Fear the Walking Dead: Eye of the Beholder & The New Frontier Review
Fear the Walking Dead, season 3, episodes 1 & 2, ‘Eye of the Beholder’ & ‘The New Frontier,’ was a great way to end season 2. Whether the block was a great start to season 3: I may be leaning towards no – despite the twin episodes not really leaving me much to lean on, just yet.
With Nick (Frank Dillane) focused on holding on to Luciana (Danay Garcia), Travis (Cliff Curtis) still in a post-Chris murder daze, Madison (Kim Dickens) still on about Nick’s trail, and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) still working the right instincts, things started energetically enough. I’ll admit, between the last season’s overdue escalation of an ending, and the subtly sudden Nick re-intro, I kinda got my hopes up.
I did notice Nick not asking about Victor (Colman Domingo) or Ofelia, though; which should’ve been the first real clue as to just how water tight the plot would remain.
Maybe it was the 28 (insert unit of time) Later franchise, all the other shows that pulled Stolen Valor stunts, or just my understanding of the American Militia mindset, but nothing about this military outpost seemed all that official, to me (wasting rounds on captives, while even the TSA checks footwear). I would’ve been happy to just leave it there; but they had to go telegraphing the scenario.
For starters, Noel Fisher has been cast once too often as a sadist/ sociopath to go unnoticed; so his Willy character offered no surprises.
Professionals going rough around the edges, under such settings, would be one thing; but Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman) was trying too hard to register on the Gareth meter – giving the outpost a semi-Terminus vibe. While his creeping on Madison & Alicia brought 28 Days Later to mind (along with feral cammy kids playing with zombies), the emphasis on Mexicans – and the words “Warrior Stock” – pretty much underscored an offhand crack I had made, reviewing last season’s ending hostilities.
Yeah, there was a wall they were enforcing; yes, I did try to look past the fact that they had all been white, up this point; but I’m afraid a dimension of Trump-ettes inheriting the Earth has been added to Walker World. I could still be projecting on this one, though – it comes with the job title.
In any case, this series tends to wear better when you don’t look at the stitching. Once the set-up was established, there was some payoff. Madison & Alicia need to work on their team work (at least Troy showed some signs of being trained, here); but Maddy’s less-than-loving spoonful earned some positive cringe points. The new Victor Strand turned out to be no Victor Strand; but the Steven (Ross McCall) character did serve beyond his expiration date (I would’ve opted for high-speed pursuers with guns – but plot license made it the sadist’s call).
Beyond Travis & Maddy making like instinctively protective, killer animals (finally), the best thing about this series re-intro was that none of the principals annoyed me, all that much. Yes, it is kind of bad how much that mattered; but I didn’t want to go back to staring at the stitching.
Then Nick decided not to clean up after himself, when he stumbled into a herd of trouble; he was supposed to be smarter than that, at this point. Alicia drew needless attention to herself, on his behalf; up until then, she was doing pretty ninja. Most annoying of all, however, was how the combination of screw-ups, and overdue bad-assery, combined plot timing with plot armor.
Worse, that same plot timing, along with some questionable fighting choices, forced a new separation of the old cast, and an extension of new character dynamics (along with a side of redemption). Heck, even a well deserved end, for the premiere’s most hated, required too much carelessness to be satisfying.
So much for ignoring the stitching….
‘The New Frontier’ opened with an ending, suggesting that the character revolving door policy is still in place. Even as the reveal to that end played out, I sort of knew who was tagging in. The Strand re-intro was casual enough – almost like nothing had happened, since the others left the hotel – but I wasn’t all that impressed with how the new cast looked to be shaping up.
Troy’s White Sheep brother, Jake (Sam Underwood), was sort of shoehorned into ‘Eye of the Beholder,’ and was now the steady rock of the troupe. Besides feeling force-fed, I sort of resented the seeming Travis trade-off – considering that he had finally gotten over his pacifist hang-up, only to be replaced by a new nice guy. I can appreciate the showrunners not wanting too many characters splitting our attention, at a time; but it’s starting to look like not being able to walk & chew gum at the same time.
I should probably say something more about Travis; but after the deal with Chris….
Well, last grown man standing, Strand, had a lot of slack to pick up. Ever the opportunist, and always good with a yarn, he settled last season’s hotel overbooking problem to secure his place there. The logic behind his losing that position, however… there was no logic, there – I don’t even know why I considered it, for a moment. Let’s just say that Strand needed his rolling stone status enforced, as a plot order. I suppose it was a way to address some dangling character threads from last season, as well.
For what it was worth, Elena (Karen Bethzabe) & Hector (Ramses Jimenez) were both still ingrate bastards, and Ilene Stowe (Brenda Strong) – remember her? – was still stabbing crazy. Given those points, who else but Strand could wind up having to deal with her? A better question: if you didn’t see where Strand’s opening gesture would end, does that a) make me more familiar with the showrunners’ mindset, or b) you less cynical? Don’t be ashamed if it’s b); escape while you can – be free.
I’d say kudos to Strand, for rolling out in style, but realistic post-apocalyptic rules of the road kept me from enjoying his moment. Damned reality.
Given the almost surprising levels of interest the ‘Eye of the Beholder’ initially generated, I couldn’t be anything but angry, by the time ‘The New Frontier’ took its final shape. All that long overdue character development seemed to just fall out into the darkness, all of a sudden, and what was left defaulted to old habits.
Worse than Nick’s new impulse issues, Alicia’s new tragic nice guy, and Maddy’s new hostile homemaker/ boss-of-everybody mission, the original cast seems to have been boiled down to square one qualities.
These were troubling signs that ‘The New Frontier’ was taking us to the same old places, on Fear the Walking Dead. I’m getting the distinct impression that season 3 will be covering familiar themes, like communes, messianic controlling types, and compromising family members – basically season 2, with more Tex than Mex in the mix.
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