“There’s No Story Here That Doesn’t End With Me Dead…”
Zombies. Zombies. Zombies. If there was a single repeating fan complaint I encountered, it would be the lack of zombies during season one of Fear The Walking Dead and I get it, a show featuring the concept of the undead should have an overabundance of flesh eating monsters. Well…they did; the producers just held them back. As predicted, “The Good Man”, the season finale for Fear The Walking Dead has changed the game. A study in contrast from the slow build of the entire season, “The Good Man” took off the gloves and started to deliver the action, the zombies, and the deaths that fans have been clamoring for weeks.
With the military withdrawing from the L.A. Basin our survivors had to save their captured family members from “Home Base”. This concept alone could have taken up a couple of episodes, but in a few deftly handled moments, we’re able to skip a lot of preamble and get to the main event. Daniel, having extracted all the intel he can from PFC Andrews, insists the only safe solution is to execute the young man so he can’t warn his comrade in arms. Travis, on the other hand, insists that killing Andrews would make them no better than the soldiers who are abandoning defenseless people. It’s a tense moment where the group agrees with Daniel, but ultimately gives into Travis because they know it’s a final act of mercy. Something that will become as rare as gold in the near future. It’s a great scene that really showcases that while Madison and Daniel will do whatever they can to save their loved ones from danger, Travis will do whatever he can to save his loved ones from themselves.
After setting the young soldier free, our survivors head out to Home Base, watching their oblivious neighbors enjoy dinner by candle night, completely unaware of their vulnerability. It’s a heavy scene that makes you realize that “survival of the fittest” sometimes mean being faster than the other guy. By leaving the safe zone open, our survivors might buy themselves some time later. In a scene of symmetry we get the flip side of this coin at Home Base where Doctor Exner tells Liza that the chance of Chris getting saved is zero and it’s survival of the fittest now. While it’s cold and calculated, the statement is 100% correct. The military is leaving and either you’re on a helicopter or your left behind. Period.
Of course, the evac crew didn’t take into account the Wrath of Daniel. In a blissfully giddy moment of revenge, Daniel leads a zombie horde to the footsteps of Home Base in order to cause panic and boy howdy does it pay off. It’s one of those perfect storm scenarios that makes for exciting TV. The helicopters are minutes away from landing when the zombies overrun the checkpoints causing the cobalt order to shift and abandon everyone at Home Base. Under the chaos of the zombie flood, the survivors move inside to find Liza, Nick and Griselda.
Speaking of Griselda, can we give her full props from last week as she stared death down? Her deathbed confession that she had seen the face of God and the face of the Devil and it was the same man was a great moment that framed Daniel’s plight perfectly. He is a man who will burn it all to the ground to save those he cares about and he’ll never stop. Add to that Ofelia realization that her father was the monster instead of the victim, and Griselda’s proclamation that she gladly accepts her death as penance for whom she loved is a defiant letter of love and faith. This week we see Daniel’s conviction to pay that faith back by tacitly murdering hundreds of people to save three. If there was ever a boss mode, Daniel unlocked it.
Upon discovering the holding pens where Nick had been held, Travis and Madison are forced to make a pretty serious decision. Save the people locked up or leave them there. earlier in the episode, Strand and Nick chose to leave them there because again: “survival of the fittest”. This time around though, despite Daniel’s warnings, Travis and Madison free the civilians and give them a fighting chance. Of course, the slightly jaded side of my brain couldn’t help but notice all these new morsels for the zombies to go after, so was it completely altruistic? Yeah, let’s go with yeah. Regardless, the delay allowed the survivors to find Nick, Strand and Liza in short order. I’m glossing over some amazing battle scenes because, let’s be fair, you just need to watch this episode. Needless to say it’s tense and amazing and downright awesome.
After the families have been reunited and the sad truth about Griselda’s fate is revealed, we have that damn moment of symmetry that happens so often in TV. PFC Andrews reappears, just as Daniel promised he would, gun in hand. Travis, the consummate peacekeeper, tries to deescalate the situation to no avail. Andrews is angry and wants revenge, so he shoots Ofelia. This is the moment that breaks Travis. After abandoning his neighbors to an unknown fate, killing soldiers with a zombie horde and executing well over a dozen zombies, “The Good Man” finally breaks. He forces Andrews to the ground and beats the boy’s face into hamburger. While they left him breathing it’s clear that Andrews is zombie food. Piling into the cars, the nuclear family of survivors tear off to escape.
At Strand’s behest, they go to his estate on the water. Clearly a man of means, his home is self powered with it’s own well and fully stocked. After patching up Ofelia’s flesh wound, cleaning up, and having some pretty awesome hallmark moments, it seems like our heroes have a place to hole up. Strand disagrees though. He insists that they can’t stay here and instead have to go to “Abigail”, a boat right off the coast, waiting for a quick escape. It brings up all sorts of question, the least of which is: “what did Strand do to amass such a fortune and have an escape yacht ready on hand to leave at all times?” We won’t find out this season but it’s going to be interesting to see where they go with this plot line.
That brings us to the end of the episode and the season as it’s revealed that Liza, whilst trying to escape, was bitten on her stomach by a walker. She begs Madison to kill her because if Travis was forced to do it, the act would destroy him; so of course, Travis shows up. After explaining how the everything works, Liza insists Travis kill her. She can’t go through the change. She won’t allow it.
It’s a dark moment that will have some serious repercussions in season two. Will this break Travis? How will this affect Chris? Where do the survivors go from here? Is Strand to be trusted? It’s a lot of open ended thoughts with no easy answers, which is how a season finale should be. In fact, looking back on Fear The Walking Dead, I can say with all honesty that I’ve enjoyed this slow burn presentation. The idea of following a family and their experiences through the end of the world was a new take on an old trope. Of course, we really should have seen more of the end of the world rather than it happening off screen, but the end result was an interesting premise that has set us up for an amazing second season that seems ready to explore the apocalypse in a completely different way. Zombie Pirates people. I’m calling it now: Zombie. Pirates.
The Learning Curve
Madison Clark: 10 of 10. Madison had a real tour de force this week in terms of sheer toughness. From the first scene where she sides with Daniel to the fight to save Nick, Madison has stepped up to show that she’s not a passive character and is fully prepared to take on this new set of circumstances despite the end of the world. Earlier in the seasons we joked that being a Guidance Counselor for a school in Los Angeles was probably the best education for the zombie apocalypse she could have had but in truth it probably was. Not in a 1 to 1 sense, but in that her job has taught her to accept the evidence on hand and adapt to best help those around her. Clearly Madison has adapted and is now positioned to keep her family safe. How will this affect her relationship with Travis is unknown, but I think their bond is far stronger than we give them credit for.
Nick Clark: 8 of 10. Called it. It took the mother of all interventions to snap Nick out of his self destructive cycle, but with the help of Strand, Nick realizes that the rest of the world is catching up with him. The irony, of course, being that his ability to live in filth and poverty without succumbing to the elements and more dangerous parts of society has given him a huge advantage. I’m still curious if he’s going to be able to stay clean, and I bet a lot of that has to do with our buddy Strand. Regardless, Nick’s worth in the zombie apocalypse is at an all time high. I can’t wait to see what they do with him in season two.
Alicia Clark: 7 of 10. The girl is a fighter. Plain and simple. While, yes, she’s an angsty teen, Alicia has shown on more than one occasion that she is a fighter. The girl is clearly smart and uses her head. While she had very little screen time this week, we did watch her solve problems as soldiers carjacked her vehicle. By quickly assessing the problem and weighing the pros and cons, she was able to turn a violent encounter that could have easily led to a sexual assault into a footnote rather than a plot point involving murder or kidnapping. Pair that with her family’s ability to survive and you have some serious mental firepower. Survivor-power?
Travis Manawa: 6 of 10. Poor Travis. When you are essentially the center of an episode and that episode is dedicating to breaking your spirit…you’re going to have problems. While Travis wants to be the peacekeeper, it’s become clear that he can’t always rely on that. Sometimes you have to get your hands dirty and despite your best intentions, that means people are going to die. With Liza’s death at his hands, we could see Travis turn into a Darryl like character that catapults him into the higher echelon’s of survivors…or he could crash and burn. My instinct says that as long as Madison is around, he’ll evolve rather than fall apart.
Liza Ortiz: 0 of 10. Dammit. Like I said last week, barring some random act of violence, Liza’s survival was nearly assured. Unfortunately this group didn’t learn the most basic of all rules in D&D: always protect the healer. It was a pitch perfect moment as we needed another member of the main party to die and it needed to be a big one. I can say with zero hesitation that Liza had become my favorite character because of her wild card status and she earned her story arc. In the face of the apocalypse she stood up and helped others all the way to the end; literally fixing Ofelia’s wound before dying. This was a painful but powerful loss.
Chris Manawa: 2 of 10. Between this kid’s lack of survival skills (he slammed a car door while trying to hide from walkers…comeon!) and the death of his mother, I predict that Chris is going to have an uphill battle with survival. My gut instinct tells me that Chris could become a suicide as he sees his family absorbed into Madison’s. Does he adapt? Will he be able to accept the new world’s rules? I’m leaning towards no. How that will play out though is anyone’s guess.
Daniel Salazar: 10 of 10. He may be a monster, but the man is usually right. Keeping PFC Andrews alive was a bad call that could have cost Daniel his daughter. If that had happened, I guarantee Travis would have died shortly thereafter. As it stands now, we don’t know how much blame will come back in Season Two. What we do know is Daniel is smooth enough to stay ahead of a thousand walkers at a brisk pace of “strolling”. The man oozes confidence and cool that only comes from being a psycho killer in his element. I’m glad he’s on our side.
Ofelia Salazar: 8 of 10. Ofelia pops up a point because of the sheer insanity that is this show. With the full realization that her father, while a monster, is also right paired with the death of her mother, I predict Ofelia could become Fear The Walking Dead’s new big bad. Not right away of course, but with the darkness from her father and ability to get what she needs anyway she can…Ofelia could easily take a turn that she can’t walk back from. It’s also a nice bit of symmetry that shows how much control Daniel has shown in the last 20 years since his monstrous days versus Ofelia. I won’t bet on it, but Ofelia has a lot of bad guy potential here.
Strand: 9 of 10: He’s got the boat. He’s got the resources. He’s got the charisma. Strand lives unless he turns out to be a Columbian Drug Lord that wants to kill everyone. Not plausible, but not out of the realm of reason. I mean the dude has an escape yacht ready to go at a moment’s notice in his back yard, aka: The Pacific Ocean. He’s a great addition to the group. I can’t wait to see what they do with him next.