Did "Fear The Walking Dead" just skip a couple of episodes? Because on Sunday's midseason finale, most of the primary cast acted completely out of character. Or, more accurately, they acted like who their characters might become given more time rather than who they are in the present.
I touched on this last week, but Chris is currently the biggest example of someone on the show exhibiting behavior that hasn't been -- pardon the TV-critic cliche word -- earned. It was strange for him to move from confused and bitter to standing over Madison and Alicia with a knife, and it's even stranger for him to take a little kid hostage tonight while on the run. Even with the vulnerability he shows when Travis finally catches up to him, it feels like the show's suddenly trying to portray him as some kind of savage wild-child.
They've built up to this a little bit during his time with the survivalists in "We All Fall Down" and -- to a greater extent -- his mercy killing of the plane passenger in "Ouroboros," but we haven't seen any kind of honest-to-goodness character work to aid his transformation. The writers seem content to just show him continuously killing people (or at least trying to), relying on the act itself to convince us of his altered psyche without doing any of the heavy lifting in terms of dialogue and performance.
Equally confusing is Nick's new outlook. We've seen him bond with Celia, but is that bond strong enough for him to completely buy into her whacked-out views on the undead? It goes against his sense of practicality, which has increased ever since he's gotten clean. Maybe if he was using again (and I don't think he is), I'd buy him constantly slathering himself in zombie guts and getting all mystical about how walkers are still people. Maybe I'd buy him choosing to stay where he is at the episode's end, rather than go with Madison, Alicia, Strand, and Ofelia. And I haven't even talked oabout Daniel, who, as guided by the ghost of his dead wife, torches Celia's entire compound via the wine cellar. It's interesting to see flashbacks to his violent childhood in Salvador, but like Nick and Chris' arcs, his sudden leap into Rambo mode and the shell-shocked hallucinations that come with it feels rushed and -- there's that word again -- unearned. The only justified ruthlessness tonight comes from Madison, who locks Celia in with the walkers she claims to still value as actual people.
If anything, it appears the show is trying to imply that Daniel's crack-up, the male children's rebellion, and -- more indirectly -- Travis' decision to stay isolated with Chris -- are all a result of the two families' mounting dysfunction. But so far, season two has been more about them overcoming their dysfunction to actually make things work with one another. The midseason finale betrays this, as if it's trying to pile on the shock in the fashion of "The Walking Dead" instead of staying focused on the human drama it's done so well up to this point.