WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2016 — Sunday’s “Fear the Walking Dead” mid-season premiere didn’t do AMC’s zombie franchise any favors. It focused exclusively on Nick Clark (Frank Dillane), troubled junkie and son of the long-suffering Madison Clark (Kim Dickens).
You may recall that the last time we saw the drug-addled Nick, he had abandoned his family, covered himself in zombie gore – a disguise rendering him invisible to rotting flesh-eaters – and joined a coterie of the undead as they stumbled down a dusty Mexican road in search of their next meal.
We are reintroduced to Nick as he awakens on the floor of a ramshackle home. Beside him lay two fly-covered corpses.
“They were close friends,” says a woman standing in the doorway, “I saw them a few days ago. They had food, water. They were okay. Things change so quickly now.”
The woman packs belongings into a compact car as a young boy kicks a soccer ball around. He is the only surviving member of the dead family.
“Where are you going?” asks Nick.
“South,” says the woman, “… you should come with us.”
Nick asks, “The others – where did they go?”
“They do as everyone else. Search for family, sanctuary.”
But Nick has heard of an Oz-like community somewhere in northern Mexico and is determined to get there.
“It’s not safe to go alone, Nick,” she says, warning him of armed marauders traveling the roads. “They are the worst of men, and this is the lawless world they have been waiting for.”
But Nick does things his own, self-destructive way.
And this is what stretches the viewer’s sense of reality much more than the existence of zombies. After all, Nick wasn’t all that handy a do-it-your-selfer in the good ol’ days of law and order, fast food and easy-to-score heroin.
Add to this the fact that he doesn’t seem all that concerned for his personal safety now that the world has descended into a Hobbesian state of nature, made all the more terrifying by the clawing hands and snapping jaws of the undead.
He hits the road with no more than a one-gallon plastic jug of water and what little food he can fit in a small backpack.
According to the book “When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency,” author Matthew Stein says in “average conditions we would only last 3 to 4 days without water… More than 1 quart of water every hour can be required to perform heavy physical labor under extremely hot conditions.”
Say, like traversing the arid climes of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula?
Stein says the “typical adult American male” consumes “roughly 2,600 calories per day.”
Then there is the question of self-defense.
“Knives almost always weigh less than hatchets and, therefore, are better if you are on the move,” says Max Brooks in his book “The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead.”
But Nick carries no weapons.
And as past episodes of “Fear the Walking Dead” and its progenitor attest, even the well-armed, post-apocalyptic citizen is never really completely safe.
On his journey north – one of more than sixty miles – Nick foolishly sticks to the main roads where he is confronted by a heavily-armed band of sadistic highwaymen in a fast-moving jeep. His choice of sleeping locations provide easy access to unwanted visitors, which allows a woman wielding a baseball bat to relieve him of his meager supplies. Finally, he is swarmed by a pack of feral dogs, with one snarling mutt taking a healthy chomp out of his leg.
Not to worry. This urban L.A. junkie – hungry, thirsty, wounded and in the middle of nowhere – has within his grasp the most useful utensil in the survivalist’s toolbox. Dumb luck.
It’s been said that this wildly popular AMC franchise is more about people than it is about zombies.
Where “Fear the Walking Dead” and the profoundly unlikable Nick Clark are concerned, it seems to be more about dumb people – and poor zombies denied an easy and well-deserved meal.