I want to be deeply immersed in the world of Fear The Walking Dead; sometimes the show is making that easy, and sometimes it seems to be doing all it can to push me out. Let me start with the latter—the things in episode three that made me feel like I was watching humans behave in a way that makes no real-world sense, even if that “real” world is filled with dead people rising up and biting the living.

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The most potent, patent ridiculousness in “The Dog” was the riot outside the barber shop, particularly once Travis and the gang got out into it. Now, I’ve never been in a riot before, but somehow I don’t think tattooed partiers straight out of The Matrix Reloaded, fire hoses, and zombie cops go together. And the idea of people just randomly running in groups toward nothing in particular doesn’t make a scene more “real” for me, it makes me think that somebody’s more interested in getting an exciting visual than trying to make psychological sense of its world. But partying and screaming at cops because there might be a plague? Ridiculous. Maybe that’s the show they’re going for; if it is, I may be getting off the ship after the first six.

That and a couple of other things aside—are you really gonna chill out and play Monopoly while your neighbors are eating each other?—I thought “The Dog” was reasonably solid and occasionally scary, though the series has yet to hit anything near a home run. There’s still time, since we’re still in the midst of the setup, and still getting to know the characters. On that front, what we learned tonight: Madison knows the danger of the walkers, and she accepts that they’re too far gone to save. Travis, almost unbelievably, is still clinging to a notion that pacifism might be an option here—he’ll cling to humanity, at least for a while. Daniel is so deep into the zombie apocalypse in his mind that he’s preparing for the worst, even as he has no hope. (The episode’s last line, “It’s already too late,” was nicely chilling.) The kids are still the stupid fucking kids, and let’s all pray that this series doesn’t consist of ten seasons of Nick scrounging around methadone clinics while everyone else hoards canned peaches and ammunition. Chris is a whiner, and Alicia is worried about her walker boyfriend. (Trust me, Alicia, zombie-human relationships don’t work.)

Anyway, back to the story itself, and some of the good stuff: It was nice to see the groups reunited with relative ease—it was awfully quiet and eerily stable in the suburbs, at least for a while. I was also glad to see the authorities in the mix, since presumably there would be some government reaction before everything goes completely to shit. (The soldiers spray-painting the house was a nice touch, too, with a nod to Hurricane Katrina.) It’ll be interesting to see if FTWD wanders into 28 Days Later territory at all, with the authorities becoming scarier than the walkers.

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The hospital nightmare scenario, I should note, was scary and effective: When the zombie apocalypse hits, you won’t be able to head to your doctor to get your leg looked at, because the hospitals will presumably be overrun pretty quickly. (Try falling into a coma for a while, though, and then just walk out later.)

The zombie neighbor, Susan, was a little bit over the top—especially the part at the end where her husband showed up and went in for a slow-motion hug, even as Madison warned him not to. But her sad story gave us a chance to further learn than Madison is going to be the alpha dog here, along with Daniel, and that presumably Travis will put everyone in dangerous situations by repeatedly telling zombies, “You’re sick,” and then being attacked by them. And it also allowed us to learn that the government knows something at least: When the soldier menacingly asks Madison whether she or her family have had any contact with the infected, she wisely says no—and quickly answers that the grave containing their infected neighbor in fact belongs to a dog.

Kim Dickens, I should note, is head and shoulders above the rest of the cast—with the exception of Ruben Blades, who hasn’t had a ton to do yet—in terms of acting and emotional depth. Her scene with Elizabeth Rodriguez offered Fear’s first take on the inevitability of zombie-dom: “If ever I end up like her, take care of it. Don’t make Travis do it, it would break him.” Again, she’s going to be the no-nonsense badass as things get rapidly worse.

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I’m as-yet uninterested in Daniel’s family: They seem to be inevitable zombie fodder, certainly the mom. Maybe she’s how they’ll learn that the disease doesn’t just come from being bitten—when she croaks from the wound on her leg and turns, everybody will surely be in for a freak-out. After three episodes of setting up the characters and establishing the group, it’s probably time that we all learn a little more about what’s going on (or at least what people think is going on), and start making decisions about how we’re going to deal with this new world.

Stray observations

  • Did Southwest Airlines pay for product placement for that wobbly, about-to-crash plane?
  • “What are they gonna steal, combs?”
  • The tension between Travis and Daniel seems a little forced already. Can Travis really blame Daniel for blowing the head of their neighbor?
  • What kind of crazy trellis system did Susan have that could trap a zombie like that?
  • What about a zombie threat is going to make the entire power grid go down, then come back up, then go down again? Sure, the visual was kinda cool, but the flickering felt more like a B-movie than a gritty “family drama.”
  • “I’m relieved, I thought it was going to be awkward having two wives in the house”
  • “Good people are the first ones to die.”

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