So far, “Fear The Walking Dead” has echoed its parent show in a mostly general sense: they’re both about the same, post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak, and thus have people that face similar obstacles. But tonight’s episode borrows too heavily from “The Walking Dead,” not only placing a familiar struggle in the characters’ path, but a nearly identical storyline. Anyone who’s watched the second season will immediately see more than just a shade of Hershel Greene in the character of Celia (Marlene Forte).
Like Hershel, she keeps the walkers alive, going as far to keep her undead family and members of her community protected with food and shelter. But she’s also more spiritually extreme than Hershel, viewing the plague as a sort of gift. As The A.V. Club noted in their review, her stance may stem from an Aztec belief system.
But is this perversion of Hershel enough to keep “Sicut Cervus” surprising? Not quite. Even though he didn’t purposely murder those around him with poisonous communion wafers like Celia, there’s still little shock to the reveal of her crimes. It’s meant to be a slow burn, with the Angelanos gradually unveiling her acts, but the audience is already way ahead of them. When she shows little grief over Luis’ death (he wasn’t shot in the head, so she knows he’ll come back), it’s clear within the first ten minutes of the episode what she’s up to. Had the series placed the main reveal earlier on, there wouldn’t be so much wasted time.
But where the writers falter with their repetitive and delayed plot, they succeed in some of the quieter moments between the characters. Colman Domingo continues to find a bruised sensitivity in Strand, showing tenderness as he sits by the deathbed of Thomas, who gets bitten trying to defend Celia early in the episode. While I never thought Strand would actually go through with the suicide pact he promises to Celia, it’s still triumphant when he rejects it, moving from a battered death wish back to the steely eyed fighter we know and love.
Chris’ transition isn’t quite as convincing, if only because his more brutal actions have been justified so far, as I pointed out last week. Maybe it’s because of Lorenzo James Henrie’s affectively rabbit-scared eyes, but I’ve always read his violence as being indicative of fright and confusion as opposed to him being a full-blown psychopath. Maybe that’s not where the show’s going with it, but when he grabs the knife from Madison and Alicia’s bedside — perhaps to end the latter’s life for ratting him out — it seems like an unrealistically drastic leap for his character.
This scare from within their ranks — not to mention the external force of Celia and her horde — make it highly unlikely that the cast will stay where they are for very long. And that’s fine. Even though the compound was originally intended to be a safe port, “The Walking Dead” has always been strongest when the characters are on the move. Maybe “Fear The Walking Dead” will take that to heart. Better to borrow a story lesson rather than an entire story.
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