It’s tough being a younger sibling. Fear the Walking Dead has had to work extremely hard to live up to the expectations and standards set by its “big brother,” The Walking Dead. Not everyone thinks that Fear is doing enough to be seen as a worthy complement to The Walking Dead’s universe at best, and that it’s possibly not even a decent standalone TV show at worst. With only one episode more until the end of the first season, things are definitely building to a head – but will viewers care enough to want to stick around into a second season?
WARNING: What you’re about to read contains spoilers about this episode and possibly this season of Fear the Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk/reward!
RECAP: This week’s episode opens in the “medical center,” which might more appropriately be described as flimsy holding cells for people in various states of medical and mental deterioration. We meet Strand, a new character who is a smooth talker and doesn’t seem all that sick to be in the med center, but hey, whatever. He psyches out Doug and then turns his attention to now-truly-detoxing Nick…
Back at the neighborhood-turned-sanctuary, things are getting tense. Ofelia is attempting to incite a riot as the military types start to look more and more like the bad guys, but most of the civilians seem content to hide behind their closed doors and wait for “whatever comes next.” Not the Manawa/Clark/Salazar group, though – they’ve all got their own agendas and the desire to act upon them. Travis goes to talk to Lt. Moyer (and subtly threaten him? Is this the same Travis as previous episodes?) and convinces Moyer to take him to the medical center. Madison pops into the neighbor’s home, looking for Alicia… and runs into Daniel and Ofelia, who have tied up Ofelia’s boyfriend, Guardsman Adams, and are looking to torture him for info on where Griselda has been taken (info Adams freely provides, but eh, let’s torture him anyways).
Because all the characters have to have something to do, Alicia decides to now be extremely buddy-buddy with Chris, taking him to a now-abandoned rich-people house in the neighborhood, where they drink and break things and have weird angsty semi-sexual tension and stuff. Out on his trip to the med-center turned ridealong, Travis and the military get into a scrum with some “holdouts” holed up in a library, which quickly turns into a zombie-infested cluster$#@% that further demonstrates how the military may be in over its head. About this same time, Daniel’s arm-slicing torture “reveals” the same thing that Travis is hearing on the National Guard’s radios: operation Cobalt, the military pull-out of the LA basin and the inferred “humane” extermination of all the remaining civilians, is planned for 0900 tomorrow…
At the medical center, Griselda dies from her injuries, and Liza (with Dr. Exner’s help) puts a bolt in her head to prevent her from turning. Strand and his bartering ability saves Nick from being taken away by the military, but there’s a price: Nick is “obligated” to him now, and he’s planning his escape sooner rather than later. The show concludes with Daniel popping out of the neighborhood safe zone to visit the local arena, where Adams told him there were several thousand zombies trapped – and sure enough, there they are, trying to beat down the doors. The real question, of course, is: why did Daniel have to see it for himself, and what is he going to do next?
>>> A bit of behind-the-scenes trivia: “Cobalt” was actually the original working title for this show. Some folks are likely now wondering if that parallel means that the Cobalt order in the actual show narrative will be something bigger that permeates future seasons as well… but only time will tell!
>>> It’s hard to believe that the LA Basin is in such bad shape that the military feels the need to completely pull out. Scratch that: I believe that fact, based on what is known about the population of the area and how hard it should be to contain an outbreak there… but what we’ve been shown on the show, of a surprisingly walker-free neighborhood (we haven’t even seen any zombies approach the perimeter fence) and a demilitarized zone so clear of the undead that multiple civilians have now been shown easily leaving the fenced neighborhood and wandering around without any real zombie menace, all gives off a very confusing vibe.
>>> Another difficult pill to swallow is the fact that “Cobalt” would be a real thing the military would consider. The need for civilians to survive, and for a police/militarized force to protect them, is fairly paramount to the continued success of any modern society; is this order being used as a plot device to ratchet up the stakes moving into the season finale, or is there truly something bigger at play with Cobalt that we the viewers haven’t been introduced to yet?
>>> The pacing of this episode is all over the place – which, sadly, matches the description of the plot as well. While the show has now had several hours of televised content to attempt to establish a general sense of what it wants to be, it’s become pretty clear that Fear the Walking Dead is falling into the trap that many prequel-type tales succumb to: the characters exist as a secondary feature to the story itself, which usually doesn’t translate well into a story that resonates with audiences (who want to actually care about the characters they are watching).
CLOSING THOUGHTS: See the final Observation above – Fear has been a definite mixed bag this season, and with only one episode left until it returns for a full second season in mid-2016, the jury is most definitely still out on this show. It seems like most viewers are still rooting for it to succeed, but whether it does – or can – remains to be seen.
PRINCIPAL CAST FEATURED IN THIS EPISODE:
Cliff Curtis as Travis Manawa
Kim Dickens as Madison Clark
Frank Dillane as Nick Clark
Alycia Debnam-Carey as Alicia Clark
Lorenzo James Henrie as Chris Manawa
Elizabeth Rodriquez as Lisa Ortiz
Mercedes Mason as Ofelia Salazar
Ruben Blades as Daniel Salazar
Patricia Reyes Spindola as Griselda Salazar