Suffer the Little Children
This week Travis is forced to endure the only thing worse than a Zombiepocalypse (being stuck in a car with your dick teenager and his douchey dude-bro friends), Alicia has a worse hotel stay than Shelly DuVall, and we witness the most gruesome wedding ceremony this side of a Quentin Tarantino flick. All this and more happened in…
Fear the Walking Dead, Season 2, Episode 10: “Do Not Disturb”
A consistent theme throughout both seasons so far of Fear the Walking Dead has been the effect of the new world order on the kids, and season two’s tenth episode splits its focus between the good daughter and the bad son. While Alicia rises to the challenge of surviving the escalating chaos at the Zombieland Hilton, Darth Hoodie Chris falls even further to the dark side by befriending and seeking to impress a trio of lying, stealing, killing American bro-heimers who, like all American tourists the world over, make asses of themselves as they stomp loudly and without any trace of self-awareness through an unimpressed foreign land.
The Chris story begins with Travis still trying to preserve some kind of normal relationship with his increasingly sociopathic son. As they travel through the Mexican countryside looking for a little plot of land they can settle on and call their own, Chris happens upon the aforementioned Americans and immediately runs off with food and water from their supplies. His later admission of the theft to his father is yet another chink in the armor of Travis’ denial when it comes to seeing what his boy has become.
As Travis and Chris share some quality father-son time during an impromptu driving lesson, it becomes abundantly clear that, despite his deteriorating morality and mental health, Chris is still much wiser to the truth of this harsh new realm than his hopeful father. He sees things in the world and himself that his father refuses to acknowledge.
As a tale of young rebellion vs. old complacency, the Chris/Travis storyline works well as a metaphor for the independent streak that wreaks havoc on most parent-child relationships in the average nuclear family. The fact that rebellion in this case involves lots of cold-blooded murders is simply a product of the times, man. I expect Chris, honestly, to break out in a verse of “Boy, boy, crazy boy” any minute now.
When the Americans happen back along and take a shine to fellow future failed presidential assassin Chris, the divide between father and son grows that much wider. Chris, like most no good punks, is an even bigger jag when his super-jaggy friends are around.
The tug of war for Chris’ soul ends, seemingly, in a loss for Travis when the kid kills a farmer who was trying to protect his land from the dirty, rotten American scumbags. The look on Trav’s face after seeing his son, without hesitation, shoot an innocent man (and look as though he enjoyed the rush of it) says he may finally be fully aware of the little monster he’s got on his hands. I’m actually curious (for the first time ever) to see how their weird version of The Courtship of Eddie’s Father will play out.
Alicia’s story begins with a flashback to a wedding day massacre at the hotel that she, Maddy, and Strand found last week. After the father of the bride drops dead of a heart attack, he engages in the time honored wedding reception tradition of turning into an Infected and eating the bride’s face. The hotel manager, Helena, at the onset of the banquet room outbreak, locks the door, trapping the guests inside for the slaughter. Keys are a recurring motif in Alicia and Helena’s plot, representing control of the hotel and the horde. We will learn, though, by episode’s end, that this control is an illusion and that the keys, so obsessively important to the living within the microcosmic confines of the hotel are just as useless as the walls around Alexandria.
Alicia herself shows back up in the story still hiding in the closet she ran into after last week’s scary rattle of awakened walkers looking for whoever the hell was making that awful racket on the piano (you call that music, Strand?!). She eventually works up her nerve and makes a run for it. She ends up shimmying down a Die Hard-ian elevator shaft, at the top of which she meets Helena, still managing the hotel and still clutching her precious keys, who pulls a whole “come with me if you want to live” move. The two of them determine to work together to find Maddy, Strand, and Helena’s nephew Hector, who has been kidnapped by angry hotel guests. (Seems a bit excessive to me to kidnap a bellhop over a lack of clean towels, but maybe that’s a bigger offense in Mexico than it is here.)
After a series of harrowing runs – in which Helena demonstrates how she uses the keys (the keys!!!) to herd the Infected around the place – and narrowly escapes, the two heroines find themselves in the banquet room where the red wedding played out, and Helena confesses that she is the anti-Father Gabriel and that she locked people in to die. She did this, of course, to save the larger (and hopefully less douchey) population in the rest of the hotel. The surviving wedding guests shockingly failed to see the altruism in her decision, and that’s why they’re holding onto little Hector.
After an altercation with the survivors (the groom and mother of the bride included), they get Hector back then stumble upon Madison and Strand, holed up after their ordeal in the bar. Ultimately, it’s her love and admiration of her mother that motivates Alicia to fight her way through the entire hotel. So while Nick is seeking parental guidance elsewhere in the world and Chris is fighting to leave his father in the dust, Alicia’s the one child going through hell to stay close. They end the episode still surrounded by danger but together at least and ready to fight together as a family at least one more day.
This Week’s Best Bits
The original Walking Dead has a kind of built-in wink-winky-ness with its ongoing reference to and tweaking of its comic book source material, but Fear has always lacked a certain pop cultural joie de vivre. While it certainly wouldn’t suit the show to go full-on meta, tonight’s brief conversation between Travis and Chris about the best place to live in a zombie apocalypse was a nice moment of self-referential fan goosing. More occasional moments like this one could give the show a deeper personality and a more distinctive voice of its own.
What’s In A Performance?
Alycia Debnam-Carey and Cliff Curtis gave outstanding performances in this one. Curtis’ Travis has been woefully underwhelming this season and was beginning to wear thin, but seeing him struggling against what he clearly now sees his son is becoming has finally placed his character in a more interesting and more likable light. I really never rooted for Travis till this episode and much of that is due to Curtis’ steely yet quietly crumbling portrayal.
Alycia Debnam-Carey is engaging nearly each time she’s on screen, but her character, too, has been sidelined by stilted emotional subtext and silly inconsistencies. Do Not Disturb, however, gave her an action movie to star in, and she dominated it while still retaining her character’s anxiousness and vulnerability.
A Glimmer of Hope
No, I’m not talking about Travis’ naïve belief that the world is going to somehow put itself back together while mankind joins hands to dance around a peace sign made of flowers while they buy each other Cokes. I’m talking about the hope that I have for the show after enjoying this episode as much as I did. It’s no secret among regular viewers that the show has been uneven since its inception and can sometimes be a bit on the slow side, but this episode is proof that the producers can (when they feel like it apparently) pull off a taut, pounding story with a rapid pulse and a nicely atmospheric edit. And here I was dreading the return of Travis and Chris. Between their ratcheting psychodrama and the nearly all action hotel tale, Do No Harm finally delivers on some of the promise of the series’ lineage. I have nothing but good faith that, going forward, the show will now continue to follow in this episode’s likeness. And if next week’s episode reverts to old habits, I’ll be madder than a kid in a post zombie world with a shot dead mother and an idealistic pussy for a father.
Have You Seen These Children?
Having not even a single glimpse of Nick or Ofelia didn’t suck the life out of this installment as much as I would have guessed. Go figure.
The Last Days of Synth Pop
One of the most consistently solid artistic elements of FTWD week to week is Paul Haslinger’s semi-avant garde score. Blending synthscapes with the drone of acoustic wind and percussion instruments, Haslinger (a former member of Tangerine Dream with a long resume of film and television work) adds to each episode a surreal undertone and a moody tension that is sometimes lacking from the show itself. This week, his music was put to its best use yet underscoring an already intense outing.
‘Cause We May Not Be the Young Ones Very Long
Is it just me or is Fear the Walking Dead becoming an openly scathing commentary on Millennials? The show’s wealth of young adult characters seemed at first like an obvious attempt to woo a predominantly youthful audience into watching this iteration of the franchise, but as the series has ambled on it seems more that the portrayal of the show’s various whippersnappers is actually being voiced by and aimed at angry old people who hate these goddamn kids. Nick is an aloofly reckless ne’er do well. Chris is a casually cruel sociopath. The trio of young dudes on this week’s episode are self-absorbed man-children. It seems the writers of this show may have a bone to pick with these little jerks about their desensitization to immorality, their inability to empathize, and the effect all those Nickelodeon shows had on them as tots. The only saving grace is Alicia who is consistently portrayed as loyal and heroic. Except for that time she nearly killed her whole family by ditching them for some psycho she met online.