TV Show Review

TV Review: FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: Season 1, Episode 5: Cobalt [AMC]

Fear The Walking Dead Cobalt 02

AMC‘s Fear The Walking Dead Cobalt TV Show ReviewFear the Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 5: ‘Cobalt’ set the stage for next week’s season finale by introducing a potential new villain named Strand (Colman Domingo), revealing a dark secret from one the survivors, and divulging the military’s true intentions.

As a prequel series, Fear the Walking Dead (FTWD) is in an ideal situation for the show’s writers to offer the audience a new take on life in The Walking Dead’s world. Internet, cell phones, and even most radio communications have ceased to exist, and the audience’s understanding of the show’s world is limited to the specific region of Georgia that Rick and his group of survivors inhabit. While walkers overrun the American south, it is entirely possible that the northern states or west coast is actually holding the zombie tide back. A show taking place in another region could be an entirely different series about a faction of survivors making progress in the war against the zombie onslaught.

So far, FTWD doesn’t feel like a different type of show. Every episode that goes by acts as a narrative vice grip that squeezes the optimism out of the series, leaving a show that exists under the same dark cloud of cynicism in mankind, hopelessness, and despair as The Walking Dead. FTWD’s writers have only been giving viewers a look at society’s last few gasps of breath before drowning in the zombie apocalypse — which is fine if their attempts were well executed; so far they haven’t been.

If the audience already knows how FTWD’s story will unfold — society comes to an end — then the characters have to be great, and right now they aren’t interesting enough to make anyone care about their plight. Even though The Walking Dead has had several seasons to establish it’s lovable/hateable group of characters, the show created a strong foothold with viewers by introducing instantly lovable/hateable characters. After five episodes, which character on FTWD solicits a reaction from viewers on par with Glenn, Daryl or Michonne? Who is as instantly hateable as Merle or as unstable and fascinating as Shane?

The show isn’t helped by the fact that the audience’s zombie knowledge is so far ahead of FTWD’s cast. It’s frustrating seeing characters left in the dark about their circumstances or denying the (apocalyptic) severity of their situation. Given what the audience knows, Madison (Kim Dickens) not wanting to tell Alicia (Alycia Debman-Carey) that people are turning into zombies is nothing but foolish and Travis (Cliff Curtis) refusing to gun a walker down doesn’t come off as noble, it feels naive. Yes these characters are coming to terms with their harsh new reality and the rules that come along with it, but watching them repeatedly partake in what the viewers know are stupid decisions doesn’t make for entertaining television.

Right now Daniel (Rubén Blades) is the most compelling character on the show and also somewhat of a villain. Daniel seems to be the only civilian willing to accept society’s new rules for survival. He is the character most likely to insert his will in order to affect change which is in stark contrast to characters like Travis who wait for the government to step in and save everyone. In Cobalt we watch as Daniel commits a terrible act — he tortures a man in order to extract his wife’s whereabouts. As if that weren’t bad enough, we also learn that back in El Salvador, Daniel switched sides, working with his oppressors in order to ensure survival. Right now FTWD is sending out the message that only the deplorable will last in the show’s savage world. FTWD can differentiate itself from The Walking Dead if it shows us how Madison, Travis and their families bridge the gap between their current naivety and Daniel’s pessimism in order to survive. If the show quickly devolves into people bringing out the worst in themselves in order to keep from becoming zombie food, then FTWD will just become another version of The Walking Dead, and have little reason to exist other than to bring in more ratings for AMC.

It looks like next week’s season finale will offer a conflict between the military and the survivors. FTWD’s working title was Cobalt, which makes it seem that a running tension between the military and the survivors will be an ongoing plot-line as the series moves forward. The episode’s final shot of Daniel contemplating unleashing a stadium full of skin-bags means that we are in for all the zombie action that the last couple episodes lacked.

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About the author

Victor Stiff

Born and raised in Toronto, Victor has spent the past decade using his love and knowledge of the city to highlight and promote significant cultural events such as TIFF, The IIIFA awards, and the Anokhi Gala. He is an avid reader of Sci-fi and Horror and constantly sits through indie film marathons in rabid anticipation of the genre’s next great film auteurs. He also contributes sci-fi and fantasy movie reviews to

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