It’s important for the plot on a television show to keep moving, no matter how much time there is to tell a story. The most economical movies, such as a movie like Green Room (which is ridiculously good, by the way), can tell a coherent story in 90 minutes. So when a show like Fear the Walking Dead gets a 15-episode season, which is roughly equivalent for 11 hours of screentime, it can be difficult to fill every second of screentime with enough story to justify needing all of that screentime. And, especially in television shows with long seasons, sometimes episodes get drawn out for the sake of stretching out a season arc.
The main problem with Fear the Walking Dead, more than anything else, is that it doesn’t have enough story to last a 15-episode season. This was likely why the first season went so well; it only needed 40% of the amount of story it needed this season to function properly. This season, the main characters were on a boat for 5 entire episodes, occasionally harassed by raiders or by random survivors. It can be difficult to construct a overarching season arc when the premise of the show is that of an apocalypse drama, where there isn’t a clear objective to accomplish and long periods of time are spent simply living. For how many stories are apocalypse dramas, it’s a surprisingly difficult concept to properly execute. It’s no wonder that mostly literary artists (Emily St. John Mandel, Kazuo Ishiguro, Cormac McCarthy) are the ones that use this format to accomplish stellar things. It takes a lot to be able to do so.
So what happens this episode? The main characters get off the boat (finally!) and make it to a farm of sorts (deja vu), where they run into somebody who keeps the undead locked up in the cellar. Strand finds his lover, who is dying from a walker bite, and is forced to execute him when he passes. Nick and Daniel are unnerved by the level of violence they has to commit to in the new world, while Chris is becoming oddly comfortable with violence. And, of course, Madison and Travis disagree about how far Chris’s mental instability has progressed. For this episode entering a new location, there’s quite a bit of focus on specific characters rather than focus on where they are, what to do next, etc. The excitement of these stores comes from the frenetic nature of being in constant peril, and while that constant peril does exist on this show, the drive for a next objective does not. And it damages the show as a whole.
The character development in this episode is interesting, but I’m somewhat disappointed in the way that Chris’s character has progressed. Clearly, he’s suffering from some sort of mental instability, unlike Nick and Daniel who both suffer but are able to hold themselves intact, but the issue with Chris comes from the show not diving into his instability with enough depth. That shallow approach was enough when he was simply struggling, as it is when Nick and Daniel struggle. But the show is now pivoting Chris’s story as the central dilemma of the show, more than any other problem the survivors have. And without looking at Chris’s instability with depth, that central dilemma can look very bad very quickly. Hopefully the next episode does more with Chris, as this current shift is happening before Chris’s character is ready for it.