Like its father show, Fear The Walking Dead is proving itself every bit as high quality as I’d hoped it would be. I am slightly behind the US broadcast, so I haven’t quite seen all episodes yet. All this season I have been split on who my favourite character is.
The first season was slow and plodding. Not everybody was happy with this, but it worked for me. Only a handful of characters stood out, but in season 2 (and from early on) that changed. FTWD suddenly became much more compelling.
Strand took an early lead. Indeed, at the end of the first season I had developed a grudging respect and admiration for the apparent cold-hearted bastard and with the revelations about his past dropped in mid-season, he had it all but wrapped up. But since the group arrived at the hotel in Mexico, Alicia seems to have edged ahead and pegged it to the finish line.
On the surface, Alicia Clark is everything a strong female character should be – brave, sometimes fearless and always determined. Early warning signs suggested she may turn out to be the Stroppy Teenager trope, but she has really grown out of that this season. Now I look back on the first season, I start to see the seeds of the character she would become this year and I tip my hat to the writers if this was the plan all along.
I do feel concerned sometimes that the call for strong female characters often seems to want to put the “Action Girl” trope in every media, something that gets boring very quickly. Action Girl is too darned perfect at everything, except character depth. Fine in some things, but dull in others, especially where depth of character is required.
Alicia is neither Obligatory Stroppy Teenager nor Action , thankfully. In Alicia, we have a complex, sympathetic and flawed character. She is likeablr but she is not perfect. Her persona is sometimes a mass of barely contained rage.
Since season 1, episode 1, it’s perhaps been easy to dismiss her, but throughout this second season we have seen several other emotions come to the fore and they all centre on her very dysfunctional family life.
- Early in season 2, we are tantalised by how alone she might be feeling. She exposed her and the boat’s vulnerability when talking to the other boat – a crew about which she knew nothing and took the male voice on the other end at his word. She put her trust in a complete stranger. Why would she do this? She’s clearly not stupid
- There has always been a persistent and unspoken repressed anger that reveals itself in glances, tones and even simply walking away from the people around her. She cares about Nick and is one of the first to go running after him when he is in trouble, but she doesn’t really like it. You get the impression there is resentment at being the big sister
- If her anger towards her brother is muted with tongue firmly bitten, then this counts doubly so for her mother. There is a lot of undefined prickliness towards her mother. It would be easy to feel quite early on that this barely-hidden resentment is unfair. Yet how season 2 has developed, it’s demonstrated that this anger is not entirely unjustified
Her real father is dead. Her stepfather Travis, whom she clearly respects and likes, is not the problem either.
Things Come to a Head
The episode Pillar of Salt is a remarkable case in point. In two pivotal scenes, we had the biggest confirmations yet that Alicia can be a mass of contained rage that could explode at any moment.
Far from the stroppy teenager trope, we have a mix of sympathy and admiration for her. Firstly, her conversation with Strand was very telling. Strand is in a vulnerable position and this is his first chance to really talk to Alicia without her mother present. I would say Strand and Alicia are the two characters who are the most similar. In the clip, a black middle aged man realises his thoughts and beliefs about the world more closely align with a young, white girl.
For her part, Alicia always acted towards Strand with more than a degree of mistrust. After all, she has witnessed his duplicitous side more than once. After this conversation in which she really opened up to him do we begin to see what Alicia’s problem really is – and it is not teenage entitlement and selfishness. She treats Strand in this scene as a father figure and perhaps that hints at what it is she misses.
Showdown with Mother
The second scene is where Madison switches on the hotel lights. Realising that this was a stupid thing to do, Alicia rushes to the generator to confront her mother. In a very heated discussion, Alicia tells her mother a few home truths – about Madison’s relative treatments of Alicia and her brother Nick, and how she feels neglected. It’s always about Nick. Alicia is left to herself, to fend for herself and get on with it.
“It’s all about Nick!” Alicia tells Madison. “He abandoned us, I didn’t.” It is clear that Alicia’s emotional needs have been ignored – no, neglected for a very long time as Madison seems overly-protective of Nick and his problems despite his determination to tumble into self-destruction. Madison’s actions at the “supermarket” put them all in danger, all because of a whim on a hunch that a young white man who’d been at the supermarket a few days before might have been Nick. It was Nick, but Madison had no way of knowing this and very little to go on. Not only did Madison risk their lives at the supermarket, she did so again by putting the hotel lights on and revealing their presence to alive and undead alike.
It was a conversation that needed to be had. I perhaps expected it to come from one of the others. Maybe from Strand or even from Travis, but in the end it was the daughter herself pointing out her mother’s flaws.
Looking forward to the run in now. It will be interesting to see how (or if) this dynamic changes.