[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Fear the Walking Dead returns to AMC for its third season Sunday night at 9 pm/8c, with a two-hour/two-episode premiere. “Eye of the Beholder” and “The New Frontier” catch us up with almost all the key players, fairly quickly after the events of the second season finale, which found Nick and Luciana on the wrong end of a Mexican standoff and the rest of the clan leaving the safety of the hotel to find him.
As we begin Season 3, reunions are nigh, but the setting is creepy amped up to eleventeen as the family lands at a suspect, indeterminate military facility that Troy Otto (Daniel Sharman of Teen Wolf and The Originals) has turned into a sadistic playground, with Shameless‘s Noel Fisher as one of his lieutenants . It’s apparent pretty soon that this latest accommodation has Hotel California overtones.
That plays out over the first hour, and segues into the second hour as we meet more new players, including The Following‘s Sam Underwood as Troy’s half-brother, Jake, who seems, for now, to be the sane one of the pair, and their father Russell (Sons of Anarchy‘s Dayton Callie), who has created a survivalist outpost.
This is a show that I came to for Kim Dickens, who I adore from way, way back. Full disclosure: I’ve never watched an episode of The Walking Dead although I did hear a goodly dose of the killer (pun intended) sound effects while working on my laptop in the same room where a friend was fully engrossed (ditto) in it. The point being that I watch this show as a wholly separate thing from/without any frame of reference toTWD.
When I sat down to watch the pilot two years ago, it terrified me, in a way a show hadn’t done in a very long time. I legit got up and checked that my windows and doors were locked, and on an average day I’m an intelligent, reasonable grown up.
I was immediately enthralled by the set up of how a catastrophe might unfold for the survivors when everything about life as they know it just stops, and fairly overnight, they’re forced to dig deep and get right, or get out. You survive or you don’t. Those are the only two options available.
The 6-episode first season was a fairly slow burn, which is totally my speed for sociological dramas and then the expanded second season seemed to go full-in up on the gore, so I admittedly spent a lot of time hitting FFW on the DVR.
Over the course of last year’s 15 episodes (split into two sub-seasons of 7 and 8 episodes), the action moved from California to Mexico, after an overly long time spent at sea (and the realization that’s where they should have stayed), when they landed at a private hacienda with its own dark secrets and then fled to a hotel-turned-fortress held by a small group who survived a wedding massacre.
Those episodes also split the family, with Nick falling in with a small pseudo-village and meeting Luciana, while Madison and Alicia holed up at the hotel with Strand, and Travis and Chris set out on their own and hooked up with the wrong crowd, with Chris getting killed in the process.
There were some hard truths as Madison finally told Alicia the real story of how her and Nick’s father died–suicide–and coming clean that she took for granted that Alicia was always the rock who she didn’t have to worry about. Alicia processed that while also realizing that Nick was forever going to be first in her mother’s mind–the one she could count on was literally the one she didn’t actively think about.
This season, that dynamic continues out of the gate. Madison and Travis make difficult decisions for their family and then have to accept that there’s a degree to which they really cannot control things. Nick veers back into his loose cannon ways, which, while entirely justified, is also exceedingly dangerous. Alicia bonds with Jake over shared losses and tries to find her place again. Rand gets to tap dance even faster when his bullshitter ways catch up to him.
And I think that’s enough to get you started. I really liked the first two of the gate. I loved Sharman on Teen Wolf so it’s fun to see him flex different muscles as an almost-childlike psychopath. There’s a solid balance of drama and gore, but it felt like there were a few more merciful cutaways at specific moments, which I appreciated. Dickens is terrific, per usual, and I look forward to seeing what she does with Madison as more rugs get pulled from underneath her.
My only teeny tiny nit is that there’s a moment where someone comes in and sits down in a a room without waking anybody, and in a real world scenario, maybe, but now, in the context of the world in which these characters live with warrior reflexes, I’m pretty sure he never would have made it past the door.
Fear the Walking Dead premieres Season 3 Sunday night at 9 pm/8c, followed by a new episode of Talking Dead. If you need to catch up, Season 2 marathons all day on AMC beginning at 5:45 am/4:45c Sunday morning. The network has put together a handful of video sneak peeks for the new season. Enjoy!