Just like with its parent series, Fear the Walking Dead has been experiencing some growing pains within its very short, six episode first season. As the biggest draw, the zombies, took a backseat to a more intimate story of family troubles, the show struggled to keep folks’ attention to its slow burning take. But as the last episode proved, its focus on character (regardless on whether or not it succeeds in this regard) makes the rest of the stuff more worthwhile.
But unlike the parent series, Fear‘s got a new world to play around in. This first season has been building up to this finale, and to a further extent, season two. After seeing the world finally come crashing down, Fear the Walking Dead is shaping up to be the better of the two shows.
With the encroaching danger of the arena filled with thousands of zombies (which I’m glad we didn’t know about until the last episode, it could’ve been stupidly teased through all six episodes and became more annoying than not) and the military abandoning El Serreno, the gang makes plans to break into the military compound in order to rescue Nick and (the now dead) Griselda. It’s generic stuff to be sure, but it’s interesting how we get to that point. First, Travis decides to spare The Faculty military guy since he says he knows where everyone is. Then Daniel decides to weaponize the arena full of zombies and lets them loose on the military compound. It’s pretty goofy how a horde would walk up without anyone realizing, but it gives Daniel a bonafide badass moment (“You should save your ammunition.”) as he strolls away. Then we finally get the action people have been clamoring for. A nicely laid out kitchen fight, several tense moments (one of which comes into play during the finale’s final scene), and several nice character bits.
There are too many good bits to talk about, but here are a few of my favorites. These scenes managed to squeeze in genuine emotion in between all of the action, something that the parent series hasn’t been able to do for some time: The doctor gives up and presumably kills herself with her cattle gun as she loses hope in the military, an infected soldier runs head first into a helicopter blade, Nick nearly gets a heroic death with his silent “Go” through the door before being saved at the last minute (and made me think there might be something else to his character after all), Daniel and Ofelia see the piles of ash and bodies that Griselda is now a part of (that’s one of the most striking images I’ve seen in either of the shows. It’s far more upsetting than seeing characters do it themselves), after The Faculty soldier shoots Ofeila Travis beats him to death, regretting his decision to let him go, Strand gets his cuff links back, and the military shows that the characters can’t rely on anyone other than themselves.
But the best part of the finale? Oddly the one I hate the most due to increasingly stupid peaceful nature, Travis begins to change as the world changes. Becoming more like Daniel (and thus capitalizing on the duality set up in previous episodes), Travis begins making these violent choices for the benefit of his family. For one, he doesn’t tell any of his former neighbors that the military has abandoned them, and two, he basically kills everybody without hesitation. Like Rick, Travis is slowly changing, but unlike Rick, it’s much more interesting to watch Travis’ hope be crushed. Leading to the episode biggest moment, Liza’s unfortunate demise. As the group makes it to Strand’s beach side residence, as he details his plans to get to his ship Abigail, you’d think all of the main characters would be in the clear. But unfortunately, after being attacked in that kitchen scene, Liza reveals she’s been infected. After giving Madison and Travis all of the knowledge she gained from the military (that it’s pretty much hopeless as everyone comes back after they die), she decides she doesn’t want her son to see her in that state. Rodriguez absolutely kills it here, and this scene hits harder than you’d expect thanks to her acting.
It sucks since I was getting attached to her, but I’m guessing no one really knew what to do with her character anymore. Although her death provides a more hopeless situation (changing Travis and Chris, losing the only one with any kind of medical knowledge), it sort of reeks of that “kill the woman to make the man more interesting” thing. They’re losing a great actress, but I’m confident the show knows what it’s doing. The major death of this episode is an intimate moment, and it’s reflective of how this show’s been handled. It’s also something I can’t say of the parent series, that for the first time, I actually cared that someone was dying off in one of these shows. It’s genuinely unexpected, it’s quiet, and then it’s over but its lingering effects will be felt as the series rolls on. It’s potential that the parent series failed to capitalize on, and as long as Fear avoids those same trappings, it can be a much better show. It’s already had a much better first season.
- “You can keep the watch.” Strand is so f**king cool.
- Speaking of Strand, his character is pushing this into comic book-y territory, but he’s so interesting I won’t be bothered to care. His strict self-preservation’s going to clash with the main cast soon, and it’ll be fun to see which side of the new world folks will stand on.
- You can argue that no one in this show is likable or interesting, and it’d be hard to argue, but later episodes will hopefully utilize all of the nuance laid out early on.
- Nick’s “everyone’s catching up to me” speech was pretty dumb. Reminds me too much of this PSA.
- Fear’s miniseries Flight 462, which will introduce a character for season two, premieres during each episode of the Walking Dead but I’ll probably wait until it’s all over to talk about it. No point in discussing a minute long episode each week.
- So that’s it! Thanks for sticking with me, folks. I’ll be back next week with the series proper. Stay tuned!