Its already time for a change of plans. After the growing pains of a pilot episode, “Two Roads Diverged” takes our main crew of protagonists down along a desolate road trip to the west, all in hopes to find some answers about what might have caused this devastating event plaguing the world.
In this episode, it’s really apparent that Director Josh Flanagan has a knack for thematic storytelling through visual cues. The way Flanagan and the Director of Photography James Lee Phelan, frame and visualize motifs, or habits of characters, to subtly convey what is on their mind is the kind that can possibly be compared to Vince Gilligan and co’s work on Breaking Bad, or in Christopher Nolan’s smaller works. It’s through these brief moments that characters like Ally (Stephanie Drapeau) feel more human throughout Day 5’s second episode, as she constantly checks on radio frequencies in hopes to hear some sign of life, not just from any survivors in the new, sleep-depraved world, but of an old coworker the audience only briefly meets in the episode’s prologue.
On the more extreme end of the episode, Jake (Jesse C. Boyde) has some visually unsettling hallucinations with his first time using crystal meth since joining up with his current, non-junkie friends, and the instigation of this is preluded by a pretty fabulously creepy cameo from a well known Rooster Teeth personality. Through these hallucinations, we see some juxtapositions between visions of his sister, and the guilt ridden nightmares of not being around to keep her safe, as well as his disjointed relationship with her and their parents. This visual storytelling transitions well, and isn’t quite so jarring because of Jake’s history with drug use, but in tandem with Jesse C. Boyde showing his acting range, these scenes are very impactful. The result of this sequence quickly puts Jake into a situation where it looks like he fucked things up for his new team. Really really fucked things up. While everyone, including Sam, is appearing distrusting and judgmental of Jake, the audience is freshly empathizing with him, especially in understanding that the problems that transpired weren’t his fault.
Without getting too deep into spoilers, the team ends up in putting their heads together to find coroner’s records to compare time of death across the Mid-West America, as Ellis (Davi Jay, The Walking Dead) hypothesized upon episode one’s conclusion. This leads to the setting that the majority of the episode will take place from this point forward: a police station turned into a rave club. While the cast of oddball characters in this station looks like a set of high flying, glitter covered bandits from the Fallout wasteland, their presence, and reasons for being where they are and what they’re doing, make complete sense in the show’s storytelling considering that most people are using hard drugs to stay awake in this world, and a police station would have plenty of those goods confiscated for evidence. These types of “what if” moments in science-fiction storytelling show off that world building I praised in Day 5’s first episode. The sleepless apocalypse only beings to feel more real here as Jake, Sam, Ally, Ellis and Sarah search for their answers to fix things.