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TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead (Season 3, Episode 1)

Season 3, Episode 1: Eye of the Beholder 

PLOT: The Clark family finds themselves at the mercy of a military group that is conducting twisted experiments to figure out the zombie plague.

REVIEW: I find AMC's Fear the Walking Dead to be so consistently frustrating that tuning in to watch a new episode could almost be seen as a masochistic act. I see potential in it, but it has repeatedly refused to reach that potential, pulling back as its main characters make terrible decisions and act like villains again and again, all while promising storylines falter and crumble around them. Yet I remain optimistic. Someday Fear the Walking Dead could start making choices that will make its episodes more enjoyable and its characters more likeable. Maybe season three is when it will all get turned around.

It's episodes like the season three premiere, Eye of the Beholder, that keep me hanging on to hope. I found the premise of this one to be exceptionally interesting: having botched all of their chances at living peacefully in Mexico, the Clark family, consisting of mom Madison (Kim Dickens), daughter Alicia (Alycia Debnam-Carey), and son Nick (Frank Dillane), along with Madison's boyfriend Travis (Cliff Curtis) and Nick's girlfriend Luciana (Danay Garcia), have taken their search for safety back across the U.S. border. Instead of safety, they have only found another horrible situation, as they are taken captive by a military group.

Anyone who has read my reviews of Fear the Walking Dead or The Walking Dead episodes will know that these shows find their way to my heart by featuring things that remind me of George A. Romero's classic DEAD films, and such is the case with Eye of the Beholder, which has a group of murderous soldiers conducting twisted experiments in an attempt to figure out the dead. Murderous soldiers plus twisted experiments equals a DAY OF THE DEAD nod in my mind, so this episode quickly had me on its side, rooting for it.

The experiments in question involve the soldiers killing everyone they capture, one-by-one or sometimes two-by-two. They kill people of all sizes and ages and then time how long it takes for each one to become one of the walking dead. This doesn't seem like the most important information they could be figuring out, I would assume that the times would vary too much from person to person for them to truly be able to come up with a reliable resurrection time prediction system, and they certainly shouldn't be killing people for this, but they don't seem to mind doing it. They even take bets on times to make it more fun for themselves.

While Nick, Travis, and Luciana are in line to get "experimented on", Madison and Alicia are being held in a different part of the compound, where they're visited by a young man named Troy Otto. Played by Daniel Sharman, Troy was a character that really intrigued me, because he seems nice but at the same time there's something off-balance about him, and we know his cohorts are up to some nasty things. His true nature emerges as the episode goes on and he makes it clear that he wants to become the new man of the house for the Clark women. Madison doesn't let him down easy.

Eye of the Beholder had some really interesting stuff going on, and that built up to some cool action beats - which isn't something you see a whole lot of on Fear the Walking Dead. Often this show will milk situations that should be passed by quickly and will move quickly through the more promising situations, and there is a bit of that to this episode. Characters escape predicaments and move on much faster than I would have expected. We'll see if that will pay off in the long run, but in the short term it made this episode an entertaining one. Season three got off to a good start.

BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: Punished for attempting to escape the military compound, Travis is dropped into a pit full of zombies and proceeds to kick all sorts of walker ass. There were a surprising amount of zombie moments to choose from in this episode, but that was the coolest in my book.

GORY GLORY: I was all set to hand this category over to a particularly gnarly shot of a spoon being stuck in the corner of a character's eyeball, but then near the end of the episode a zombie and a flood of rats came bursting through a wall to put an ugly end to one of the soldiers.

FAVORITE SCENE: While that "rats in the wall" moment was great, as was what followed, it doesn't get better than Travis tearing through those zombies in that pit.

FINAL VERDICT

Extra Tidbit: What did you think of Eye of the Beholder?

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