Fear the Walking Dead – “The Dog”
“Good morning, Susan.”
This week’s episode is called “The Dog” and, while there was definitely a dog in it, it took me long time to piece together why this dog was the centerpiece of this episode. Nick seems to be the only one that friendly with this dog and then, when the time came for them to escape, they sacrificed the poor pup to Peter Dawson, eater of humans, hater of bounce houses.
I suppose this isn’t their dog (which I gathered because no one seems to even know this dog’s name) so what do they care if it survives Peter’s determined zombie-fueled massacre of the entire Cruz family in revenge on his neighbors daring to celebrate a birthday on the edge of apocalypse.
I’m assuming the episode title has more to do with the heavy-handed Jack London discussion from episode 1 than anything else. And it makes way more sense that the episode is titled based on something Travis did because Travis is the big star in this episode. For being the burdensome weight that might end up killing them all.
Travis’s rejection of guns and his wholesale denial that the ghouls eating their pets and stalking their children are anything but monsters might sound familiar to some of you. Hershel was the same way when Rick and the Gang rolled up onto the farm in The Walking Dead. And that perspective ended pretty horribly for him.
Although, if you really think about it, he was doing just fine before Rick the Dick showed up and told him his ways were wrong and then unleashed a horde of zombies onto his property. Oh well.
But the episode made a big deal about the division between the pacifists and the survivalists in this episode. Travis sits squarely on the side where these pale, mindless, bitey people are just sick and they need help. That’s different from Daniel the Demon-Killing Barber’s position, where it’s him against the world and he doesn’t have time for any dead weight. Or any compassion. Or any uppity daughters.
And while Travis may not exactly be dead weight, we have advance knowledge from The Walking Dead of who’s right and who’s wrong and what philosophy will pin them down and what philosophy will allow them to live another day. And waiting for the calvary isn’t necessarily a good thing.
We know that cities become 24-hour ghoul raves because of the government’s failure to protect its citizens from zombies created by death. I like the show’s commitment to the sentiment, though, that there would still be people that would trust the government, especially if they have some familiarity with the walkers. Those that have seen them get shot or maimed but still hop up, ready for brains. How could a normie feel they’re better to fend off monsters than an organized militia? Well, you know, not counting your uncle from Arkansas with his own arsenal.
I don’t know how many people are watching this show that hadn’t watched The Walking Dead but I’m so curious about what these unicorns must think about what’s happening. Do they see Travis’s comfort with the military stepping in to protect them as a win or do they see doom that we see? Are they confused as to why people would assume the walkers are dead with little more evidence than some meta-knowledge of the show’s title? Do they feel Maddy’s quick leap from remorseful self-defense killer to willing euthanizer was a few steps too far?
Fortunately or unfortunately, most of us watching this show are in it with the advance knowledge of what’s going to happen and, honestly, the foreknowledge matches how we engage with horror properties. We have that “look behind you!” or “don’t go outside!” feeling you get from slasher movies but on a grander scale. We know, no matter what, these people are all doomed. Generally, we know their future. And we watch them make terrible decisions but they’re only awful because we know what happens. We know who’s behind them and we know who’s outside.
Which is why when Maddy tries to hide the truth from Alicia, my reaction is a combination of sympathy for a parent to protect her child and campy foreshadowing because I know that her actions are futile. Her saying them out loud is the equivalent of telling someone that she’ll “be right back.” It means Alicia is about to get a wake-up call very soon.
And a wake-up call she does get at the hands and gaping mouth of Susan, the old neighbor who may or may not have overdosed on some pills thereby turning her into a walker. What’s surprising to me is that, with the truth, we get a reaction from Alicia regarding her dying boyfriend but the show never really lets her deal with it. The episode itself was too kinetic to stew in these building tensions. Which felt less like what makes this show promising and more like its predecessor.
Which is kind of disappointing. The familial tension is still there and Kim Dickens is still crushing it so an off-tone episode won’t kill the show. But why I like this show is because of its pacing and things are really picking up really fast. I’m trying not to let that hurt my feelings.
But this show is also taking some opportunities to say things. There are a couple moments in this episode that hint at antisocial behavior resulting in growing the zombie horde that’ll take us all down.
This franchise is about survival and doing everything you can to continue as a human. The insinuation that Susan died from pills, possibly of her own volition, might be a way of the show adding extra condemnation to suicide. The value of human life is not only the inherent value of life itself but that its loss creates another predator. By making forced death a crime punishable by adding ghouls to a growing army, what is this show saying about those behaviors?
I’m not saying that suicide and murder should be things considered to have a bright side and this show is darkening some nonexistent silver lining. But it’s also adding a cost to death and a benefit to survival in an enterprising way. It’s like how people consider conservation tags necessary for species to survive. You can’t just kill things willy nilly. That’ll come back to bite you. Literally. And then you’ll start biting things.
And then there’s the riots, the violent outbursts of humane protest, that start to lose humanity when people are attacked who aren’t involved in the criminal activity that sparked the unrest. A police officer is eaten in the streets but the looters are too involved in destruction to notice the line being crossed at their feet. Other police don’t even seem interested in what’s happening other than cracking heads. So what’s this show saying about this kind of public unrest and what slips through the cracks?
Now, as far as “The Dog” goes, it was a mostly mediocre episode but not so meh that I’m losing faith in what this show wants to do. This tension in pre-apocalypse Los Angeles is still compelling, even if we know that all the characters are doomed to a collapse of civilization and will probably perish in inhospitable and harrowing conditions. Yay …
We have a lot of people to think about in coming weeks with a lot of tension between them all. And I guess more zombies or whatever.
- September 16, 2015