The curse of the sophomore slump is an interesting monster. In years past, a floundering second year could be the difference between renewal and cancellation. With the advent of the mid-season finale though, TV shows can right the ship before it goes too far off course. In the case of Fear The Walking Dead, the latter clearly applies. After an uneven first half, the writing staff double downed on the human element of Fear The Walking Dead and it paid off in the amazingly strong two part season finale “Wrath” and “North”
We have to talk about it, so let’s just dive right into the big moment of the finale: Travis’ brutal murder of the Zad Duo (Zombro American Douchebags) and the accidental rage killing of Oscar, the hotel doctor. When Madison made her decree that the people of the resort would do no violence against one another, it was a clear sign that this was going to come back and bite her. That said, I had no clue it was going to be Travis that would put her into a no-win situation and honestly, it was perfect.
Travis began Fear The Walking Dead as the “everyman” who believed in the good of humanity and tried to hold onto that kernel of hope no matter how much bad the zombie apocalypse tried to heap on. Even when Chris became a deranged psycho Travis felt he could bring his son back, albeit away from the rest of his adopted family. Even when Chris left Travis for the company of the Zads, it was through the lens of a father trying to do right by his son, even when the world has gone to hell. Which is why when the Zads appear at the resort and confess to killing Chris, it made his murderous rampage all the more shocking and appropriate.
In fact, it was a moment that felt completely earned, which is something that Fear The Walking Dead has had issue with in the past. Characters making frustratingly bad choices that make for interesting moments but make the viewer yell at the screen for being “idiots”, especially when you consider their motivations in a world that has completely gone to pot. That said, this half of season two has really done a superb job of setting up character motivations and “why” they make choices that feel like they zigged when they should have zagged. The end result has been a strong series of episodes that can be genuinely surprising in all the best ways.
So when we get to Travis’ murderous rampage, it feels completely justified as we ride alongside a grieving father lost in a wave of, well, wrath. The unforeseen fallout to the entire debacle was the death of Oscar, the resident doctor who was injured trying to stop Travis from taking a life. In fact, I believe that if Travis had only murdered the Zads, the Resort members would have made an exception for him. The grievous, and ultimately fatal, injury to Oscar though created a no win situation.
The great twist though was Andres “eye for an eye” decree in response to Oscar’s death. Despite Madison’s deal to leave in the morning, it became clear that Andres and Resort members wouldn’t be satisfied with anything less than Travis’ execution for his crimes. So when the moment arrived, I was absolutely caught off guard when Alicia killed Andres in order to protect Travis. When you consider how shaky Alicia’s relationship has been with Travis, it was a refreshing change to see her step up and protect her family, despite previous moments of discord.
The irony is, this was only one shock that Fear The Walking Dead had in store this evening as another series of surprises was Strand’s decision to stay behind at the resort, Nick’s decision to lead La Colonia north into an attack from Gun toting minutemen mercenaries and Chris’ brutal shotgun murder in the middle of a lonely road.
My only real complaint about the finale was that there was so much going on. While we were dealing with the riveting story of Travis and his homicidal rage, there was also the B story of Carlos and the Supermarket banditos deciding to raid La Colonia. After Nick’s “too little, too late” peace offering of drugs, Carlos declared he had enough of Alejandro’s game and was coming to take over. At the same time Alejandro was bitten by a walker and exposed as a fraud, which created an unstable scenario that kicked Nick into a leader role despite his hesitation.
So Nick takes La Colonia north towards the US border to what appears to be a refugee camp while a dying Alejandro sets up a trap for Carlos and his men. It had the potential to be an amazing moment that fell kind of flat, mostly because there was just so much else going on. In fact, it reminded me of the Governor’s first raid of the Jail back in Season 3 of The Walking Dead. It felt like it was going to be this huge event that just fizzled. Does that mean that we’ll have another encounter with Carlos sometime down the line? I hope so, because the threat of the Banditos was something the show was missing.
Regardless, Nick and Lucy have their own issues with the army of minutemen at the border and are in far greater danger now than they were under the threat of Carlos. In any event, things have gotten dark and sinister in the aftermath of Season Two and have set up some phenomenal groundwork for an epic Season Three!
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. This week’s entry of the Curve will revisit the LA Cast one more time as we say goodbye to Season Two.
Madison Clark: 8 of 10. Madison didn’t do a whole lot of heavy lifting this week as she became the silent protectorate of the family. With Travis’ exile looming on the horizon, Madison revealed that she understood why Travis did what he did and why she’ll understand what he’ll do in the future to protect the family. In an odd twist she also hints that she’s had to do some pretty dark things before the world went to hell and that she won’t judge people for protecting loved ones. What does it all mean? I have no idea, but its a big reveal that will certainly play out in the future.
Nick Clark: 5 of 10. Nick dropped down a few ticks at the end of the season, but not for anything overtly bad. The guy made a call and it turned out to be the wrong one. With the Militia surrounding all of La Colonia’s survivors, chances are 50/50 on Nick talking his way out of a bad situation. That said, Nick has learned a lot over this season and it’s definitely made him into a stronger character. Despite this growth though, we gotta keep the number at even money for Nick’s bonheaded decision to move towards a refugee camp. Especially when you consider their experiences with camps so far in the show.
Alicia Clark: 8 of 10. Alicia has had one of the most satisfying characters on the show, which is pretty surprising. When you compare the steady, level headed woman she’s become to the naive girl on the CB radio, it’s a stark contrast. Even better, her growth has been an earned process. Unlike Madison, who was already a strong lead, Alicia has slowly grown into her role and the show is all the better for it.
Travis Manawa: 7 of 10. Sweet Christmas, Travis went off on a completely justified murderous rage. After he failed to bring Chris back from the dark side, Travis consoled himself that the Zads would take care of him. When Travis discovers that they brutally murdered his son, the man snapped, and rightfully so. Over the last two season’s we’ve witnessed a man who was fundamentally good become completely stripped down to his raw emotional core as every one of his beliefs were challenged. In a great sense of irony, this is where people go from being “regular” guys to deeply troubled (but fundamentally good) heroes like Rick, or sociopaths who claim ownership of the Apocalypse like Negan or the Governor. Which way will Travis go?
Chris Manawa: 0 of 10. Looks like I was right. Poor Chris met an untimely end at the hands of the Zads. Yeah, there’s some doubt to if he is really dead but when you consider that producers have confirmed the character’s death, it seems pretty clear that Chris has reached the end of the road. His character was absolutely annoying until he had his mental break during this season and became a fascinating look into the mind of a person trying to make sense of a world that was senseless. In the end, it claimed him, but the journey was certainly interesting.
Daniel Salazar: 0 of 10. There’s a saying: no body, no death. Even Though Daniel is still MIA and we’ve not found definitive proof of his demise, the character’s absence has been felt in the second half of this season. Until we hear otherwise we have to assume he died in the fire at the mid season finale, which is a shame when you consider how much he brought to the show. I do have a sneaky feeling he may be back in some way, but until we have proof either way, we have to assume Daniel greeted Chris at the pearly gates.
Ofelia Salazar: 7 of 10. Ofelia was so poorly under used this season. Despite this lack of use, the final three episodes of the season really turned her character around. With an amazing series of flashbacks depicting her pre-apocalypse life, Ofelia became a very motivated character desperate to find her way back to the states in order to find the love of her life. Of course this means she’s in for a world of hurt in the meantime and her capture by a border watching Minuteman seems to be all the confirmation we need that things are going to get hairy for the last of the Salazar clan before things get better. Despite this though, I think Ofelia’s got some serious juice in her and we’re about to see her break out in Season Three.
Victor Strand: 7 of 10: Victor has always been about saving himself. Even so, he was quickly becoming part of the family. That’s why I was so surprised when he elected to stay behind at the Resort. On one hand, I get his motivation as he was concerned about surviving the world at large. It clearly overrode his loyalty to the Family but at the same time, it’s clear that Victor loves deeply and that he has feelings for the Family. I dunno what that means, except that Victor will do everything he can to keep Victor clear. Maybe an epiphany will happen sooner rather than later? Who can tell?