Fear The Walking Dead always was The Walking Dead’s poor relation. Smaller budget, smaller group, less expansive locations, tighter shots, smaller writers’ room, fewer zombies, less thought… until now!

Season 2B went some way to fixing the problems of seasons 1 and 2B but the first hour of the feature-length opener – which picked up where season two left off, Nick and Travis and Madison (and Alicia) all separated and picked up the militia from Nick’s supposed refugee center – blew any dispersions I had out of the water.

Five minutes in it was obvious that behind the cups of tea and promises of resupply and freedom at the refugee center, something more sinister was going down in the basement.

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Enter rogue militia leader Troy Otto and his merry men, some of whom were taking pleasure using the sick and the dying as zombie resurrection timing experiments.

Until, that is, Troy’s more humanitarian big brother, Jake shows up with promise of a utopia called The Sanctuary where their father has been readying for the apocalypse for years.

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Two escape plans put into action later, one including Madison, Troy’s eyeball and Chekhov’s teaspoon, a Planet Hulk-sized gladiator fight between Travis and two dozen zombies and Nick’s tunnel chase from hundreds of walkers meant that after a ninety-second hug and expositionary convo, the group was split once again believably and thrillingly by a huge horde of the undead.

Travis and Alicia and the Mexican girl took off in Jake’s military helicopter (piloted by new season regular and one of my favorite actresses, Lindsay Pulsifer – Justified) while Madison and Nick were last seen in the back of Troy’s truck.

The helicopter and the trucks are both headed to The Sanctuary where Kim Dickens will be reunited once again with Deadwood and Sons of Anarchy co-star, Dayton Callie. If you love each other so much, why don’t you get married?

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From boring as hell soap operaFear The Walking Dead has, somehow, made us sit up with attention, then slide our buttocks forward to the edge of our seat. Now they’re not bickering on a boat, I genuinely care about these characters now.

Madison’s helicopter/truck dilemma was heart-wrenching – proper heightened drama. The writers are making better choices at every turn and putting the characters in more harrowing, believable situations; the villains were three-dimensional people with misguided (but understandable) motives and I can tell The Sanctuary is gonna provide real spark, with these two brothers the most oppositional siblings since Darryl and Merle.

The writers know where they’re taking this instead of meandering on a yacht for half a season and I’m looking forward to this season much more than stagnating big bro, The Walking Dead. 

Doodle-I just know that something BIG is gonna happen. I can feel it in me bones.

Fear The Walking Dead deserves a seat at the big table and continues with episode three next Sunday on AMC.