After AMC’s peculiar decision to skip over the show’s regular timeslot last Sunday, due to it being on during Labour Day in America, Fear the Walking Dead comes back this week with an episode that truly makes up for its delayed release. After struggling to escape the riotous streets, Travis and co. still can’t seem to catch a break, as they return home only to find a walker in the living room and the Clark’s to be nowhere in sight. In ‘The Dog’, the outbreak is clearly beginning to be recognised as a threat to society and the authorities are starting to take measures to contain it, but as we already know, the zombie apocalypse is one hell of a thing to try and control.
What makes this episode the best one so far is the fact they have really begun to kick the action up a notch, allowing for plenty more of those nail-biting, utterly terrifying scenes that we have come to love from the franchise. It may be quite appealing to try and associate this increased tension with the larger number of walkers appearing onscreen, but I would say that there is a bit more to it than that. Sure the pale, blood-drenched walking corpses are frightening enough, but what truly makes the show all the more thrilling is the constant threat of danger that comes alongside the progression of the outbreak. For example, when the dog is moving around outsides the Clark’s house, it doesn’t exactly matter whether it is actually walker or not; there’s a constant sense of impending danger throughout the episode that makes every moment all the more intense. It is precisely this climate of fear that is crucial to making Fear the Walking Dead a good horror drama.
By the end of the episode, Fear has introduced an element of the Walking Dead timeline that has previously been somewhat under-looked: the military’s involvement early on in the outbreak. Of course, we have known about a military presence ever since The Walking Dead’s pilot episode, what with Rick hiding in a broken down tank in the middle of Atlanta, but thanks to that show’s choice to fast-forward past this stage, it never has been truly focused upon until now. Fun fact: executive producer of The Walking Dead, Frank Darabont, originally wanted to begin the second series of the show with a flash-back episode telling the story of the undead soldier Rick encounters in the tank at the beginning of series one. This would have been used to outline the very same military period that Fear will most likely cover now. It looks like good ideas are never truly lost! As fans of The Walking Dead already know, military efforts in Atlanta do not last forever and the walkers soon become too much to handle, but will this be the same case with Los Angeles? Who knows, but, military intervention is, at least for the moment, giving our characters some shred of hope for survival.
The character who buys most into the military’s capacity to contain the outbreak is Travis and at the end of the episode he naively proclaims: “it’s gonna get better now”. It is beginning to look like that he is to become the ‘there’s always hope’ character in Fear like many others in The Walking Dead have been before him. Unfortunately for him, these characters have quite the track record for having something traumatic completely shatter their optimism and/or for meeting their untimely demise. It’s not too much of a stretch to suggest that Travis’ hopefulness will be put to the test by the end of the series.
All in all, ‘The Dog’ is a truly fantastic episode that solidifies Fear the Walking Dead’s calibre of programming alongside its sister-show. It is truly coming into its own now at this half-way mark through the series, and despite the fact that the ratings have continued to drop each episode since the record-breaking pilot, it still manages to draw in a massive crowd with around 7.2 million viewers this week. We are sure to be in for an exciting ride as the show now moves into the latter half of its first series and more of the dead are beginning to rise.