The show’s been very confident in its long game. After immediately getting picked up for a second season, I’m sure the showrunners knew they’d have time to build up to a satisfying story. It may have been rough before the Labor Day weekend, but around episode three and four, Fear the Walking Dead has been sprinkling little bits here and there that are finally starting to show themselves.
And the results are promising. “Cobalt” is the show’s most direct episode to date, and that tenacity is leading to something unlike its predecessor series and unlike anything we’ve seen yet.
All season long, Fear has been struggling to find its voice, i.e. what’s going to set it apart from its parent series and other zombie media. Rather than tackle the endless feelings of depression and creeping mortality, Fear is once again making this an intimate apocalypse. As society begins breaking down, it’s also leading to the dissolution of the intimacy of relationships. As evidenced by the series’ newest, and coolest, character strand (Colman Domingo) in an opening monologue (given for the explicit purpose of driving weaker individuals out), society is crumbling and only those who can evolve along with the new world will survive. This also leads to the episode’s central focus: the duality of Daniel and Travis. One’s been bred through war and struggle in El Salvador, and the other’s a guy who’d rather not incite violence. For the first time, Travis isn’t annoying. I’ve discussed in length about how much his blind ignorance has bothered me seeing as how the rest of the family has accepted the new situation, but seeing him slowly come around has been oddly entertaining.
As the military force becomes way more political, seeing as how heavy patriotism and dehumanization of the zombies has become a coping mechanism for their strenuous mission, their cracks are starting to show. We’re also learning how the world ended up the way it is in TWD as even the military forces fall apart due to sheer number of infected and soldiers wanting to return home to their families. It took even more “I’m a bad guy nyaaah” from the general to get Travis to snap out of whatever the hell he was thinking (and them trying to get Travis to shoot the gun was a very bad idea. He seriously could’ve hurt himself. His eye on the scope would’ve given him a black eye), but it works. That brings us back to Daniel Salazar and his torture. In order to get information from the kid from The Faculty his daughter was using, he begins torturing him. But I’m impressed with how Fear handled it. It didn’t linger on any violence, but instead chose to enforce why Daniel thought it was a good idea. The series has been giving Daniel more and more darkness as it goes on, and this was just icing on the cake. Since he’s experienced societal breakdown before (as he and Griselda fled to the US during Salvadorian civil war), he’s figured out torture was one of the only ways to survive. Compare that to Travis and his inability to evolve, and Daniel’s pretty much one end of the spectrum.
His torture brings us to the crux of the episode as it leads to the season finale. As Liza steps into the military medical facility (and as Nick is trapped within), she’s witnessing how they’re handling things. We don’t see the big picture, but that’s not really important because there’s a sense of imminent danger from all of it. The military’s been using the facility to figure out the disease and pretty much puts down anyone who seems like a viable threat. It also meant that at one point, 2000 or so people were locked into an arena once infection broke. And that also brings the title of the episode as “Cobalt” refers to them abandoning the encampment and “humanely” terminating the people there less they become zombies later.
So after a slow buildup, we’re finally going to see society crumble. The military’s struggling as communication breaks down and human nature takes over, that arena’s going to burst open and force our characters out of LA, and as the coolest character Strand notes, the only thing that’s going to push folks forward is their “obligation” to other people and their relationships. Fear’s made the most out of its personal apocalypse and the characters have become a bit more interesting than Rick’s gang of comic book characters.
- Alycia and Chris still are the worst characters, but their combined storyline of discussing class issues while wrecking a rich person’s home led to some interesting areas. That’s more than I can say for previous episodes which gave them nothing to do.
- Seeing as how Strand is super interesting, I see Fear holding off on killing another Black character for a bit. Good for them! Teaming up with the annoying Nick (going through withdrawals) is more evidence in Fear’s confident long game.
- “I’m an addict.” “No, you’re a heroin addict. That’s the gold standard. Don’t sell yourself short.”
- Just like the parent series, Fear’s first season has been all set up for the second season. Let’s hope it ends better than Walking Dead did.