Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2 Blu-ray Review
Fear the swimming dead
Season 2 Review
Still the little brother to The Walking Dead, the longer sophomore season mixes things up - again, in terms of locale - but still takes second place.In Fear the Walking Dead our motley band of survivors is headlined by Cliff Curtis's Travis and Kim Dickens's Madison, as a somewhat unlikely couple, who somehow survived the zombie outbreak in LA with their kids-from-previous-relationships (Frank Dillane's heroin addict Nick, Alycia Debnam-Carter's prissy Alicia, and Lorenzo James Henrie's whiny Christopher) in tow. This thoroughly dysfunctional family (each individual teen child has their own moment to shine in this show, in terms of pure irritation that is), joined by Ruben Blades' mysterious old barber Daniel and his own daughter, Mercedes Mason's Ofelia, were last seen desperately trying to escape the zombie horde by heading for the massive yacht of enigmatic businessman Victor Strand (Colman Domingo).Season 2 - running at twice the length of the short 6-episode first season - splits its run almost equally between ship and land-based antics, remaining fresh throughout, at least in terms of location, but is still desperately playing catch-up to the show from which this is a spin-off in almost every other respect. The actors (apart from perhaps Blades and Dillane, the latter of which is channeling early Depp) struggle to offer much depth to their characters, with Curtis and Dickens, frustratingly, always at odds, and Debnam-Carter and Henrie equally efficient at making you want them to be the next victims. It's hard to walk in the bigger, better footsteps of its superior sibling, but - judged on its own merits - Fear is still an entertaining watch; it's just perpetually playing catch-up.
Picture QualityThe second season of Fear the Walking Dead hits UK Blu-ray complete with a strong but still far from perfect 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation, framed in the original aspect ratio that it was aired in, namely 1.78:1 widescreen. The problems predominantly lie with the source material, which favours softer shots, lapsing in and out of focus, and toying with the kind of lens flare that would make Abrams proud. It's better than the first season, but it needed to be.
It's a strong presentation, despite the problems with the source material
Nevertheless, it remains a strong presentation despite these reservations, promoting fine textures, impressive close-ups and detailed backdrops that are rich with authentic nuances and embrace the advantages of brighter daylight fueling the visuals. The colour scheme ran a lot hotter in the first season, obviously to give a more distinct style to this production and distinguish it from its colder, more monochromatic sibling, and whilst the setting here leads to more natural tones, it is still a softer, less gritty, more sun-baked affair than The Walking Dead, with brighter colours, warmer sun and even the deep blue sea to play with, but also with that predisposition towards smoothing out the focus in the mid-range shots. Black levels still falter occasionally, but they were never a strong point of the show, and overall the presentation does a solid job within the limitations of the source material.
Sound QualityOn the aural front, the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track offers a welcome accompaniment that happily throws you into the fray, picking up on some finer nuances to heighten the tension during the quieter moments but also delivering the claustrophobic walls-closing-in effect needed when the hordes engulf you. The water-based setting of the first half of the season allows for a more distinctive, regular, water-based backing to the track, and the surrounds get enough to do to keep them occupied.
This is a decent, at times impressive, aural accompaniment
Dialogue is firmly prioritised across the front and centre channels, rising above the maelstrom, no matter how chaotic things get, but the almost-synchronised growls of the zombie horde take up more of the surround expanse, whilst effects - large and small - are disseminated with some measure of precision. The LFE input isn't as significant as you'd have hoped for, but overall this is a decent, at times even impressive, accompaniment.
ExtrasInexplicably dropping most of the extras from the upcoming US release, all we get here is the short Making-of Featurettes and the Flight 462 Webepisodes, the latter of which was arguably the most significant extra (so at least they got that right), and makes for a nice companion-piece to the main narrative. The dozen or so Featurettes are episode/scene specific, but they are all just a couple of minutes each, with no play-all option, which is frustrating.
Blu-ray VerdictFear is still an entertaining watch; it's just perpetually playing catch-up
Fear the Walking Dead always had big shoes to fill, walking in the footsteps of its bigger, better, more refined brother. The sophomore season doubles the episode count and allows for a more expansive story arc and better characterisation, also mixing the locations up a little to keep things fresh (and, as with the first season, distinguished it from its sibling). Ultimately, though, it is a lesser spin-off, which works best watching between seasons of Walking Dead to get your fix. The UK Blu-ray release of the second season provides solid video and audio but inexplicably drops the ball on the extras front. You'd think after the debacle over the first season (which couldn't possibly justify its double-dip) they'd at least do the best they could to encourage purchases. As it is, ardent fans may want to look overseas for the more complete set.
You can buy Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 on Blu-ray here
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £22.99
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