TV

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1, Episode 6 - "The Good Man"

M. King Adkins

Fear the Walking Dead’s first season finale finally proves we haven't been waiting in vain.


Fear the Walking Dead

Airtime: Sundays, 9PM
Cast: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Ruben Blades
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 6 - "The Good Man"
Network: AMC
Air Date: 2015-10-04
Amazon

Over the past week I toyed with the idea of writing my review of this week’s Fear the Walking Dead -- the first season finale -- before Sunday arrived. If you’ve been watching the first five episodes, you knew what was coming this week. Further more, last week’s foreshadowing symbols -- the arena full of walkers pushing against chained doors, the weary soldiers beginning to question their mission, the literal key to escape in Strand’s (Colman Domingo) hand -- left no doubt about how things would play out. Knowing what was coming, however, didn’t diminish the satisfaction of seeing it arrive. If anything, it heightened that satisfaction. Since we first saw Nick (Frank Dillane) run in panic from the drug den where he’d discovered his girlfriend munching on a human leg (“Pilot”), we’ve been waiting as things slowly boiled under the L.A. sun; waiting as nothing but mounting tension occurred; waiting for exactly the sort of explosion we get in “The Good Man”. Although I have often questioned whether the show’s careful, cautious pace might work against its success, the payoff in this episode and the sheer release it offered brought the entire season into focus.

That release was fairly spectacular. For all the absence of walkers in the previous episodes, in “The Good Man”, we are faced with an absolutely writhing sea of them, streaming through the L.A. streets and overwhelming the military. The action cuts quickly from one location and the next, underscoring the nature of the threat. The central characters, separated from one another for the past two episodes, finally have a mission: searching desperately to find one another before they too are overwhelmed by walkers. Even though this plot line has a certain archetypal familiarity, it nevertheless offers us Fear the Walking Dead’s first truly gripping story arc. The search itself takes place within a cramped, enclosed space, a veritable maze of hallways, with the dead closing in with every flicker of the fluorescent lights.

Yet for all the action of this episode, the show remains true to its larger central themes. In particular, it is the fear of the walkers that drives the action more than the walkers themselves. Even as the characters face the walkers, the bigger threat always comes from other humans. Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), who are left in a basement parking garage to guard vehicles must deal not with walkers, but three soldiers who leer at Alicia, knock Chris unconscious, and drive off in the family’s SUV.

As before, the show takes pains to remind us that these fear-driven attitudes reflect our own real-world behaviors. Small references to the real world are everywhere. We recognize New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, not merely in the way the military abandon their posts or turn on the civilians, but in the locked arena or the bridge Travis (Cliff Curtis), Maddie (Kim Dickens), and Daniel (Ruben Blades) drive over as they escape town. In other points in the episode, there are references to 9/11, particularly when the camera pulls back to offer views of the wrecked Los Angeles skyline, with two burning skyscrapers in the center. The message is subtle but important: we as a country have a history of reacting poorly in the face of terror.

The episode stays true to this focus in one other sense as well -- while the bulk of this episode deals with the main characters trying to escape the walkers, by episode’s end, we have returned to a sense of relative calm. Strand manages to get these two families to a place that seems safe, and promises that he can deliver more: a real escape. The location is a lush green with spectacular views of the ocean. We do pull back from this in the end and see the burning city in the background (as well as a heartbroken Travis, sunk into the sand), but then the camera rotates to focus on that ocean, stretching out endlessly, an image of freedom and hope rarely seen in predecessor The Walking Dead.

In the life of this series, things are still only just beginning. One thing is clear, though: a great deal of thought and planning have gone into this first season. Perhaps that isn’t surprising, given that the producers had a well-established narrative world to work with, one that has been explored in depth by both the graphic novel and The Walking Dead series. That history didn’t necessarily come with built-in security. To its credit, Fear the Walking Dead recognized its responsibility to separate itself out from the original, to say something new.

Based on how they have set things up in these first six episodes, what is it that Fear the Walking Dead wants to say? My guess is that these characters will spend less time on the run from walkers than on exploring how this new reality affects them, both as individuals and as a community. To some extent, we saw that sort of exploration in The Walking Dead, particularly in Season 2, in which the characters spent the majority of the season on Herschel’s (Scott Wilson) farm. The Walking Dead, though, preferred to push its characters to their physical limits; its main narrative concern was asking just how much a human being can endure. While Fear the Walking Dead does contain that narrative component, it promises to investigate the traumas done to the mind more than those done to the body.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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