The Return of The Living Dead – FTWD Season 3 First Impressions

After a meandering first two seasons of The Walking Dead‘s sister show, season three, I had hoped, would bring focus and development to the characters of Fear and drive a cohesive storyline forward. While I thoroughly enjoyed seasons 1 and 2, I felt that there was something lacking in the main characters. Last night’s season premiere didn’t disappoint. There were some impressive aerial shots, giving the viewer a true sense of scale of the devastation, which suggested the possibility of more creative directing in the season ahead. Hopefully this is something that the show will develop to become more aesthetically pleasing. There were plenty of the staple zombie fights, giving viewers the gore and tension that is expected from the show.

The opening scenes of the double bill premiere saw us join the Clark family where we left them; being arrested at the border. This brings a sense of continuity to season three and a continued connection to the main characters. However, rather disappointingly, the show didn’t lose its formulaic structure in which the family would obviously be reunited and have to come together to remove themselves from the dangerous situation they found themselves in and all would be well between them again.

What did make it interesting was that the “soldiers” who arrested them were in fact a group of survivors pilfering supplies. Their leader, Troy (Daniel Sharman), is a twisted young individual who enjoys experimenting on those captured and plans to add Travis, Nick and Luciana to his results. The men placing bets on how long it would take the murdered to turn was shocking and inhumane and really drives home FTWD’s main theme of  man’s inhumanity to man.

It was good to see a new element to Madison’s character, which had previously been a little lacklustre. She is no longer so trusting and naive and picked up on Sharman’s excellent portrayal of a shifty, cruel and twisted mind, preparing herself and Alicia to fight their way out, looking for weapons in anything she could find to hand. It was utterly distressing to watch the spoon in Troy’s eye, used to get out of the locked room and find out where Travis was being kept.

Travis also showed excellent character development and demonstrated real balls, not only standing up to Troy and his men, but to surviving a session in the pit with the zombies. A real show of strength that wasn’t really obvious before, due to inner demons and the loss of his son. I really felt that this was going somewhere for him…

It was not to be.

The family escapes the flood of zombies and, although separated once again, head to the same place; the survivors’ ranch. While Madison and Nick are in a truck with Troy and his men, Travis, Alicia and Luciana fly off in a helicopter with Troy’s less evil brother Jake. At this point I had assumed the worse for the two women with Troy, but it was in fact the helicopter that took gunfire from the ground and came down. After Travis’ heroic show of strength and the possibility of real character development, it was a little devastating to see him shot in the neck and for Alicia to have to let him fall to his (probable) death. He sacrificed himself to prevent the risk of him turning and putting the others in danger; perhaps a good time to die while his character was on a high?

After some tense tussles with zombies in the dark, Alicia, Jake and a fast fading Luciana find their way to the ranch and are reunited with Madison and Nick. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Madison when she learned of Travis’ death; I’ve not really warmed to her much as she often seems distant and a bit cold, but her reaction was just right for her guarded character, taking off alone to grieve in private. Madison has started to show traits similar to TWD’s Rick Grimes; a “protect the family, take over, do what it takes” kind of attitude – a positive turn and likely natural development of a mother in such crisis.

An excellent addition to the cast is Dayton Callie (SoA and Deadwood) as Russell, the leader of the camp and the father to Troy and Jake. He has an excellent quiet presence that makes his character credible and offers excellent opportunity for a meaty storyline.

It was also good to see Strand back to his conman tricks, this time impersonating a doctor, rather successfully and delivering a baby no less! His lies catch up with him, however, and he is asked to leave the hotel with no car and no supplies, but not before “releasing” the poor tortured soul of Eileen, the mother of the bride from season two, who lost her whole family in one go. It was fairly obvious she would jump from the balcony as soon as Strand got the door open, but then the show isn’t exactly known for its surprises (well… at least, it wasn’t…). Before she jumps, she gives Strand what would have been a wedding present; a rather convent set of keys to a car which we can safely assume he will use to travel across Mexico, eventually finding the Clarks.

The end of the second episode saw interesting potential in all the main characters, and going forward the show does have scope to develop well, in particular with the introduction of the new characters. Hopefully remaining at the ranch won’t suppress the writing or directing and will give room for character development, interaction and a well-structured, tense storyline, which I feel is what is needed to keep the momentum of this good start going.

Catch Fear the Walking Dead, Mondays at 9pm on AMC UK, exclusive to BT TV

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