feel that different. That has been a major issue with Fear the Walking Dead so far, that its auxiliary characters haven’t been very interesting, even though the plot has been heavily reliant on them so far.
You can summarize the rest of the cast with one or two words as well. Chris was angry. Maddie was calculated. Alicia was naive and looking for connection. The show is certainly trying to do more with Nick as well, but even he just kind of meandered around this episode, smearing blood on himself and making his way to Strand’s connect, who is working to get them into Mexico. There has been a lot of connection between Nick and the zombies in a way that reflects on his identity as an addict, but past that identification as an addict, we still don’t know a whole lot about him. He’s a character that could be interesting but doesn’t have much backstory or intrigue or emotion to grab onto.
The episode focused primarily on Strand, going into his backstory as a way to deepen his character. I’m not sure that the flashbacks accomplished that, but they did show us part of who he was in a past life, and that made me care a little more about what happened to him. Strand always saw himself as being in control, and it terrified him to lose even a small portion of that control. As the raiders boarded the Abigail, he ran away because he knew no other way, because he’s an opportunist who needs to see opportunity in order to feel like he’ll be okay. We can see in the panic that he’s in as he heads away from the Abigail that being trapped scares him to death. And it’s character development that actually works, as we know something more about Strand, something that reveals how he operates in the world.
See, even if the flashback wasn’t perfect, it did accomplish something. It’s like the flashbacks from LOST, at least from the first few seasons. We need to know who characters are outside of the narrative, at least when the scope is this big (shorter books and movies clearly can’t always accomplish this, but they’re usually operating at a far more condensed and efficient pace). Because when we know more about these characters’ pasts, we can draw connections between our pasts and theirs, about our growth and their growth. Flashbacks, when done correctly, have the capacity to humanize characters and reveal more about who they are.
But for now, Fear the Walking Dead is kind of spinning its wheels, stalling as everybody is still on the Abigail four episodes in. Sure, Alicia is with the raiders. Sure, everybody now has a way into Mexico. But this show is aimless right now, no real direction or goal for the characters to embark towards. If the show is going to be this slow and this drawn out, then more flashbacks and more character development is an essential tool to get us to understand and care about who these people are. Until then, there’s not a whole lot going on, and it’s kind of a shame.
What did you think of the episode? Do you wish something different was happening? Let me know in the comments!