Before the mid-season hiatus Fear The Walking Dead had split our nuclear family into three groups. Group A consisted of Madison, Strand, Ophelia and Alicia as they escaped from Celia’s burning compound in hopes of returning to the Abigail. Group B consisted of Travis and Chris as the father and son duo travel the Mexican countryside while trying to rehabilitate a fracturing Chris’ psyche. Group C was a pack of the undead shambling off into the night as Nick joined their ranks, not as a zombie, but as cover from his friends and family. So it should come as no surprise when the mid-season premiere, “Grotesque” decided to follow Nick and his band of undead buddies.
In one sense, this was a nice break from the non stop events of the past few episodes of Fear The Walking Dead and it was a welcome change of pace. Unfortunately I felt that since this kicked off the latter half of the season, part of that breather was lot. Not seeing Madison and Company deal with the potential loss of Daniel (still not convinced he’s dead yet) or the fact that Travis, Chris and Nick are lost in the wild felt like a bit of a let down.
On the other hand though, the quiet reflection of this weeks episode made for a good reset that allowed the show to focus on Nick and his odd affinity with the walkers. In fact, if there was one negative that had been following Fear The Walking Dead since it’s inception, I would say it had been the forced family narrative. Now, with the party thoroughly broken up, we can experience the apocalypse in a new way and build a concrete reason for these people to gravitate back towards one another. In this case, the focus on Nick really worked to breathe some new life into the character. After his apparent naivete with Celia it was refreshing to to see part of Nick’s backstory as he slowly started to shuffled off the mortal coil.
To say that Nick had the deck stacked against him was an understatement. His journey deeper into Mexico with extremely limited supplies nearly derailed before it began as he lost his supplies to a panicked mother trying to protect her daughter. Despite the loss of vital food and fluids, Nick continued to push into territory that was merely described as: a place built for men who’ve been waiting for the end of the world. Of course that meant that Nick was going to inevitably encounter some of these post apocalyptic psychos and sure enough, no matter which direction he traveled, he continued to encounter the worst that humanity had to offer.
Between the unforgiving sun, brutal lack of water, starving dog attacks, walkers or sunglass wearing douchebags with guns, Nick was up against it. Over the days that followed, Nick simply fell in with the walkers and just gave up. This was beautifully displayed when the aforementioned sunglass wearing jerks with guns began mowing down Nick’s horde. Not once during the entire experience did Nick flinch or call out. He just shambled ahead, one moment shy of being a full on walker himself.
When you tie that to his flashbacks detailing a downward spiral of masochism brought on by the loss of his father, you have a picture that is far more fleshed out than anything we’ve seen with Nick to date. So when mother nature intervenes and sends much needed rain to Nick, it feels like a real second chance.
Interestingly the flashbacks also provided us with an interesting dynamic. Nick’s need to be in a group/family. He wants to be surrounded by people who get it. Will the inclusion of newly introduced Danay Garcia and her survivor community be the right fit? Will this lead Nick to create his own nuclear family? I don’t know. What I do know is that this new thread is a welcome addition to the tapestry that is Fear the Walking Dead that proves this show is stronger when we focus on individual characters versus forced communal conflicts.
The Learning Curve
If this is your first time reading my write-ups of Fear The Walking Dead, let me introduce you to The Learning Curve. This is a summation of each character as they learn how to navigate in the zombie apocalypse. Each week I’ll rate the cast’s chances of survival based on their actions up until this point. Since the party has been split up, we’ll cover each group as they appear on the show.
Nick Clark: 5 of 10. As predicted in the last Learning Curve, Nick’s over-reliance of the “gore trick” finally caught up with him. Losing his provisions, sustaining a life threatening injury and dangling on the edge between life and death, Nick nearly bought it this week. With a new group of survivors thrown into the mix, Nick may find redemption, but right now this thoroughly damaged guy needs to rest.