Warning: This article contains spoilers from Season 2, Episode 8 of Fear the Walking Dead. If you haven't watched this episode yet then I'd advise you to stop reading now.
Fear the Walking Dead has always been the subject of criticism for several different reasons. It's understandable — it's a tough job to follow in the success of its parent show, but it never fails to at least try. However, I often find myself drawn to Fear the Walking Dead because, at the beginning, it was the missing puzzle piece — how the world actually began to fall apart.
The mid-season premiere, "Grotesque," was indeed grotesque but not for the reason you may think. Sure, it was a slow-paced episode and maybe not what we were all expecting for a mid-season premiere, but it enlightened viewers to the harsh realities of this post-apocalyptic world in a way that actually made us feel uncomfortable.
Because The Walking Dead began with Rick's coma, we not only missed out on the beginning of the end of the world, but Rick found his group very early on in the show — some of whom are still alive — and as a result he wasn't a lone warrior. He was also a sheriff before the apocalypse so he had some experience of being in harsh situations whereas the families in Fear the Walking Dead do not. "Grotesque" was a solid reminder that this is the world now and it highlighted the ambiguity of one's surroundings perfectly — something that I dare say The Walking Dead failed to do at the beginning.
The Struggle For Survival
Nick's journey on Fear the Walking Dead has been one of self-discovery. Before the apocalypse, Nick struggled and we saw that through the flashbacks in the episode as he tried to find a way forward. However, Nick has really stepped up since the apocalypse began and one could make a valid agreement for the fact that he is the most calm and stable character in the show — a characteristic that drew Strand to him in he first place.
"Grotesque" found Nick struggling to survive in a dog-eat-dog world (no pun intended) where the consequences of one false move could be disastrous. The constant use of the walker blood and guts to make him blend in is genius — something that the folks of The Walking Dead have only ever used a handful of times and — I'm sorry to say it — but if they engaged in this gross yet successful method more often then perhaps more members of the key group would still be alive.
Nick also came to the harsh realization that one false move could prove deadly. When he was on top of the RV after being bitten by the ravenous dogs, he made a rather quiet attempt to analyze his bite wound. However, his movement reverberated throughout the RV, causing the herd of walkers to notice him. If the car horn hadn't sounded, Nick probably wouldn't have made it.
The struggle for food proved to be hard and Nick literally ended up drinking his own urine because he had no water. But perhaps the most brutal example of the harsh realities of this world is the fact that he ended up eating pieces of a dead dog — the same dog that had been chewed on by multiple walkers.
As disgusting as it sounds, it was necessary for his survival. The Walking Dead never really went here and because we are now six seasons in, there is almost a safety net every time one of our favorite characters encounter a member of the dead. Fear the Walking Dead deserves praise for being bold enough to show this disgusting moment as it truly intensifies that this is the world we live in now.
The Lone Warrior
As I'm sure is the case with many people who find themselves in such a situation, Nick has to survive on his own. This is rather ironic because before the apocalypse, Nick relied heavily on others for his survival, yet it seems Nick is stronger than ever now. Walking among the dead minimizes the risk of getting eaten, a clever tactic that got him to where he needed to go. Again, Rick and the group from The Walking Dead only ever performed this trick a few times.
It was also rather brave of the show to focus solely on Nick for the entire episode — it really gave us the feel of isolation; there was nobody else for Nick to talk to. The fact that no other characters popped up really intensified the isolation not only for Nick but for the viewers, allowing them to realize how lonely such an existence would be.
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Moreover, the episode had barely any dialogue with the exception of the flashback sequences. For a show that has been criticized for its slow pacing in the past, I thought it was rather brave to return with such an emotionally charged yet slower episode. The show runners are not letting social media requests interfere with their storylines and they definitely deserve to be applauded for that. Nick's journey in the episode was slow, but, despite the hot weather and the lack of food, he made it.
The fact that Nick collapsed is important. Moments prior to this, he was having flashbacks of his life before the apocalypse. A man walking among the dead with nothing more than his memories is extremely dangerous and it ultimately had an effect on him. Remember, he barely spoke throughout the entire episode and spent that same episode covered in dead people's blood — the line between the living and the dead is being blurred.
It was a great premiere episode that has definitely re-immersed me in this post-apocalyptic world. However, Fear the Walking Dead deserves more credit that it gets as it often takes a lot more risks than its parent show and for the first time in a long time, I understood how awful living in such a world would be. Frank Dillane did a wonderful job conveying Nick's isolation and determination. Fear the Walking Dead may not be as critically successful as The Walking Dead, but it is often braver and for that it definitely deserves to be applauded.
What did you think of the mid season premiere of Fear the Walking Dead? Tell me in the comment section below.