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Television

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 2 - "We All Fall Down"

M. King Adkins

The Clark-Manawas visit a family on shore and face many of their own darkest fears.


Fear the Walking Dead

Airtime: Sundays, 8pm
Cast: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Ruben Blades
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 2 - "We All Fall Down"
Network: AMC
Air Date: 2016-04-17
Amazon

“We All Fall Down", the second episode from Fear the Walking Dead's second season, reminds us that at the core of this group of post-apocalyptic survivors is a family. They’re a blended and dysfunctional family, to be sure, but in many ways, that very dysfunction serves as a foundational element for the entire series, from their struggles over the first season to live together in a single house, to the resentment one child must deal with over the loss of his mother. In that sense, Fear the Walking Dead works almost like a dark version of Modern Family or NBC's short-lived sitcom The New Normal, in that it both embraces the rise of these family structures and reveals the kinds of struggles they generate.

As the episode opens, the Abigail finds itself being tailed by another ship. To make matters worse, the group also learns that virtually the entire coast of California has been overrun with walkers and scorched by the military. Looking for a potential source of supplies and a cove in which to hide from their mysterious shadow's radar, they take a chance and dock at a coastal ranger station whose light seems to signal them as they pass.

While Strand (Colman Domingo) and the Salazars remain on the boat, Travis (Cliff Curtis), Madison (Kim Dickens), and the rest of their family head on shore to investigate. This is our first real opportunity to see the whole family -- Travis, Madison, Travis’s son Chris (Lorenzo James Henry), and Madison’s children Nick (Frank Dillane) and Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey) -- interact with one another since Travis was forced to kill his ex-wife Liza (Elizabeth Rodriguez), Chris's mother.

As a means of highlighting them as a family, the episode contrasts them with another family -- park ranger George (David Warshofsky), his wife Melissa (Catherine Dent), and their children: the teenage Seth (Jake Austin Walker) and the grade school-aged Harry (Jeremiah Clayton) and Willa (Aria Lyric Leabu). George is a survivalist, not only well-prepared for the apocalypse, but in some senses welcoming of it as an opportunity to rid the Earth of technology and pollution; he’s convinced this is all for the best. His apparently thoughtful, Thoreau-like attitude makes him, early in the episode, a good match for Travis who, even after everything that’s happened, remains true to his peaceful, non-violent convictions. For her part, Madison bonds with Melissa. Meanwhile, Chris gets paired up with Seth, and Nick becomes a sort of babysitter to the youngest Gearys. These bonds draw our attention to the parallels between the two families, parallels that become darker as the episode continues.

The first of these involves Chris who, left with serious anger issues after his mother’s death, finds an outlet for his feelings helping Seth clear the beach of walkers each day. His sense of release is palpable each time he hacks at a new walker, an expression of his frustration at his situation, an outlet for his grief, but also a complicated emotional response to these things that not only killed his mother but that his mother became. When Travis catches him at this new sport, he’s horrified, and the dominoes begin to fall. Seth seems bloodthirsty, but it turns out as well that George isn’t quite the pacifist Travis had believed him to be. While the two men confront their differences from one another, Melissa, fearful of George’s plans, begs Madison to take her two youngest children to safety.

The Clark-Manawas are quickly faced with the reality that in this new world family may not be as secure as it once seemed. Indeed, in many senses, family can make life more dangerous for survivors. Our desire to protect the ones we love can leave us vulnerable to attack. At the same time, a post-apocalyptic world stresses any cracks in a relationship. The cracks we see tear the Gearys apart -- the way George welcomes this new world order while Madison fears it; Willa's misunderstanding of fundamental questions of life and death -- these are cracks we've already detected in our own band of survivors. The harder the Gearys try to hold themselves together, the more fractured they become, and we sense their fate may lie in store for the Clark-Manawas somewhere in the future.

The encounter with the Gearys, then, works as a vision, or re-vision, of both the series' past and its future. It reminds us that Liza's death happened only two short episodes ago, and the repercussions of that event continue to exert a powerful influence on everyone. When Melissa turns and must be destroyed by her son Seth, each member of our group must face Liza’s death all over again. This is especially true, of course, for Chris; in this moment he not only relives his mother's death, but must relive it through the eyes of her killer, recognizing the necessity of the act but also having to see first hand what he's been spared up to now.

In terms of the future, the Clark-Manawa family is forced to recognize just how precarious their situation truly is. This time when the conflict over whether to take in a new survivor -- Harry -- boils up, while Travis, Madison, and Alicia argue on his behalf, they breathe a collective sigh of relief when Seth steps in and takes the decision out of their hands. Helping other survivors is, perhaps, not the most important goal any more. There's a sense, as they leave the two boys behind on the dock, that they recognize what became of the Gearys could just as easily happen to them.

In other developments, Salazar (Ruben Blades) begins to learn more about Strand's real travel plans, something that promises to have larger repercussions in terms of the plot. Thematically, though, issues of family remain firmly at the forefront of the series.

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