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Review: ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ Season 2…They’re On a Boat!

Review: 'Fear the Walking Dead' Season 2...They're On a Boat!

When it comes to spinoffs, change is key. Yes, adhering to the original in some way, shape or form is vital to keeping viewers comfortable, but shows still need to establish a reason for being unto themselves. Otherwise, why would we watch instead of sticking with the original? After a brief, largely disastrous first season, “Fear the Walking Dead” seemed to be getting the hint. Ads for the second season have emphasized a change in venue; one unique to the spinoff and the original. Yet after sifting through the first two episodes of Season 2, it’s clear taking to the ocean is the only change the writers were willing to make.

READ MORE: Review: ‘The Walking Dead’ Season 6, Episode 16, ‘Last Day on Earth’: Negan At The Bat

One of the big problems with Season 1 was how quickly it moved from zombie-free to zombie takeover. Possibly the only advantage the prequel series had going for it, in terms of an original focus, was the chance to explain where, why and how this outbreak started. And while it’s fine that we don’t get to know Patient Zero, seeing it spread could have been handled with a little more grace and originality than what was provided. Worse yet, even though they sped into the terrifying zombie hordes, “Fear the Walking Dead” didn’t leave us with much to fear. It was actually pretty dull. Which makes what happens in the first two episodes of Season 2 all the more baffling.

We’re a spoiler-free zone here at Indiewire (if you want spoilers, look to our episode reviews), but I can safely report not a lot goes down in the first two hours of the new season. Fleeing on a giant yacht may seem like novel concept in the zombie horror genre (or at least for “The Walking Dead”), but the decision to separate the extended family of Madison (Kim Dickens) and Travis (Cliff Curtis) also has the unintended side effect of slowing the show down even more — and not to delve into any pressing questions about the zombie outbreak. It’s just slow because talking and fishing are pretty much all you can do when you’re drifting around the ocean.

Perhaps the main goal of these early episodes is to set up a dynamic prevalent in “The Walking Dead.” Much like Rick & Co. always seem to stumble across a group offering safety, protection or order only to later discover their haunting and dangerous side projects (aka, cannibalism), so do Madison & Co. not-so-accidentally get caught up with a gang of bad mo-fos while out to sea. Except, rather than show a direct threat to the yacht-riding survivors, they only get glimpses of what may or may not have happened to others. The writers try to make it work as a tease, but instead it just feels like delaying the inevitable, or a miscalculation that the promise of a threat other than zombies — Hey! Just like in “The Walking Dead”! Men are the real monsters! Wow! We’ve only covered that about a thousand freaking times already — is enough to hook viewers who’ve been demanding more of “Fear the Walking Dead” since Episode 2.
Heck, it doesn’t really ask any pressing questions at all. Another well-worn trope is heavily utilized early on, when each member of the Love Boat has to decide who lives and who dies; who should they risk their lives for; who gets to join the cruise. Much like when strangers got turned away from various safe spaces in “The Walking Dead,” the boat acts like portable escape zone — but how many people can they fit on it? And who, if any of them, would agree to bringing on new crew members?

While talking to a stranger in Episode 2, Travis is pressed into a discussion over whether the zombie outbreak is the planet’s response to humans trashing it over the last 100 years. Props to the creators Dave Erickson and Robert Kirkman for finding yet another meaningless metaphor to stack on top of a zombie story, but I have to agree with the stranger when he quickly admits, “I’m not telling you anything new.” And that goes for everything that’s happened in eight episodes of “Fear the Walking Dead” to date. While the sin of familiarity could be forgiven if the series matched the exciting highs of its sister series, the series’ lack of identity is only compounded by its lack of urgency. The only thing to fear is “Fear” itself. And by that, I mean boredom.

Grade: C

For a look back at Season 1 of “Fear the Walking Dead,” check out the below…

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