Fall TV Smashcuts: Good Riddance

Good Riddance: Fear the Walking Dead and The Strain

Fear the Walking Dead shuffled to the end of its six episode first season at the beginning of this month and the rotten stink has been lingering ever since. What makes Fear’s lackluster conclusion so dismaying is the speed of its decomposition from the heights at which it began. The first episodes were some of the best that the whole Walking franchise has produced. Stirred from his heroin-induced stupor in an abandoned church, Nick (Frank Dillane) follows the bloody bread crumbs to his zombified girlfriend, impaled in the heart and gnawing at the homeless man who unwittingly bunked up in the same building as patient zero. The result is Nick’s desperate attempt to distinguish the real from imaginary (we know better) and to convince others exactly what went down. With the apocalypse firmly rooted with the disenfranchised, the drug addicts and the homeless, the danger is always looming. Those we find invisible will be the tools of our doom simply because we refuse to believe or notice them in the first place. Zombies are a unique narrative tool that can manifest current political or environmental concerns into literal foaming-at-the-mouth monsters; Fear establishes a promising income gap parallel right off the bat. There is also a horror element at play in these first episodes, where we truly can’t distinguish exactly who is dragging their feet in a crowd, where the scattered reports of sickness and viral videos of the infected loom over our newscasts, and we are left with an ominous feeling of doom.

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Its a welcome change of pace since that feeling is virtually non-existent in AMC’s original flagship show, which is more likely to coming growling at you head on. Sadly, Fear‘s nuance is lost faster than an axe blow to the head. The outbreak of the apocalypse (the original premise of the show, and honestly, everyone’s favorite part of an apocalypse) ends all too quickly, and the remaining episodes linger within fences and under armed guard. The characters, and thus the story, aren’t even aloud to leave the premises. There’s hope that season two takes off the shackles, but there’s one glaring problem: the end of the world already happened. Now all we have is The Walking Dead: LA.

Fear ended the world too quickly. The Strain isn’t killing us fast enough. Guillermo Del Toro and Carlton Cuse-produced The Strain finished its second season run after a much maligned first season, and it appears the apocalypse has been further delayed. A virus outbreak infecting thousands upon thousands in overcrowded New York City. A virus whose side effects are, you know, becoming an immortal, blood-thirsty vampire with a six-foot long fanged tongue that returns home to slaughter its loved ones and climb walls to attack bystanders. And for some reason, a rag tag group consisting of Congressman Peter Russo with a toupe, a rat exterminator, and (I shit you not) a Lucha Libre wrestler, are keeping this whole thing from leaving the neighborhood? Wooden dialogue, bad accents, and redundant story lines are the least of my worries with The Strain (although its not hard to find the signature absurdity of Del Toro’s flicks a bit endearing). At what point do you expect your audience to take you seriously if you don’t seem to take your own monster that seriously? And, more importantly, at what point am I going to crawl out of this show Shawshank-style and let the vampires just drain my blood?

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