This isn’t “Love Boat”

The cast of "Fear the Walking Dead."

The cast of “Fear the Walking Dead.”

By Thom deMartino/Western Sun staff writer

Warning: Minor spoilers.

Hello, and welcome to “’Fear the Walking Dead:’ Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse”! As some of you may recall from last semester’s class, the overriding lesson of season one was “adapt or die” (unpleasantly, and come back, equally unpleasantly.) Season two’s lesson so far? “Mercy is a liability” (a.k.a. compassion will probably get you killed.)

At the conclusion of the first season, Madison Clark (Kim Dickens) and Travis Manawa (Cliff Curtis) had fled their Southern California home with their blended family after the first few weeks of the freshly risen dead beginning to take over. With the undead continuing to multiply at an exponential rate, the government and military, helpless to stop the tide of ambulatory corpses, instead opt to firebomb the major West Coast cities to contain what they assume is a contagion.

Madison and Travis’ group, including Madison’s daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), son Nick (Frank Dillane), Travis’ son Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie), along with Daniel Salazar (Ruben Blades) and his daughter Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) have chosen to make their getaway with Nick’s mysterious new acquaintance, the enigmatic Victor Strand (Colman Domingo) aboard his yacht, the Abigail.

The sophomore season opens with the group under cover of darkness, scrambling  to  reach the boat as a crush of walkers descends upon them. Gazing back from the Abigail’s deck over the black mirrored waves, they witness the sum of the military’s handiwork: a conflagration of flames, straining towards a pitiless obsidian sky — the blazing funeral pyre for a felled civilization.

As they journey into the deep blue, the stark realization is sinking in that despite their buoyant hopes, there may truly be no safe port for them. Or for anyone else, for that matter — when they chance across a slowly capsizing raft, Strand refuses to take any of the survivors aboard, unwilling to take the risk of being overrun. Yet he may still have to contend with mutiny aboard his ship — infuriated by his callousness, the other members voice their dismay, while Strand relentlessly continues to assert his dominion over the vessel.

As if to confirm the bitter validity of Strand’s worldview, Alicia intercepts a chilling broadcast while scanning the shortwave radio:

“This is Coast Guard station L.A.L.B….we have no assistance to provide…I repeat, there is no rescue by sea, land, or by air… there’s… nothing.”

“Forgive us.”

A lone ship, its crew haunted by their own pasts and losses, travelling tumultuous seas in their own odyssey, in search of refuge… with something perhaps worse than the dead on the horizon.

While the world of “Fear” bears many similarities to its predecessor “The Walking Dead,” the main difference is the time frame: the outbreak is only a month or two old at this point, as opposed to being thrown right in to the midst of it in the original series.

Last season we saw the development of the characters under the stress of this new, unpredictable environment: Travis coming to terms with his mistaken belief that the “infected” were merely sick and should be saved, not put down; Nick struggling with withdrawal from his addiction, and learning his previous life living on the knife’s edge may have better  prepared him for this new world than most; and Alicia coming to terms with the loss of her boyfriend, learning that there are no happy endings, just acceptance and moving on.

Four episodes into the new season, we see Chris still struggling to come to terms with his loss, Madison and the others trying to balance self-preservation with compassion, and Daniel struggling to eek out what Strand’s true intentions are.

The inaugural season was only six episodes, as AMC wanted to get a feel for the audience’s response: but with the runaway success of “Fear The Walking Dead,” viewers have a full season to look forward to this year. It’s only a few weeks in, but while it appears that “worse things happen at sea,” as they say, the crew may still have more to fear from the living — perhaps even themselves — than from the dead.

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