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“Can I have my knife back now?” – Tobias

The action heats up quick, like a saucepan full of nitroglycerin on the stovetop, as the contagion begin to spread. And we haven’t seen anything yet. “So Close, Yet So Far” leaves behind the family melodrama of “Pilot”, or rather, it imports it into this new world that is beginning to form as the old one decays, both with a bang and a whimper.

Two families are beginning to see and come to grips with the virulent reality that is facing them, but they don’t want to admit that their safe, comfortable world is slipping away, perhaps never to return. It’s interesting to watch how far the denial will spread, how far they will go to keep the truth, even from themselves.

The follow contains in-depth discussion and contains spoilers.

Fear-The-Walking-Dead-Travis-Liza-and-ChrisAs before, the action focuses on Madison’s (Kim Dickens) family, Nick and Alicia (Frank Dillane & Alycia Debnam-Carey, respectively.) Alicia’s been separated from her high school romance (thank God) and both kids are at home, with Nick riding out his heroin withdrawal peacefully. Madison, ever the dutiful (and pragmatic) mother, breaks into the school to steal some painkillers, to help her son ride out his sickness.

Meanwhile, Travis (Cliff Curtis) splits to go find his first family, as L.A. begins to crumble into panic. It’s a useful tactic to watch the wider world, giving some useful social commentary and introducing some new characters.

Travis’ son, Chris, is embroiled in a riot, after the police shot an unarmed homeless man “like, 20 times!” and a city bus empties to protest. Chris is there with a video camera, documenting the goings-on, while a sheeted body lays nearby (and doesn’t get up, thankfully). Indignant civilians are treating this like everyday police brutality, in an uproar, bringing in the riot police. A walker gets in the mix, and the powder keg erupts.

FTWD_102_JM_0521_0162edTravis manages to find Chris in the melee, with his ex-wife Liza (Orange Is The New Black’s Elizabeth Rodriguez.) They convince a skeptical barber to let them in from the riot, before he closes the metal shutters. Looks like they’ll be riding out the apocalypse in the barber shop for a while, and we’ll be getting to know Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), who took pity on them, and hesitant shop owner Daniel (Ruben Blades).

Back at the high school where she works, Madison breaks into the crime prevention lock-up cabinet, scores some Oxycotton, and runs into Tobias, only to find out that the school’s been compromised. Tobias, well-versed in zombie lore, is looting the cafeteria (does school pizza or tacos come in a can?). Until they hear a sound through the principal’s creepy/cool intercom switchboard.

Old kindly principal Arty has turned for the worst. Madison, the queen of denial, tries to reason with him although she’s already had to kill one walker with a truck. Maybe there’s a cure? Maybe. In this case, some blunt force trauma with a fire extinguisher is what is called for, to save your new friend Tobias.

fear-the-walking-dead-episode-101-art-lawrence-9351The pair leave the school (without the food, for some reason), and Madison leaves Tobias on his own in a world gone mad. This woman’s the queen of self-centered bad decisions. Such as neglecting to mention the plague of madness and homicide that is sweeping the globe to her teenage daughter, even when the nice family from across the road begins to butcher each other, in “So Close, Yet So Far”’s most chilling moment.

It is these moments, when the old world intersects with the new, that is making FTWD work for me, so far. Calling up the image of police shootings has a sickening, deadening resonance, when you really have to ask yourself, “Shit, what would I do?”

In “civilization”, we are taught the worst-case-scenario is an impossibility, a distant bad dream. Order always triumphs over chaos – Marduk will always slay Tiamat and hew her skull into the sky. We are taught to abhor violence, to never rob or steal. When we encounter brutality in real life, we shut down, go into panic mode, we might throw up a little bit, we might go crazy. The last thing we ever, ever want to have to do is to kill our neighbors, let alone our friends.

These are the feelings that are haunting the conscious actions of the main characters. Real-world signifiers, like watching L.A.’s power grid fritz out, make this story real. A little too real.

Fear The Walking Dead asks us to consider how our world can become the rusted out, bombed out shell of a walking corpse we know from the main franchise. It’s a scary thought. One I’m willing to put up with some annoying characters and bad decision making to watch unfurl.

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For previous Silver Screen Riot Fear the Walking Dead recap coverage, find archive reviews below:

Fear the Walking Dead, Episode 1 “Pilot”

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