"Fear The Walking Dead" is a simmer. And you'd think that would be surprising, given that the show is a sequel to "The Walking Dead," which is firing on all cylinders, not letting up the tension or pacing for even a second in the last few seasons.
But in a way, it's not surprising, as well: "The Walking Dead" is the end of a horror movie, and "Fear" is the beginning. For my money, though, "Fear" -- in it's third episode, no less -- has proven more confidence in its characters, and the ability to show versus tell, than its big bad daddy did for at least the first three seasons (some episodes aside).
So how did the third episode, "The Dog," stack up? Read on for our rundown of the biggest, scariest moments.
Things Fall Apart
"When things fall apart, they fall apart fast," Tobias told Madison (Kim Dickens) last episode -- and this week is the proof in the pudding. In LA, known for being a powder keg anyway, tension with the police and the walking undead are a potent mix that lead to an out-of-control riot. Travis (Cliff Curtis) sits it out with his other family, while across town Madison (Kim Dickens) is trying to keep Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) calm while waiting for Travis to return.
But it's newcomer Daniel Salazar (Rubén Blades) who proves to be the coolest cucumber in pickle-town. When Travis asks him what they do if the riot breaks into his store, Daniel calmly says, "We run. In different directions."
Oh, and that's just the cold open. Because right after that, the walls break down, and both Travis and Daniel's families try to escape through a riot that's way more than just police versus the people: it's the beginning of the zombie apocalypse.
Meet The Sandwich
In the third season of "Orphan Black," they introduced a brilliant concept: the sandwich, the person you're bringing along with you on an escape just to eat later. As Madison and company have a lovely time playing Monopoly, Daniel's wife gets pinned under a falling billboard/platform, and seriously hurts her leg.
Not only does that lead to a significant delay for Travis -- "We need to find a doctor!" says the exposition -- but it also indicates the new most useless character on the show. If there's one thing we've learned from zombie movies, the lame duck is usually the literally lame person.
The Doom That Came To Los Angeles
That all said, as Travis drives we get extremely haunting slow motion scenes of the destruction of Los Angeles as the cops try to blast apart walkers before they eat everyone.
For all the flack "Fear" got about the prequel nature of the show, this episode is most reminiscent of the excellent beginning to "Walking Dead" season two's "Chupacabra," which started with a flashback to the bombing of Atlanta.
We haven't gotten that sort of horror on "Walking Dead" since then, and to see it unfold over hours, instead of minutes on "Fear" is just building the tension. "Walking Dead" started in a bad place, while "Fear" is slowly driving us there. Sometimes, literally.
Meanwhile, over at Madison's house, Monopoly has turned into something far more terrifying. No, not Twister, sadly. Hearing something at the door, Nick lets in an injured dog -- before noticing a man slowly shambling through the dark towards their house.
The trio sneak out and head to the neighbors' house, which has some really sweet lighting on the ceiling. Oh, and a gun they can use to protect themselves.
By the way, Nick -- post-throwing up everywhere last episode -- is proving to be the most resourceful character on the show. He knows not to trust the dead, how to kill them, where the weapons are... It's weird to think given how strung out he was at the beginning, but it's possible that if you're looking for a Rick on the show, it's Nick; and not just because their names rhyme, either.
Hair Of The Dog
Travis returns home, and doesn't find Madison and company... They're next door, trying desperately to warn him of the creepy shambling dude. Instead, Travis finds said dude snacking on the doge. Poor doge.
After a heated battle, Daniel blasts the walker in the head, leading to this episode's big gross-out moment: the walker gets its face blasted, but still keeps walking. So Daniel, barely caring, blasts him again, and kills him. Again.
The good news is, they now all know that head-shots kill walkers. The bad news is that the neighbor, Susan, is also a walker, and tries to eat Alicia. Bye, Alicia.
Not really, but I wanted to make a "Bye, Felicia" joke and a "doge" joke in the same section, so there you have it.
"She's Not Sick, She's Dead"
Nick! Dude! Madison says Susan is sick, but Nick immediately quips back, "She's not sick, she's dead." Alicia freaks out, because her boyfriend was sick, insisting that he can't be dead/a zombie. But, you know, he is.
Anyway, the characters don't seem convinced -- part of the problem is that they still believe the world is fixable and just need to wait it out -- but time is going to prove Nick right. "We're going to be alright. We all will be," Travis tells his son. LOL, Travis. LOL.
Maybe They Should Kill Travis?
There's one over-riding theme in "The Walking Dead": if you trust too much, if you start to feel too much hope, you die. It's the severely damaged people, the ones who bank on survival more than anything who stay alive.
Travis is... How shall we say this? Travis is dead meat.
Actually, that's not fair: right now, Travis is a good guy looking out for his family and other people, trying to save as many lives as he can. And maybe at some point he'll have to face the horrible truth of the world and change his ways.
But if "Fear" and "TWD" are really in the same world, his hope is going to get him killed. He delays leaving -- despite Madison wanting to ditch the Salazars -- and even doesn't listen to his ex-wife when she explains exactly how Daniel's wife is going to turn into a zombie and kill them all.
"You can't fix everything, Travis," she pointedly says. But he, you know, doesn't listen.
Daniel, on the other hand, knows what's up. "This is the wrong time to be in someone else's debt," Daniel tells his family. If this was a traditional show, Daniel would slowly learn how to trust again. But it ain't. And that's why Daniel will survive, and Travis won't.
Life Goes On (Except It Doesn't)
The next morning, Travis is burying the dead dog in the backyard, and says the funniest line of the episode: "Good morning, Susan." It helps if you know the context that Susan is reaching to eat Travis at the time.
But it's all part of how they're trying to hold on to the world that's leaving them behind... Underscored by Travis taking out his bloody trash, then looking over at his (other) neighbor, also taking out his trash. Dudes, the garbageman ain't never coming by again.
Not to keep comparing the two shows, but it's fascinating to see how "Walking Dead" is slowly bringing their characters back to a semblance of society in Alexandria, while "Fear" is showing it breaking apart. The two shows are on opposite trajectories, and it's really working.
Anyway, then Madison goes to bash Susan's head in with a hammer... But Travis stops her. "Don't do something that can't be undone," Travis says, pointing out that they don't know there's no way to cure Susan. But there isn't, so... Can we please kill Travis already? As well as Susan?
Dealer With It
As they get ready to leave the house, Madison has -- essentially -- become Nick's dealer, doling out the medicine he needs to slowly detox. Except Madison has given most of the pills to Daniel's wife. "I'll help you," Madison tells Nick. "I don't need you, Mom," Nick shoots back, in the episode's sickest burn. "I need my medicine."
Yep, he's the Rick of the show, all right.
Escape From L.A.
Finally, the whole gang -- minus the Salazers -- leave the house, and begin their journey out of Los Angeles. At the same time, military helicopters start flying over the city; and at the same, same time, Susan's husband returns home.
Madison runs back to stop him (his name is Patrick, by the way), but he goes to give his "wife" a hug anyway. His wife looks gross and sick! Who can blame him? But she -- being an undead zombie and all -- goes to bite him, and at the last second, the military shoots her down.
So... That was a surprise, right? Instead of escaping the neighborhood, they end up trapped by the military, who occupy and patrol the whole area. They take names and info down. They ask about the dog corpse. And generally they lock everything down. "The cavalry's arrived," Travis says. "It's gonna get better now."
Is it, though? We know it doesn't, and particularly given how Travis mentioned earlier in the episode how much he doesn't like guns, it seems like things will get significantly worse. "It's already too late," Daniel says, looking out at the military as they draw black "X"-es on the houses that held infected.
I tend to agree with his side of the argument, myself... But this new status quo is one we haven't seen in the world of "Walking Dead" yet, where the military long ago lost any foothold in the fight against the dead, so it'll be exciting to see where things go next.