The first season of Fear the Walking Dead came and went in 6 episodes, exploring a couple families and other random people coming together in the midst of a zombie apocalypse that devastated Los Angeles. The second season continued to move things forward, as we followed our characters onto a boat and saw where things led from there. With seemingly more confidence behind the series, the show now has a full 15-episode season, which is packaged in this Blu-ray set, along with plenty of extras.
One of the big takeaways from the first season of FTWD was seeing potential for the second season. Having now watched all 15 episodes of season two, I’m not sure this was a wise premonition. That may be a bit harsh, as it overall has some redeeming qualities, but with The Walking Dead already struggling to continue making solid episodes, FTWD only has so much to go for it with its west coast take on the universe.
As mentioned, this season heads in a new direction. The first half is largely set aboard the Abigail, while the second half takes on a story set around the Mexico border. Those are ambitious ideas, but this series has a serious problem in properly establishing and developing these characters to be more than just irritating figures in this deadly world. Some certainly make a better impression than others (Strand), but a huge problem was seeing the show do good work for certain characters, only to undercut them immediately in later episodes (Madison).
With that in mind, the show’s cast consists of Kim Dickens and Cliff Curtis as Madison and Travis, a couple who both come from previous relationships. Their children Nick (Frank Dillane), Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and Chris (Lorenzo James Henrie) each have a part to play in this season. There’s also Ofelia (Mercedes Mason), Daniel (Ruben Blades) and the wonderful Colman Domingo as Victor Strand. This season also features a number of guest stars, including Dougray Scott, Danay Garcia, Brenda Strong and Paul Calderon, who all factor into the story in one way or another.
Much like the original Walking Dead, much of FTWD relies on examining the characters in a time of chaos. New worldviews takeover, various factions are encountered, religious belief is tested and altered. Given that FTWD does not have a graphic novel to use as a baseline, we are in clearer territory as far as where this series can take us. One would think that could allow for a fresh take on the universe.
Sadly, the series still doesn’t know how to maintain proper momentum. Some episodes are standouts. The early episodes at the start suggest a show that really grew from where we last left it. Ambition is certainly there, as the series’ second half is defined by separating the characters and trying to incorporate a thematically and politically intriguing look at people on various sides of the Mexican-American border. However, FTWD seems more content in just introducing the idea, but not really following up on it. The same can be said for a lot of the new characters. Actors do their best, but struggle with adding nuance.
Not hurting are the zombies. Both Walking Dead shows know what they are doing when it comes to the makeup effects and elaborate horror-action-based scenarios. We get some wild kills and moments of tension that really work for those looking to get satisfaction from this aspect of the show. I wish it would go hand-in-hand with the dramatic element, but at least FTWD doesn’t miss out on being a show that prominently features zombies.
Once again, I find myself at something of a crossroads with a Walking Dead show. My enjoyment of this universe due to my dedication to the comics and general praise for the Telltale Games’ take on this series means I want to keep involving myself with Walking Dead-related media, but Fear the Walking Dead needs to do better to keep me invested. It’s not without its highlights, but there are 15 episodes of a show that needs more to make it worthwhile.
Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Clarity/Detail: As opposed to the urban-based environments from last year, this season moves to the water and more desert-filled areas to provide a more open look. The accompanying Blu-ray presentation doesn’t suffer because of this and allows for a brighter presentation than the first season. We get the details of the various sets used and nothing is ever unrecognizable, the show has less of a chance to fall flat, which was a great change in pace visually.
Depth: Plenty of characters around to properly display a level of dimensionality that works for this video presentation.
Black Levels: There are lots of darkened or nighttime segments that look about as good as you would expect. Black levels are deep and inky.
Color Reproduction: With richer settings, colors do manage to stand out more. Even when in the grittier portions of this season, the Mexico environment helps to liven up things on this bleak show.
Flesh Tones: Characters fortunately look great, as the facial textures are generally quite good, especially given all the close-ups.
Audio Format(s): English Dolby TrueHD 5.1, French Dolby Surround 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Dynamics: The show’s lossless soundtrack does everything you want for a series like this. Action sequences lacks a bit more punch than expected, but this show has a different sort of function for the time being. It’s more about building a sense of dread and we hear what we need to in a mostly appropriate way.
Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel does a solid job of capturing some of the deeper moments involving soundtrack blares and explosions.
Surround Sound Presentation: Mostly center-focused, because of all the characters interacting, but enough ambient noise is present with atmospheric purpose, which helps spread the sound around.
Dialogue Reproduction: Everyone is loud and clear.
Season two doesn’t need a special edition like the first season. All of the extras are here, even if they largely rely on featurettes that could be watch online during the season’s initial airing. The majority of extras are featured on the fifth disc.
- Audio Commentaries – Strangely, this set only features commentaries on the first two discs, with no insight given to the second half of the season.
- “Monster” – Co-Creator/Executive Producer Dave Ericsson and Kim Dickens
- “We All Fall Down” – Dave Ericsson and Kim Dickens
- “Ouroboros” – Writer/Producer Alan Page and Cliff Curtis
- “Blood in the Streets” – Writer Kate Ericsson and Colman Domingo
- “Captive” – Executive Producer David Alpert and Writer Carla Ching
- “Sicut Cervus” – Dave Alpert
- “Shiva” – Davie Ericsson and Ruben Blades
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 8:13) – A collection of scenes with a marker to separate them by episode.
- Flight 462 Webisodes (HD, 14:34) – The best feature, as it takes a series of shorts that aired one minute at a time as one single narrative about an airplane affected by a zombie outbreak.
- Q&A with Cast and Creative Team from Paleyfest LA 2016 (HD, 54:29) – Most of the cast and crew speak about the series in detail. This was recorded a few weeks before the season’s debut.
- Inside Fear the Walking Dead (HD) – A behind-the-scenes look at each of the 15 episodes. Each takes up a few minutes.
- The Making of Fear the Walking Dead (HD) – Each of these 15 featurettes go into one of the technical challenges featured in the various episodes.
- Digital HD Copy of the Film
I would like to say this season of Fear the Walking Dead was a big improvement over the first, but I’m not sure if that’s true. It may be more ambitious, but 15 episodes seems like a lot to get through for a story with little direction, especially in its visually interesting, but shallow second half. At least the Blu-ray presentation is quite strong. Worthwhile for major Walking Dead fans looking to get their hands on everything they can.