Tag Archives: Colman Domingo

A review of the “Fear the Walking Dead” Season 5 premiere

“Fear the Walking Dead” has devolved.   It’s fallen a long way from its early years as an earnest, deadly serious prequel to “The Walking Dead.”  (I, for one, really liked the first season’s creative mix of slow-burn horror and family drama, and I loved the ambitious, milieu-exploring apocalypse-in-progress stories of subsequent seasons.)  Today, we’ve reached the point where the show has become so slapdash and campy that you have to wonder whether its creators take it seriously at all.

I’m sorry to say this, but the Season 5 premiere felt like pretty amateurish stuff.  Its writing, directing and acting (in some places) were really, really spotty.  Its early action set-piece involving a plane crash, for example, was choppy, confusing and awkwardly staged.  The plotting and dialogue were … poor.

Even the premiere’s marketing was goofy.  Its television ads seemed like an intentional self-parody — like maybe a Saturday Night Live skit lampooning zombie shows.  (See below.)  The poster is a mess too — even if the center image’s suggestion that John Dorie is a gunslinging Christ figure is pretty damned nifty.

With all of this said, it may surprise you that I still liked the episode well enough, and I’ll still watch the show.  I’d rate the premiere a 7 out of 10, because “Fear the Walking Dead” still has its merits.  I can think of three reasons in particular why I still had fun with the premiere, and why I’ll still tune in next Sunday.

First, some of the characters are terrific.  I’ll always love Victor Strand (Colman Domingo). I really like Dorie (Garret Dillahunt) and his mild-mannered girlfriend, June (Jenna Elfman), and Charlie (Alexa Nisenson) is the kind of child character that typically grows on me.  (Let’s hope Dorie’s posture in the poster isn’t a hint about his death.)  I still like Morgan, because Lennie James is always a pleasure to watch, even if I don’t share the immense zeal of his legions of fans.  (The writers need to do more with him beyond his weird, vaguely “Kung Fu,” born-again altruism.  I know he’s supposed to be the Eastern philosophy guy, but his dialogue sometimes makes him come off like a stereotypical, nattering Evangelical.)

The second reason I’ll stay with this show is that its stories move along quickly.  There are no static, Negan-centered endless epics here, like there are on this show’s plodding progenitor.

The third reason is this — “Fear the Walking Dead” has always hatched the most creative story ideas.  Whatever problems the show might have developed over time with character, dialogue or plot details, the basic story concepts have always been really damned inventive.  (They consistently offer much more than “The Walking Dead’s” two  boiler-plate plot arcs — group-vs.-group or refuge-with-a-hidden-danger.)  This season looks like it will be no exception.  There are two major reveals in this episode’s closing minutes.  One connects Season 5 with past seasons of “Fear the Walking Dead,” while another is a tantalizing hint about greater forces in the “Walking Dead” universe.

Oh!  One more thing!  There is an important new character here played by the terrific Matt Frewer.  If you’re a true zombie horror fan, then you’ll recognize him as none other than Frank, from Zack Snyder’s superb, unfairly reviled 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” remake.  And if you’re an 80’s kid like I am, then you might remember him as the original Max Headroom — from both the Coca-Cola ads and excellent but short-lived 1987 sci-fi series.  That’s some pretty fun casting — and the guy is a really good actor.



A review of the Season 2 premiere of “Fear the Walking Dead.”

[THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR SEASON 1 OF “FEAR THE WALKING DEAD.”]  “Fear the Walking Dead” has done something interesting.  It’s taken two truly reprehensible characters, and made them the most attractive among an ensemble of protagonists in a survival-horror story.

I’m talking about Victor Strand and the young, troubled, drug-addicted Nick, who I’ve been reluctantly but undeniably rooting for since the closing episodes of last season.  They’re both expertly played, by Colman Domingo and Frank Dillane, respectively.  Colman is actually amazing: his deep voice and perfect line delivery should make him a leading man here or elsewhere, either as a hero or a villain.  In just a couple of episodes, he’s easily become one of the best things about the show.

But these aren’t “good guys.”  Or, at least I don’t think they are.  Are they?  Strand is openly a sociopath, and doesn’t even bother to hide it.  He appears to act nobly in rescuing the group.  But as Ruben Blades’ character, Salazar, shrewdly observes, he is almost certainly acting somehow according to his own self-interests.  (And Salazar has been right about these kinds of things so far.)

As for Nick?  No, I am definitely not judging the character about his addiction to illegal drugs.  That would make him a flawed protagonist, not a bad guy.  I’m talking about his demonstrated willingness in Season 1 to victimize the helpless in order to feed that addiction — he does nothing less than kill a sick, elderly man in order to get his “fix.”  (I did understand that scene, didn’t I?)

And what about Salazar himself?  He is easily the third most interesting character to me, and he’s perfectly portrayed by Blades.  I want him to survive this show’s zombie apocalypse, simply because I enjoy watching him so much.  He’s a former torturer for the El Salvadoran junta.  That’s … that’s pretty much as bad as you can get, isn’t it?  And this isn’t a character aspect that the viewer can easily put aside, as audiences did with the character of Sayid on “Lost.”  (He was a past torturer with Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard.)  Salazar’s deplorable skills are front and center at the end of the show’s first season, driving the plot.)

There’s nothing pathological about my attraction to these characters.  (And I’m sure it’s shared by other viewers.)  It’s just that these are creatively conceived characters on a show that seems to bungle its efforts to create anything resembling or interesting likable good guys.  The remaining protagonists of “Fear the Walking Dead” are written to be utterly bland, even when they are very well portrayed by their actors.  Travis (Cliff Curtis) is a one-note altruist.  Madison (Kim Dickens) shows promise, but isn’t yet that interesting to watch.  Alycia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) is a boring nice-girl.  Ofelia (Mercedes Mason) is so forgettable that I can’t really remember how to describe her as I write this.

The worst offender, by far, though, is the character of Chris.  I can’t imagine how dreadful a job it must be for actor Lorenzo James Henrie to play him.  He’s an utterly punchable brat — an entitled, immature, self-absorbed teenager that makes you root for any zombies that pursuing him.  I can’t imagine the show’s writers created him to be sympathetic … surely they must be setting him up as zombie fodder.

All told, though, the Season 2 opener last Sunday was good stuff.  I’d rate it an 8 out of 10.  Fans who were frustrated with Season 1’s slow pace (I wasn’t) will be pleased to discover that the show opens with an action sequence and a pretty skilled depiction of the destruction of Los Angeles.  No, the show doesn’t have the same special effects budget as a major feature film.  But this was still impressive — we get to see some of the destruction and mayhem that’s only been alluded to or briefly, limitedly portrayed via flashback throughout six years of “The Walking Dead.”  (Remember the faraway shots of the bombing of Atlanta?)

The suspense is also quite good.  I can’t really say much more for fear of spoilers.  But I thought it was well written and intelligent, and I think it will please even seasoned fans of the zombie horror sub-genre.

This was pretty decent stuff.  I think Season 2 should be a fun ride.