Fear the Walking Dead: What’s Your Story? & Another Day in the Diamond Review
AMC‘s Fear the Walking Dead, season 4, episodes 01 & 02, ‘What’s Your Story?’ & ‘Another Day in the Diamond,’ might have reintroduced a show that once benefited from a derivative title, but has since grown into a good show, in its own right – some convenient contrivances, notwithstanding. It does merit saying, however, that a downturn to its forebear might grant Fear the Walking Dead a new driftwood status – for TWD fans left treading water – but don’t let that take away from what FTWD has been doing right, on its own.
One example would be a demonstrably free hand to reinvent itself; and ‘What’s Your Story?’ introduced viewers to what almost seemed like a third spin-off series, within a spin-off series in-progress. I’d call that a thing done right, right there.
The very first scene was a winner – voice practice as a great reason for a character introduction to come with backstory monologue. I like Garret Dillahunt quite a bit, actually; so it seemed unlikely that his recognizable John Dorie role would be in any immediate jeopardy (as long as I suppressed thoughts of how the Scream franchise established each installment). The fact that I didn’t want John’s intro monologue leading to a bad end meant that I found him instantly endearing – and that’s as good a start for any character, anywhere.
By the grace of the Script Gods, however, he had an audience in (well timed) self-exiled Morgan Jones (Lennie James) – and our in-house spin-off course break was underway, on a decent pair of legs. First things first, though: the warm-up stretch.
Fear the Walking Dead‘s break with its past came by way of Morgan’s formal break from its namesake series.
Of course, it wouldn’t be TWD without some send-off sermonizing – with opposite intent – by a Greatest Hits of Morgan matches. It was nice to see Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carol (Melissa McBride), and Jesus (Tom Payne) take turns signing in – even without the guess-the-voice formal Here is Your Life announcing – all to remind Morgan (and viewers) that his contribution to TWD did matter (and that TWD still matters).
So how do you follow being hailed as the-guy-that-saved-the-guy-that-saved-everybody-from-the-Saviors? You save face, and Walk the Earth (or maybe you realize that the annoying pop ins won’t stop, and make a run for it – but the Walk the Earth rap sounded more noble).
By the time Morgan meets John, he’s done the long road right; but only happens open the Walker that happened upon John’s monologue. Having missed it, there really wasn’t a reason for Morgan to buy into John’s hospitality – if anything, I’d be wary of a stranger trying that hard to have me spend the night (while offering candy, no less) – but this new start did have to get started.
From there, a bit of necessary carelessness allowed for a somewhat escapist element to be introduced, as “Karate Man” Morgan, and “Gunslinger” John fell in with “Mech Jockey” Althea (Maggie Grace). Guess which one of those nick-names I just made up.
When ‘Al’ turned out to be something some would consider more dangerous than her Bat-mobile suggested – a journalist – we got a vehicle for more insta-backstory. Convenient, yes; but it did keep things moving at a purposeful pace.
The climax & resolution, to this magical team formation, was a bit too heavy on convenience to be taken seriously; but convenient enough to get Misanthrope Morgan more sociable, again. That, and demonstrate why Al’s Bat-mobile was a worthy plot-point (conveniently trained guns, and all).
I don’t know about you, but girly road bait is the best reason for me to stick with the armored covering fire provider; so throw in one more moment of contrived carelessness, for the ending, and the real cross-over began.
The first thing I noticed about the before, to what came after, was that it didn’t go back far enough to explain why Luciana (Danay Garcia) was now a waking sight (not that I’d complain, in person). Apparently, the more familiar aspect of FTWD needed some back-fill of its own; so last season’s cleansing flood finale will have to drip dry, for a bit.
As it was, ‘Another Day in the Diamond’ re-introduced Strand (Colman Domingo) & the Clark clan in-progress – new commune (The Diamond) & all. Everyone seemed settled in, and Maddie (Kim Dickens) even had a new set of giant baby girl eyes to mother. Eyes that happened to literally point Maddie in the direction the plot would be going; so no time for going all the way back to season 3 (yet). However, that was just as well, ’cause when Nick (Frank Dillane) is comfortable enough to make reassuring guarantees to new baby sister survivor, then it’s really been an uneventful year at their new stadium digs.
Just a quick side note, but I appreciated the Hell out of that crack about boredom – you civilized people need a daily life-or-death scenario to shake that condition, once and for all.
Well, a worried Nick is about as much a liability as a restless Nick; so worry was how the subject of Nick’s agoraphobia came up, as the start of the back-fill.
Once the plot did get going, however, it didn’t take much to remind us that Maddie was now a bonafide Animal Mother. Hell, even I thought her knee-jerk jumping into Walker filled crap, for a complete stranger, was a little extreme. There was back-fill method to that madness, naturally; but that (along with her reconnecting with Strand) will have to be drawn out by conflict, courtesy of the Vultures.
I can pretty much guarantee that some of you had Savior flashbacks, when the projected bad guy caravan pulled up, and started laying out deck chairs, to music; but this was something else.
Sure, the heard-and-said-how-it’s-gotta-be speech might’ve rung a bell, and the Showrunners did cash-in on an Enid plot-twist that never happened, but Vultures aren’t especially predatory, really. I wouldn’t put it past them to occasionally trip a mountain goat, however – just to speed things along – so keep an eye on the scavengers.
This conflict began with the stated intent of outlasting Maddie’s entire operation; and between that vote of no-confidence, and the mole reveal, the Animal Mother seemed settled on a siege, anyway.
Scene appropriate, or not, if I had to be cooped up, with nothing but country music accompaniment, I’d feel besieged, too.
Given that the hot sauce to these stakes was left simmering at only mildly annoying, there remained a lot of post-backstory back-fill to cover, getting point B of the premiere to point A. This sort of means that we know more about Team A’s situation, at this point, than we know about Team B’s – and that’s an interesting place to be, given our relative familiarity with each.
While ‘What’s Your Story’ & ‘Another Day in the Diamond’ gave me a specific reason to look forward to season 4 of Fear the Walking Dead, I have to admit that a more general reason for that exists.
Some of you might’ve seen it coming, but we seem to be past a point where the free hand of Fear the Walking Dead‘s original material, has outpaced the increasingly evident limitations to TWD‘s sourced material interpretations. In other words: FTWD‘s Showrunners may have grown better at making stuff up, than TWD‘s team has been at stretching somebody else’s work.
Well, that’s a problem for whomever has to review TWD (shush – I’m in a happier place, right now). For now, I got yet another reason to look forward to watching Fear the Walking Dead.
Hopefully, they won’t make things too… convenient for me….
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