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REVIEW: Fear the Walking Dead 2×01 “Monster”

After a somewhat polarizing first season, Fear the Walking Dead has returned to us with its second season premiere titled “Monster.” For all the issues I had with the first season, I will say that the show improved with each episode and left us with a pretty hard-hitting season finale in which Travis (Cliff Curtis) euthanizes his ex-wife Liza before she can turn into a zombie. Yes, we have seen that sort of thing many times in The Walking Dead, but I felt that that scene worked especially well for this series and it stood as somewhat of a glimmer of hope in an otherwise average spin-off of a very well received television series. So then, what will this second season of Fear the Walking Dead hold in store? There is only one way to find out so for the sake of getting started, let’s get started! …Ehem.

“Monster” was directed by Adam Davidson who directed a few episodes from the first season of Fear the Walking Dead, including the pilot episode. This can be viewed as a positive or a negative depending on how you feel about this show, but I think Davidson does a good enough job here with what he has to work with.

When we last saw Travis and co., they crossed paths with a strange man named Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) who possesses vast wealth as well as a somewhat mysterious past. “Monster” picks up right where the season one finale left off with the group escaping the mainland on Strand’s boat Abigail just as everything goes to hell. Before that can happen, we get a classic “I won’t leave [insert name of person or object here] behind” moment from Travis’ son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) as he struggles to gather his mother Liza’s remains. This scene offers a brief, tense-but-yet-predictable  moment before everyone jumps into a small motor boat and we get a nice zombie death scene involving a boat motor to the face!

This is where “Monster” gets interesting and we get a look at what the second season of Fear the Walking Dead might have to offer; something I like to call “zombies on the high seas.” Yes friends, most (READ: 95%) of “Monster” takes place on Strand’s boat with the exception of the very first moments of the episode. This could prove to be problematic as the season goes on, depending on how long the group stay in the water. How many chances are there to run into zombies? How much fuel does Strand have in this boat of his, and what happens when it runs out? Time will tell.

Love Boat...with zombies?

Love Boat…with zombies?

Most of “Monster” revolves around the moral dilemma that we’ve seen time and time again in The Walking Dead that relates to the problem of helping other people in the zombie apocalypse. By now, Rick and his group from The Walking Dead are fully aware of the danger that other people can present in the new world, but Travis and the rest of the crew of the Abigail (har har) are still new to all of this and so we as viewers are forced into this “new” old situation along with them.

When a distress signal comes in over the radio asking for help, the group must decide what to do. Of course there is always that one person that doesn’t want to help, and wouldn’t you know it? It’s Victor Strand. Strand is one of the parts of “Monster” that actually had me intrigued; what is his game? Does he know anything? The thought that he may have any kind of inside information about the zombie apocalypse gets me all kinds of excited since it would have an actual impact on both this show and The Walking Dead. Having said that, I doubt it’s the case as Robert Kirkman has said he plans to never explain the cause of the zombie “outbreak,” but it still worked as bait. It worked on me, anyway.

Soon Alicia starts talking to a man named Jack through the boat’s radio communications system (scientific term) and she learns that he is stranded on a fishing boat with two others. Again, the group decide not to help Jack and proceed to have a burial at sea for Liza. This is a scene that could have been somewhat emotional if we were more invested in the characters, but I feel that the short first season and the fact that Chris “rushes” the ceremony caused it to fall flat. Oh well, it’s not like we knew Liza all that well right?

Then there’s the dinner montage. Yes, the dinner montage. In a scene similar to many, many scenes that we have seen across many, many television shows of late, we get a music montage of characters doing…something; in this case, it’s sitting down to a nice dinner on a boat while the rest of the world (presumably) is consumed by the undead.

So what actually happens in this episode? When Chris goes for an impromptu swim and Nick follows suit, we get something quite interesting: swimming zombies! As Nick is attacked he takes refuge in an overturned boat that seems to be riddled with bullet holes. This coupled with the fact that when Alicia breaks the bad news to Jack that her group will offer no help to him and his fishing crew, and he responds by saying he will “see her soon” leads me to believe that Jack is not all he seems. In fact, one might say that Jack has potential to be “the Governor” of the seas (ugh)! And with that, we get the characteristic cliff-hanger ending that The Walking Dead has become known for. Alright, let’s break this down.

Final Grade: C-

+ Dat boat doe.

+ Swimming zombies!

+ The whole “being on a boat” thing is a risk, but could be interesting.

– After a short first season, I expected a more explosive premiere.

– Strand’s voice is just a little over the top. Just a bit.

– Recycled moral dilemmas we’ve seen before.

Extra Thoughts:

– “Monster” was a rather weak premiere for the second season of Fear the Walking Dead, but I have faith that the show will improve in the same fashion as the first season. I will admit that I am somewhat intrigued by the boat thing, but we will have to see how long it is before that wears out its welcome.

What did you think of the season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead? Was is better than expected, or a snooze-fest? Let us know in the comments section and on our Twitter page!

About the author

Robert Porter