Who watched the season premiere? Boy, what a difference.

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In the first place, we didn't see any of the regular cast until the very end, which was OK with me. One of the problems with Fear is that I really didn't care about the central cast much. With the quick addition of three (interesting) "new" characters -- Morgan, John Dorie and "Al" -- I had some people to root for.

I don't attribute my lack of interest in the main cast to the actors, by the way. While the parent show has been muddling along with mediocre scripts (even by TV standards), Fear had downright BAD writing. You could tell it would be typical TV just from watching the showrunner on Talking Dead -- he talked in cliches and pseudo-intellectual claptrap. He sounded like he was talking about Room 222 and that's pretty much what we got.

He's gone. Instead, TWD's showrunner has been promoted to King of the Dead, overseeing both shows and some ambitious marketing plans. He's appointed new showrunners for both shows. So we'll soon what the new team does. 

Judging by the premier show, it could be interesting. It's cool that they appear to be in west Texas, because there ain't nothing there but sand, wind and lizards. That makes the apocalypse that much more vivid. And I like the actor playing John Dorie (he's also the scientist villain on The Gifted, and was a Terminator on the Sarah Connor Chronicles). The firefight was well done, and I'm glad to see that they remembered that the Dead are a genuine threat. Did you notice Al's hand blades? Shades of Wolverine! (And since it's TV, they make a "shink" noise for no reason.) 

Downsides: Morgan walked into a trap three times, and Al and John twice. How have these people lived so long?

As to the old cast, we don't see Mama, but we do see Nick and Alicia -- both of whom are vaguely interesting, and may be more interesting with new writers.  We also see the Hispanic chick, who was clearly being set up as a major character in seasons 2 and 3, but I couldn't figure out why -- I didn't see what she brought to the table except her looks, and the show already had two pin-up girls, one of them Hispanic. (Maybe now I'll find out.) Unfortunately, Victor Strand is still alive, a character I find actively irritating and repellant. No sign of Madison, but you know she'll be along, and she's not bad -- except when she's inexplicably teaming up with Victor.

One of the things I find encouraging is that all of these people are together. One of the irritating habits of the old writing crew was to have people strike out on their own for no legitimate reason. They were doing that to open up storylines, of course, but made no sense in-story. Because striking out on your own in the zombie apocalypse is certain death and you'd better have a damn good reason for doing it. But Nick took off twice, Alicia once, Chris twice, Ofelia once and Luciana once, from safe places or family, for no reason other than pique, or in Alicia's case, no reason whatsoever. (And she ended up blundering back into her family in a few episodes, so her sojourn was utterly pointless.) That was jaw-droppingly stupid writing. Maybe now these people will act with a little more plausibility.

I mentioned earlier that I had to talk my wife into watching Fear because a season of bad writing on TWD had made her reluctant to jump back in now that the mothership has concluded season 8. I did (after letting her watch The Terror first) and she admitted that it wasn't too bad. That's a start.

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Oh, The Sarah Connor Chronicles. That’s where I know that guy from.

There are four other folks in my office who watch TWD.

Two, who have watched FTWD in the past, steadfastly refuse to watch the fourth season opener.

One has never seen FTWD before, but did watch the season four opener and is considering catching up. (I told her that’s probably not necessary.)

The fourth has watched and did watch both, and is now enthusiastic about FTWD for the first time (which is pretty much where I’m coming from, too).

Incidentally, did anybody else wonder if John Dorie is looking for the girl with his gun for maybe not-nice reasons? He never says how they got split up. I"m wondering if she didn't flee from him, because he's not all there.

But I could be influenced by the fact that Dillahunt usually plays villains. 

Just a thought.

I haven't drawn any conclusions yet, but I've considered multiple scenarios. 

Episode 403, "Good Out Here." Lots to talk about here.

The big death: Shocking sure, but disappointing. At least to me.

I think this show has been SO much better this season -- in some ways better than the mothership. Tight storytelling, genuine drama (or the seeds of it) and some good "Infected" scenes ...

And then they excise this character. Grrr. I saw it for what it was before Talking Dead confirmed it. This character who ... oh, wait:

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So Nick is dead. And when it happened I thought "well, didn't see that coming." But I also thought "he wanted off the show." Because, clearly, they'd been setting up some sort of character arc for the kid since the first season, and that story wasn't even halfway over..So, for him to die abruptly meant the actor pulled the plug -- screwing us, the viewer.

Which, in fact, is what happened.

So we put up with this druggie loser character for three seasons waiting for some kind of payoff. Would there be some kind of redemption? Would he found some sort of Church of the Dead? Would he go whole-hog druggie and kill his mother? Or maybe he'd just grow up and be a man?

But none of those things happened. We were waiting for this set-up to pay off ... and now we're not going to get it.

So, yeah, this actor -- whose ambition and studied quirkiness bled off the screen -- was playing a character whose promised journey would justify or explain all of his inexplicable decisions and bad behavior to date. Instead the actor just bailed. Gee, thanks, Frank Dillane. I guess I'll see your young-Johnny-Depp impression somewhere else, but not on the show I'm watching.

Argh. Anger. Phooey.

OK, I'm better.

Which brings me to a second thing that had me yelling at the TV not only this episode, but the last one as well. And I want to run it by you guys, to check my moral compass.

So you're Madison Clark, and you've been through a couple or three scenarios where you could have stayed and put down roots, but bad luck or bad people have taken those places away, as well as many of the people you love. So now you're a hard-bitten survivor of the zombie apocalypse, who has found a place that might work and are working 24/7 to make it work.

And then some assholes show up and tell you that your new place is going to fail, and they're going to take everything you own. Including the gun on your hip, which implies you are going to be dead. Ooh, scary TV drama.

But here's the thing. See, I'm pretty much a pacifist. But I've also been bullied much of my life, and I know how to deal with it. Plus, in the apocalypse (which I've experienced vicariously in SF novels and on TV), when someone walks up and makes a threat like that, there is only one response possible. You respond in kind. You kill them. Otherwise they're going to show up in Chapter 13 and kill you.

These guys have as much as said they're going to take everything Madison owns over her dead body. That is a mortal threat. It is delivered with a smile, and from a guy sitting in a fold-out chair. But it is a mortal threat. And I would kill the man who made it, before he could kill me.

Especially since, at that point, Madison has the upper hand. Those guys were just parked  around the baseball stadium waiting for Madison's people to get weak enough for the Vultures to walk in and kill them. Well, they're not weak yet. So I say: Line up all of your long-gun shooters on the wall, and make sure everyone has a different target. Make sure at least THREE guns are on El Jefe Asshole, not only because he's a dick, but because taking out the field leader is good tactics. And then you open fire.

30-40 of them die in the first volley. (It was said they had about that many long guns.) You pick off a few others before they move out of range, re-set up their camp, and try to wait you out again.

Ha! As if! That's when Madison sends out squads every night armed with sniper rifles, Molotov cocktails and every other kind of guerilla weapon and booby-trap they can manage, to harass these assholes until A) they're all dead, and Madison picks up THEIR stuff off their dead bodies, or B) they move on to a less ornery target.

But, OK. it's a TV show, so Madison and company are just wah-wah helpless against this sort of aggression. It's a TV show, so instead of Madison actively upsetting the game plan El Jefe Vulture helpfully described in detail, she just waits for his prediction to come true. Hey, why should anybody on Walking Dead shows act plausibly now?

Still, it made me mad. Obviously, given the "Then" and "Now" time jumps, the Vultures have won in the "Now," and It annoys me that Madison never did anything to stop them from winning in the "Then," despite every freaking warning possible and common sense. (And I realize we are now supposed to believe Madison is dead. She's not, of course. The Vultures have her.)

But then this week's episode comes along, and they are going on a food run, and I know they're going to slip out the back way or something to avoid the Vulture blockade. I assume, since that's what I would do.

Ha ha! No! They go out the front way, allowing these Vulture people to check them at the gate and check their vehicles and demand to know where they're going and maybe take their guns, as if Madison's people are somehow property or inmates.

Wait, what? Then why bother keeping them out? They already own you! Why haven't you just invited them in?

Or better yet, why haven't you SHOT THEIR LEADER IN THE HEAD to let them know that they DON'T own you, that you are NOT inmates, and dared them to make a fight of it? You can only be bullied, Madison, if you allow yourself to be.

No, no, I take that back, because that's not always true. Negan's boys were bullying The Kingdom in several heart-hurty scenes, because The Kingdom people could not do a thing to the people in front of them. If they did, everyone they knew would be slaughtered by other people who were not in front of them. I get that. They were checkmated.

But that's not the case here. The Vultures haven't even demonstrated the ability to walkie-talkie at distance. They are NOT Negan. They are just a bunch of neighborhood thugs.

And in this episode, TWICE Nick & Co.run into this Vulture guy driving a blue Camino who is literally taking food away from them ... without any contact with anyone else and without the numbers or firepower to back it up. Plus, astoundingly, this little prick taunts the group of people with guns.

Say what? Not in MY apocalypse! In my world, the guy in the blue Camino is dead the FIRST time I see him looting food ahead of us. Hey, dude, you might have gotten here first, but you only did so because the checkpoint told you where we were going, so it's not like there's some sort of post-apocalypse "finders keepers:" going on here. Plus, there's one of you and three of us. Plus, you're really being a dick, when any one of us can shoot you at any time. (Why ARE you being such a dick? Don't you know when you're outnumbered?) 

It's almost like our folks are hamstrung by a bad script or something. Because normally, if you've got something valuable in a lawless world, and three people with guns show up who need that valuable thing, you don't taunt them. You fork it over and beg them not to kill you.

But he doesn't fork it over, and he taunts them on top of it. Wow, fella, are you stupid! If I had any restraint before, it's gone now. I can kill you here and now, take all this food to my starving people, and nobody's the wiser. And you're daring me to do it?

But no, it's a TV show, and Morgan stops Nick from killing the guy who is stealing the food they need to live, TWICE. And why? Ummm .... something about "don't lose yourself" or something something psycho-babble something. While your people are starving. Hmp.

When Nick finally killed the guy, I thought "Why is this even a thing? I'd have shot him when I laid eyes on him two commercial breaks ago. Morgan, YOU should have killed this guy, and it wouldn't even have been personal." I mean, I'm not a violent guy. But I know a bully when I see one, and when he started with the taunts, either he'd be dead or I would be in the next 10 seconds. I won't live now, or later, letting a guy like that abuse me. Pay the price your mouth is running up, Vulture.

But no, it ended the way it ended, and there's no lesson or moral or even sense to be made of it. Adios, Frank Dillane.

But my point is: Am I wrong? Why on Earth would Madison & Co. passively allow the Vultures to predict their end and then set up the situation in which it would happen and take food away from them and not do a thing? Maybe I'm wrong to say "Start shooting them the instant the dude in the lounge chair starts being a dick." But surely they should have done something?

I await your response, O Legionnaires, whose moral compasses are not as damaged as mine.

First, I agree with everything you said about Madison and the Vultures.

But I have a different take on Nick.

Me, I was glad to see him go. How many times in the past have we complained about the sheer absurdity of the character. Yes, he was obviously in the middle of some arc of self-discovery that now he will never fulfil, but do we really care? Really? Besides, I don’t think he’s “gone, gone” yet; he still has to show us how he got to the point he was at last night in the flashback sequences. I think he’ll still be around for the first half of the season, at least. We may even discover that his character arc has been resolved and we just don’t know it yet. And they did catch me off guard last night, too. I was convinced that Nick was after Camino-guy because Charlie had been killed somehow. Then she shows up and shoots him!?

I wonder why it is the flashback sequences are in full color and the present day scenes are in (mostly) black and white...? On another note, I’ll tell you one nice thing about living in Texas: the bluebonnets along the highway which bloom every Spring. That’s a legacy of Ladybird Johnson.

Oh, and when Nick abandoned Morgan and didn't even throw him his staff, I was actively rooting for Nick to die! @$$hole.

Big agree on the Vultures, especially the taunting guy. That behavior looks like a death wish even when it's not the Zombie Apocalypse. I seriously doubt we're going to see Nick redeemed in flashback. They teased that when he was reading Morgan's Buddhist scripture just before getting killed. Dickheads.

But OTOH, I have to agree that Nick was getting tiresome as a character, and it's not going to bother me much to never see him again. I wonder if we'll see Charlie, and under what circumstances.

I watched The Talking Dead last night and it appears my theory that Nick may not be "gone gone" is in error. (This may have been what Cap was alluding to in his post.) Apparently the actor who plays Nick asked to be written out of after season three, so it's not likely he'll be around for flashbacks. El Camino guy, however, is another matter.

Some flashback scenes with Frank may have already been filmed, Jeff, so we may see him a few times more. We still have to find out how Madison found everyone, and how the Dell Diamond field was taken. I would be surprised if we don't see Nick a couple times more.

But, yes, I saw on Talking Dead that the character is gone because the actor requested to leave last season. I had actually guessed that because of the character's abrupt exit, and the show confirmed it.

And for those who found Frank annoying, I'm with you. I found him implausible and his decisions and behavior inexplicable. My annoyance is that we had to put up with him for three seasons with, presumably, some explanation or redemption in the future. Since we're not going to get that pay-off, it means watching Nick in the last three seasons was even more of a waste of time than it seemed prima facie. I feel robbed.

Interestingly, with Madison missing and Nick dead, we only have three of the original cast still on the show. Are they going for a clean sweep?

As to Charlie, I noted that when she shot Nick there were no witnesses, and she had disappeared when the rest of the cast found Nick. So they don't know who killed Frank, and Charlie might still be able to do her Little Girl Lost routine. Let's hope she doesn't have any more grudges she wants to fix.

I call shenenigans on the Laurie/Naomi thing (still, I'm glad they didn't drag it out too long), but otherwise another fine episode.

It also strukes me that yesterday's was a very "writerly" episode, but one without the negative connotations that term usually conveys. Specifically, each member of ther cast had a different reason for doing what was done, and each one blamed himself or herself.

I enjoyed last night's episode but the behavior of the dead smacked of writer's fiat. Why would a walkers crossing the bridge repeatedly change directions to head fr the gap in the guardrail? After it was fixed, why would they continue to do so? After they pulled a jeep in front of it, why did they continue to try to get in the jeep? After they were in the water and floating downstream, why did they all get out of the water just at the cabin?

I had never heard of a dory fish, but here's a link.

One of my co-workers informed me that there was a noisy walker inside the partially submerged car which was drawing the other walkers off the bridge. I didn’t notice that, but if it was making so much noise, why didn’t they go ahead and kill it before fixing the fence?

She also is convinced that, not only is Naomi alive, but that she is Charlie’s mother and one of the Vultures. My co-worker can be conspiracy minded (and that would be a huge “writerly” coincidence), but I cannot rule it out entirely.

Did Naomi say she lost her child or left her child? I heard “lost” but my co-worker heard “left.”

She also says the cast did see Charlie shoot Nick.

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