Friday, June 30, 2017

TV Review - Fear The Walking Dead Season 3 (Episodes 1-5)

   WARNING : FEAR THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 3 EPISODES 1 through 5 SPOILERS BELOW!!!

What has season three of 'Fear The Walking Dead' been like? Let's find out...

  I did not have high hopes for season three of AMC’s 'Fear The Walking Dead' zombie apocalypse summer companion show to the long-running classic ‘The Walking Dead’. Season two ended with our band of survivors split up as the apocalypse power couple Travis and Madison beat a hasty escape from their refuge at a Mexican resort along with daughter Alicia due to Travis going on a murderous rampage after learning of the death of his son Christopher, not only murdering Christopher’s killers but the resort’s lone doctor. The trio left real estate con-man Victor Strand behind as they headed north to find Madison’s son Nick. Meanwhile Nick had led the residents of the Colony he was staying at to the US-Mexican border where they were assaulted by an unknown paramilitary group. The lack of action at the end of season 2 along with the reality-suspending coincidences that made the disparate groups aware of each other made this season more of an afterthought to me instead of a summer event to look forward to.

  I was pleasantly surprised when season three opened with the reunion of Travis & Co. and Nick already having taken place instead of using two or more episodes of the season to build up to it. While the family being reunited was good news, the bad news was that they found themselves as prisoners of the paramilitary group run by Jeremiah Otto Sr., whose son Troy has used a fuel expedition as a chance to take prisoners and then kill them in order to time how long it takes them to reanimate as zombies. While Travis, Nick, and Nick’s girlfriend Luciana await their turn in the timing test, Madison and Alicia have found favor with Troy who attempts to talk the pair into leaving the rest of the family to their fate and accompanying him to the Broke Jaw ranch that serves as the group’s headquarters.

I was willing to suspend my belief that Madison could outfight soldier wannabe Troy for this epic 'spoon' scene!

  Madison declines the offer in grisly fashion by sticking a spoon in Troy’s eye and demanding he take her to the rest of her family. In the meantime Travis and Nick have escaped their imprisonment. Nick and Luciana are trying to navigate their way through the conveniently located underground sewer pipes while Travis is recaptured and forced to battle multiple zombies in a huge pit.

Travis is a seriously BAD ACTOR when so motivated!

  Travis defeats all the zombies with the aid of his berserker rage, some rebar, and a cement block while Troy’s brother Jake arrives to calm Madison enough into taking the spoon out of Troy’s eye. The camp is then overrun by zombies and everyone beats a hasty retreat with Nick and Madison in a truck convoy while Travis, Alicia, and Luciana exit via the group’s helicopter.

RIP Travis. He was one of the main characters on FTWD. Emphasis on WAS...

  It was a great season premiere with everything I want in a zombie apocalypse show: people killing people, people killing zombies, and zombies killing people, and as a special bonus someone getting their eye gouged out with a spoon! Episode two immediately followed the premiere and was a game changer for the series as the militia’s helicopter came under attack and Travis got shot in the neck. In prior two seasons I’m sure this situation would have been milked for weeks but in this season Travis sees how much blood he is losing and jumps to his death rather than become a helicopter zombie. The loss of Travis changes everything. The rest of the episode shows Alicia and the other survivors of the helicopter attack get back to the ranch where Madison becomes acquainted with Jerimiah Otto Sr. himself and decides the family will stay at the ranch for the time being instead of striking out on their own as originally planned.

  Now that our group has a place to stay for the season episode 3 showed us more about the Otto family via pre-apocalypse videotapes that show Otto as a survivalist that predicts the end of the world while selling his survivalist videos (including a survival bucket complete with a shovel and iodine pills). We also learn that Otto’s wife (since deceased) bears a striking resemblance to Madison which likely explains how Madison and family weren't killed after she tried to gouge the younger Otto’s eye out with a spoon. A great moment occurs when Alicia is invited to the youth bible study which turns out to be an excuse for the teens of the ranch to get drunk and high while playing 20 questions with a chomping zombie head.

  There is plenty of drama at the ranch as the survivalist-minded residents (except for the youth who are getting drunk and high) are setting out for expeditions to hunt for wild boars and find out who shot down their helicopter. That situation took a spot on the back burner as we catch up with con-man Strand at the resort hotel. Strand quells a mob outside the resort gates by pretending to be a doctor that will give needed medical attention and even delivers a baby successfully. His heroism backfires as he is kicked out of the resort by the leaders who are fearful of a riot when his lack of medical knowledge is exposed. Strand typically lands on his feet by obtaining the keys to a brand new Ferrari and drives away from the resort in style. Strand heads north until he runs into old friend Dante who has taken over a reservoir with his armed goons and now controls the local populace with his control of the only water supply. The only problem is that Dante knows Strand as the supreme con-man he is. Strand is taken to the top of the reservoir where he witnesses someone who crossed Mr. Dante thrown over 100 feet into a pile of zombies where is eaten alive after surviving the fall. Strand is almost thrown over but is instead led to a jail cell.

Daniel Salazar to the rescue!

  While in his jail cell at the end of episode three, Strand receives a surprise visit from an old friend from season two: Daniel Salazar, the CIA-trained Costa Rican Black Ops torturer turned Los Angeles barber. We last saw Salazar at the season two mid-season finale when he burned the Thomas Abigail farm to the ground and hasn’t been seen from again. His daughter Ofelia has been missing since the end of season two. Daniel asks Strand about his daughter but Stand can’t just say that Ofelia made it to the resort and disappeared and instead spins one lie on top of another until Salazar catches him in one of his many lies and leaves him in the cell to rot. From there we get to catch up with Salazar who was left for dead but rescued by the clownish Efrain and Dante reservoir water expert Lola. Lola has been siphoning water to a group of people Efrain belongs to via a fountain in a shopping mall that activates for a few minutes every Tuesday at 5pm. Aside from being a plumbing expert, Lola is a skilled medical practitioner who cures Daniel of an infected and burnt leg by slicing the infected flesh off with a large knife.

  Daniel leaves Efrain’s group but soon find himself washed through the sewer system into Dante’s reservoir where Lola rescues him yet again by getting him a job on her janitor crew that clears the dead bodies from the water inlets. Shortly Daniel is recognized by Dante as the black ops killer he is and gets promoted to the goon squad where Daniel immediately helps capture Efrain. Daniel is then charged with torturing Efrain into giving up Lola but Lola confesses while Daniel is savagely beating Efrain. Efrain, Lola, and even Strand are then brought to the top of the reservoir to be thrown into the zombie pit below but Daniel saves the day but taking out the goons and killing Mr. Dante for good measure.

The 'quiet' Episode 5 featured this extremely creepy scene...

  ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ has turned from Sunday night post-apocalyptic television filler into appointment television. Even the slow-moving fifth episode with lots of dialogue and the meeting of a group of Native American survivors that claim the Broke Jaw ranch as their territory kept my attention with the opening of an elderly man waking up to discover his wife had died and turned to a zombie overnight. I was expecting the man (who we had seen dancing with his wife in the previous episode) to kill his wife but instead he hugs her and puts a bullet through both their skulls at once. There was also a classical horror scene showing an old man sitting in a chair on a rock continually reciting a poem about a man who wasn’t there as the reveal shows his exposed skull with crows pecking away at his brain. The viewership of the show has been steadily declining although it is still leading cable television for Sunday nights among 18-49 year old viewers. I’m hopeful that as news of the improved quality of the show and the newfound unpredictability of the characters’ fates (as evidenced by Travis’s early demise) spreads this ratings will improve. Since this show isn’t beholden to the story lines of a comic book like the parent ‘The Walking Dead’ show I wouldn’t mind seeing all the main characters get killed off with the show following the zombie apocalypse around the world instead of viewing it through the eyes of a small group of survivors.