When I wrote Part 1, I was wondering in the back of my mind if I would ever get around to Part 2. After all, it took me almost a year to complete the profile of bad-ass cyclist Dena Kinate. It always bugged me a little that comic genius Mel Brooks never made a sequel to History of the World Part I. (It’s good to be da king!”) But in the postlude, there was a short snippet of a spaceships in the shape of Stars of David piloted by rabbis. The suggestion was maybe there’d be a movie called “Jews in Space”. But there wasn’t. However, there was Spaceballs, so we’ll settle for that. I digress. Read on.
In Part 1, I wrote about Westworld, Future Man and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The commonality with the show I just finished is that it is another dystopian future story. Fear the Walking Dead was my choice because The Walking Dead is on hiatus and I was jonesin’ for some walker action (they are getting their 1.5 miles and 30 minutes every day like I do, for sure!). Plus, the last two seasons were filmed in and around Austin, Texas where I live, and well, there’s a global pandemic, so I thought I might pick up a few pointers.
SEMI-SPOILER ALERT: This post contains words that might suggest ideas about the possible things that happen in the first five seasons of the American Movie Classics (AMC) original show FTWD. But I won’t ruin anything for you unless you’re a purist who can’t know anything. It started in 2015, and I’m late to the show. If you are too, you’ll be fine to read the post. If not, that’s no skin off my back (there are flesh-eating zombies, get it?).
The program begins with the introduction to one (blended) family in Los Angeles. We get their character portraits, find out a little of who they are and their issues (putting the fun back in dysfunctional). Soon enough, weird schtuff starts happening, and pretty quickly, it’s zombie time. Our intrepid family flees, and the story (and camera) follows their journey trying to survive. FTWD does a good job at casting actors who are easy to love or fun to hate, and the situations they are put in create plenty of pathos.
Because I was binge-watching this show, I didn’t have the same anticipation of having to wait a week to see what happens. And I think that may have diminished some enjoyment because the images and dialog didn’t have time to seep in. When you bike quickly getting from A to B you miss some details because they’re blurry. So ask me about a particular show and I can’t tell you. But the overall feeling is satisfying. If you can’t, don’t rush through it.
When TWD came out, I was skeptical I would like it. I’m not a horror fan, despite growing up reading Stephen King books and watching the movies based on them. At some point I realized “Hey, the world is actually full of real horrors, I’m going to stop and see some comedies.” But I found the cinematography, the quiet, music-less pauses between the undead men walking, and general vibe to be enough to get me hooked.
Every week on TWD you never know who’s going to live or die. That’s just a part of the genre. And it’s definitely part of FTWD, too. Without going into particulars, when a character goes out, sometimes you don’t know if they’re coming back. But sometimes, they’re just plain old dead with a bullet or brick to the head, and they are gone for good. Sometimes an actor gets another role and can’t continue, other times they want to quit and do something else, or the writers kill them off because that’s what serves the story best.
The first season is short and the following two travel south. They look and feel different from Georgia, and it’s simply a different show by virute of the zombie apocalypse having just started. There is still plenty of gas, cars, electricity and food. By the fourth season, FTWD is in Texas, and a couple of characters from the have migrated from TWD. Another actor is back but as a completely different person. That was all pretty cool. But season four also brought back one of the show runners from TWD, and the look and feel seemed familiar and comforting in some way. The addition of several very recognizable faces you would not expect in a zombie show are fun to watch.
The effects, stunts, costumes, and set design throughout are still have the trademark high production values. The locations are interesting (especially when a few of them are very familiar; one is a Jewish temple I’ve been to a few times). At times the stories can get a bit pedantic with the lessons the director and writers wanted to impart. Or when a location is secured for a home for our ensemble, a different bad group of living people comes along to mess it up. That part gets a little old but does drive the action. There is that horror movie thing sometimes where a character is unaware and unarmed where you want to shout at the screen, “Stop freezing and run you stupid bitch/asshole!”
The poignant thing about FTWD is when a character says something like, “Remember when things were normal, like two months ago? No, me neither.” The second highest ranked show on AMC has a sixth season coming out at some point maybe later this year. Maybe the preppers were right. You might want to start taking those Japanese kenbo stick fighting lessons and stocking up on canned goods stat. Just in case. Meanwhile, you can stream FTWD on Hulu or Philo. When it comes back on, I know I’ll watch it. If coronavirus doesn’t get me first. Or spawn zombies. Because you’re not gone until you’re gone. And if you’re reading this, you’re still here. And that’s a good thing.
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