Sometimes the most fundamental things about a show that can work against it: Fear The Walking Dead, as an indirect prequel to The Walking Dead, was expected to feature plenty of exposition and end-of-the-world building when it premiered last year. And, as a purported family drama, the show wasn’t going to make mowing down walkers—or “skinbags” or just “the dead”—the first order of business. This isn’t a franchise that’s well known for character development, however, which made watching everyone waiting around to die even more tedious. But now that everyone’s up to speed—even Chris—the season two premiere heads straight for treacherous open waters.
There’s been no rest for our weary survivors, as “Monster” picks up not long after “The Good Man” left off—they’re on a beach, with a recently-deceased Liza (so long, helpful knowledge about the virus and ways to combat the dead). Nick’s been playing Charon, taking a speedboat to and from Strand’s yacht with some supplies and a few people at a time. Chris’ refusal to leave his mother’s body behind nearly gets Travis and Maddy killed, but eventually everyone’s safely on board. Nick has to use the propeller on an undead stowaway, but once they’re all on the yacht, they watch as planes fly over Los Angeles, and the skyline lights up with more explosions.
We know the plan is to spend most of the season at sea, and it’s not a bad one (for the group; it remains to be seen how well it works for the show). A fancy yacht like Strand’s, which we later learn has desalinization capabilities, appears to be a real stronghold for the group. Throw in the fact that it’s mobile, and Maddy & Co. have a pretty good chance at survival. Of course, we can’t forget what happened to the Titanic, let alone every seeming safe haven on TWD. But it sure beats holing up again.
As the de facto captain, Strand wants to head to San Diego. When he gives the group his reasons, including the presumed military presence, Travis balks. But no one has a better idea and, as is made painfully clear throughout “Monster,” this is Strand’s boat—they’re all just living/surviving on it. It’s not quite clear why he deigned to help all of them, but he does make it plain that his largesse only extends so far: When Travis and Maddy take turns trying to convince him to rescue a group of castaways, he tells them he’ll only stop the Abigail to let people off, not on.
Strand’s quite comfortable making these kinds of life-and-death decisions, and even Travis doesn’t have many qualms about the not-rescue. But now that there’s seemingly no imminent danger, Maddy’s conscience has returned, and she tells Travis that she can’t and won’t turn a blind eye on others. “How many do we leave behind?” she asks, but Travis basically tells her that it would be irresponsible to offer a haven to people they’re not even sure they can look after, especially since it would come at considerable cost to themselves. It’s jarring to see Maddy let down her guard so soon after making such a narrow escape; setting aside for a moment whether or not it’s in character (before she was just trying keep her kids were safe!), it’s just too precipitous. They may be on the water, but they’re far from being out of the woods.
Nick was the first person Strand saved (and let’s face it, that’s exactly what he did by taking them all to his home then his boat), and he’s doing surprisingly well for someone who’s just cheated death and beaten his heroin addiction. Their relationship remains friendly, if a little odd. Someone like Strand—reserved, resourceful, rich—doesn’t have much in common with Nick, who was living in an abandoned church when we first met him. Strand presumably has some use for him, though, as he praises Nick for being “fearless” in his former pursuit of drugs. But Nick tells him that wasn’t intentional, it was just part of being a “junkie.” And I suppose it wouldn’t be a FWTD season premiere without an attempt at drawing parallels between the single-mindedness of addicts and walkers, but this conceit remains poorly executed.
Chris stays mostly out of sight this episode, holing up in his room with his mother’s body. When he does decide to grace others with his presence, it’s to unceremoniously pitch his mom’s corpse overboard (he wanted a private funeral, I guess) and later, punch Travis in the face. But Alicia makes sure to pester everyone with various questions until Travis finally tells her to scan the radio for news of actual safe zones. And while I thought that this busy work would turn into a recurring bit a la instructing Carl to get back in the house, Alicia manages to do something far more irritating, not to mention dangerous, than staying outdoors.
Having (sort of) recently lost her boyfriend, Alicia’s seemingly desperate to establish a connection with someone who isn’t related to her by blood or marriage (and who isn’t an old torturer or a dapper tyrant). So, after she’s had her fill of listening to the desperate pleas of others, and the depressing admission from the Coast Guard that there’s no rescue planned, she’s wooed by an unseen stranger who plays David Bowie’s perfectly poignant “Five Years” over the old CB. She talks and jokes with her new radar love, revealing details about the boat and the group. He eventually tells her that his boat is taking on water, and since she’s not about to leave more people to die, she tells him help is on the way.
Strand shoots down the idea, reminding everyone of the rules of his boat. But it’s already too late, as Alicia’s new friend tells her he’ll see her soon. Strand notices a shipwreck, but everyone’s temporarily distracted by Chris going overboard. Nick’s a strong enough swimmer to evade the waders (“walkers” doesn’t feel appropriate here), so he goes to explore the capsized boat. Once there, he sees it’s riddled with bullet holes. He makes off with the ship’s log, and Strand tells everyone they’ve got to hightail it out of there because whoever did that is on their way back. We know what that means—pirates! (Probably.)
- While I’m willing to accept that no one would get lonelier in the soon-to-be post-apocalyptic world than a teenager, I’m still surprised by Alicia’s desperation to talk with a stranger, even if he does have good taste in music.
- Also, I’m betting that Daniel Zovatto (It Follows), who was announced as part of the season two cast, is the guy Alicia was talking to.
- Nick claimed he heard someone among the shipwreck, but I couldn’t make out anything other than wader growling. Did anyone else think he swam over to try to score? He did come back with the yacht log, which he might have learned about from Strand, but I kind of doubt he would have known what kind of information is potentially in there, let alone whether or not it would be useful.
- Daniel’s awfully skeptical of Strand’s plans to go to San Diego, though there’s no real accounting for his doubts. What’s so bad about this plan? What does Daniel know?
- Travis envied Daniel’s heart-to-heart with Chris, so Daniel told him he envied his ability to end his ex-wife’s life, I think?
- Number of zombie-shark fistfights: Zero.
- I’ll be reviewing Fear The Walking Dead for season two, which features more than twice as many episodes as season one, in case you didn’t already know.