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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Same here -- this season is far superior to the first three. I'm afraid my wife is losing interest, though, and Madison's death scene didn't help any. (She also thought it went on too long, probably because she didn't give a flip about Madison.)

Also, if she's dead, wouldn't they want to find her wandering corpse and put her down? So far that's been the go-to with every major death. If nothing else, they'd want to see the body and be sure.

We are now down to two characters who go back to the first season: Strand and Alicia. We started out with three families -- Manawa, Clark and Salazar -- but all are dead except for Alicia. It really has been lethal lately!

The Forbes reviewer, who said he wasn't a Madison fan, was incensed at how stupid her death was. Here's one paragraph:

"So why does Madison die? Because the Vultures decided to unload a thousand zombies to "take" the Diamond. How were they planning on actually going in there to scavenge stuff if they loosed a horde of that size? She died because nobody thought to shoot at the Vultures before they let the zombies out. She died because Nick and Alicia just sat there and didn't drive away or drive to the gates. She died because the zombies were attracted to her flare but not to the huge flames out in the parking lot."

I have made each of those point before, but not as concisely! Also, he used "loose" correctly, and not as a misspelling of "lose."

And I just thought of something else: If that damn flare is so irresistible to zombies, why didn't Madison just chuck it into the stadium and run away?

I will note something positive I read in a review somewhere, that the season started with one person at a campfire (John Dorie) and ended with eight people around a campfire. So, progress, I guess. (Although the review said NINE people around the campfire, and I can only think of eight.) And Salazar is rumored to return.

Fear the Walking Dead will return Aug. 12.

"If that damn flare is so irresistible to zombies, why didn't Madison just chuck it into the stadium and run away?"

I dunno...

?

FTWD returns Aug. 12.

Kinda disappointed in "Close Your Eyes," the latest episode.

It was shot well, and once again the cinematography was breathtaking.

But when the premise was established in the first few minutes, I turned to my wife (who had just said, "Oh, I hate that little girl") and said, "Yeah, but she and Alicia are gonna bond."

Which they did. In real life, these two would never get along -- and, in all likelihood, Alicia would execute the girl who executed her brother. And in a good TV show, they'd do something like that, or something else unexpected. But the writers took the most maudlin, predictable path, because they want us to like both characters. It's crap TV writing, which I am less patient with in this age of peak TV, where dozens of other shows would have taken a more unexpected, more plausible, and more exciting direction.

As a counterpoint, consider the Walking Dead episode where Carol executed the little girl. That was stunning, because it's what would happen in real life, but NOT what would happen on a mediocre TV show. Had that episode had mediocre TV writers, they would have written a tearful -- and utterly implausible -- scene where Carol "gets through" to the little girl with an impassioned speech, the girl realizes she was wrong and breaks into tears, and they all hug it out.

That's the moral equivalent of what happened in "Close Your Eyes." They took the expected path, which is not only boring but genuinely implausible. It's just bad or lazy writing. Because these mortal enemies metaphorically hugged it out.

There were some other things that bugged me, too.

Last episode and this one showed zombies being picked up and carried off by the wind. That is extremely possible in a hurricane. But here's the rub: If the wind is strong enough to pick up a 180-pound weight (like a zombie), it's strong enough to pick up almost everything around them as well. It wouldn't selectively lift the zombie and leave everything else around it -- most of which weighed less than 180 pounds -- on the ground.

For another thing, when Alicia discovers the house, she walks into the dark without even trying to draw any potential zombies out (which they do routinely on Walking Dead) Walking into an enclosed area in the dark in a zombie apocalypse, where it's going to take your eyes time to adjust, and where you voluntarily surrender the advantages of fighting in the open in the sunlight, is mind-blowingly stupid. And when she survives that, she immediately starts looking in closets and dark places, like the cellar. Did they not have slasher movies in your universe, Alicia?

Then it turns out that Charlie has also chosen this house for shelter. What are the odds?!?? (That's sarcasm. The odds are astronomical.)

Also, the duo attracted zombies by hammering nails into window shutters. DURING A  HURRICANE. I've been in hurricanes, and one thing they are is LOUD. That hammering would have been drowned out any farther than five feet away by the howling of the wind, the cracking of tree limbs, the uprooting and falling of entire trees, the tons of debris smashing into things. No zombie could have heard that noise, and if by some strange miracle one did, it would have had no idea which direction the noise came from. It's just preposterous.

Then when they retreat to the house and the zombies pile up against the window ... they leave the drapes open. So the zombies can see them. Do you have a death wish, ladies?

You don't have to be an experienced zombie-apocalypse warrior to realize that if you close the drapes (or better yet, pull a piece of tall furniture against the window) the zombies won't be able to see you, but they will see virtually everything else around them moving like crazy. Since they wouldn't be able to hear you (see above), and they can't see you, then they will quickly get interested in something else and go away. This is Zombie 101.

Of course, if they went away we wouldn't have the inevitable zombie incursion in the third act. Can't have that, can we?

Further, it's also Zombie 101 to stay on the second floor of any structure you're in. That gives you time and distance from a zombie break-in, plus you can hear them coming, plus it's pretty easy to block the stairs. A dresser, a mattress -- almost anything that forms a barrier will do. (Zombies are not good climbers.) But where do Alicia and Charlie stay? On the first floor, RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE WINDOW. Oh, and they build a fire, too, which attract zombies like candles attract moths.

So my suspension of disbelief had already popped when Alicia and Charlie retreat from the inevitable third-act zombie invasion by going into the cellar that Alicia had previously discovered was flooding. Yeah, it's stupid, but maybe they were cut off from the stairs or the back door, or a picture window or ... oh, forget it. There were any number of better ideas than the cellar. But sure enough, as I rolled my eyes so hard you could hear it, they race for the cellar where they are guaranteed to get trapped and bond. As expected.

Oh, and the gun on the mantelpiece was the zombie suspended in the air after having been impaled on a tree limb somehow -- we knew it would fall at some point. When it does, it isn't to threaten the ladies in a second-floor confrontation, but instead falls on the cellar door and somehow frees them. How convenient. And how further convenient that it waited to fall until after the ladies had time to hug it out. Almost like it was written that way.

Again, the show was shot gorgeously and was extremely atmospheric. That's almost enough to make me like it. And I want to like this show. But the writing has to get much, much better.

I’m in the process of catching up to TV I missed while on vacation, and I caught up to "Close Your Eyes" last night. I noticed all of the lapses of logic you did, Cap, but (for whatever reason) they didn’t bug me as much… except the bit about leaving the drapes open. I kept shouting, “Close the f*ckin’ drapes!” every time the window was in shot. But I digress…

I don’t disagree that, in reality, these two would never become friends, but I’m going to look past that to concentrate on what I see as the positive aspects of the episode. On the whole, the writers may have taken “the most maudlin, predictable path,” but I think their intention was simply to throw these two characters into a room and let them interact. Granted, they took a lot of literary liberties to get there, but I can’t really classify it as “crap TV writing.” When I see things telegraphed miles ahead I tend to use the word you often do to describe it: “writerly.” But I watched The Talking Dead last night, too, and one of the writers pointed out two things about the owl I had missed (and several things about the overall themes of the show as well).

I thought the episode took a lot of missteps (all of which you pointed out), but they didn’t ruin it for me.

I must be the only person in the audience who actually likes Charley (as a character). I think she’s complex.

We’ll probably watch another episode tonight.

We haven't watched last night's yet -- we're knee-deep in Ripper Street -- but I'll comment when we do.

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