Fear the Walking Dead: Wait, is Nick the moral compass on this show?
We're now two weeks into the second season of Fear the Walking Dead, and things are starting to pick up a bit of steam — tonight, the Manawa/Clark clan and their now-seafaring cohorts came across other people. New people. That's progress.
But it was in watching tonight's episode, "We All Fall Down," that I found myself trying to pinpoint exactly why I'm having such a hard time grabbing hold of this series.
I'm clearly a huge fan of The Walking Dead, and I'd like to think my issues with Fear the Walking Dead have to do with more than the fact it isn't quite as gory-slash-exciting as its Atlanta-based counterpart. I'm a writer, after all... I've got nothing against character development and slow-burning plot.
So I started to analyze the characters in relation to this week's events as they unfolded.
Our survivors are on the high seas off the California coast when they decide to try to anchor at Catrina Island for the night in hopes of finding some useful items at the ranger station. On the way in, they had seen the lights turn on in a house on the island and, once there, they soon meet the family living in the house — husband and wife, George and Melissa, and their kids Harry, Willa and Seth.
Madison believes the flicker of the lights they'd seen before was a signal from Melissa, who quickly explains it away as an accident. No one seems to be buying this, though, the least of all Madison. She presses on in pursuit of more information.
Interestingly, the family are survivalists. They've actually been preparing for the end of the world for years by sustaining themselves with a garden, supplies and water. They've built a fence to keep the swimming walkers — the floaters? — from crawling out of the ocean and onto their property.
They believe they can get through anything together, which is kind of a stark contrast to the dysfunctional Manawa/Clark fam.
George ends up being a morose but fascinating character who seems convinced the zombie apocalypse is kind of like the great flood — here to wipe away the ills of humanity and start fresh. We soon learn through his little boy, Harry, that George plans to give his family "power pills" so they can always be together. These are filled with poison, ICYMI.
Long story short, the little girl, Willa, eats her power pill prematurely, turns into a walker and has her mom's jugular for lunch. Before this gruesome scene unfolded, Madison was intent on taking the kids aboard the Abigail — to save them, I guess?
Ultimately, they wind up watching the eldest son, Seth, shoot his own walkerized mom on the dock as little Harry stood behind him.
And then it struck me: This show has no clearly discernible moral compass. Or, at the very least, no one who is fighting for the greater good.
In the series premiere, it kind of seemed like that person was going to be Travis. He seemed to hold out hope the longest that this was all some big misunderstanding and everyone would eventually just snap out of it.
Then it seemed for a hot minute like it was going to be Madison. Admittedly, she still has her moments (although they all seem ill-informed, like taking two kids from their parents to go on a boat destined for nowhere).
Daniel is one meltdown away from becoming this show's Negan. His daughter, Ofelia, is so pissed at him right now, she has blinders on the rest of humanity. Alicia and Chris both have too much teen angst to pull it off, and Strand is too cynical and pragmatic to even be in the running — which leaves Nick.
Last season, I felt sure Nick would quickly become for Fear the Walking Dead what Rick is for The Walking Dead. Sure, he's young, addicted to drugs and has questionable personal hygiene habits, but the show really played him up like he was going to be the guy to have a dramatic epiphany and get his shit together.
Now, I'm not so sure that will ever happen — or if he'll ever wash his hair. Mysteries abound, I tell you.
But if Nick isn't the moral compass of this series, who is? And is that why I can't seem to get behind the show? In the immortal words of circa-80s-and-90s hair band Poison, "Give me something to believe in."
I'm a little annoyed that Nick hasn't gotten some better characterization so far, as his arc started off so promising. Remember that whole scene with his girlfriend in the old church? Him running dramatically into the streets to kick off this whole west coast zombpocalypse?
Tonight's episode did little for him other than hint at his one-dimensionality — he found the "power pills" presumably because he's a junkie who was hoping to score a fix.
I'm trying to give the series a fighting chance here and, given that it was just renewed for a third season, it still has plenty of time to prove to me that the characters are worth believing in. As of yet, though, I remain dubious.