Most post-apocalyptic stories involve a great deal of travel, and rightfully so. When the world’s ending, staying in one place becomes a lot harder than before. But justifiable or not, “Fear The Walking Dead” tends to struggle when its main characters aren’t all in one location. Just compare the stronger first half of this season when everyone was stuck on a boat, rather than spread out across the Mexican desert.
Don’t get me wrong; the second half has certainly had its killer moments, namely Travis’ futile struggle to save his son from succumbing to his most inhumane instincts. But because the rest of his companions have been holed up in two other different locations (three, if you count Ofelia splintering off), the series has been saddled with too many new faces, too many antagonists and too many obstacles. Except for maybe Luciana and Alejandro, none of the freshly introduced characters has been sufficiently developed, simply because there hasn’t been time. As a result, the group in the grocery store, the rest of the hotel denizens, and the people of Colonia, all come off as vague and faceless. Then, when “FTWD” tries to double down with a two-part finale and resolve all of the disparate threads (likely preempting a ratings dip in light of next Sunday’s presidential debate), everything feels even more hurried.
For instance, as satisfying as it is to see Nick outwit the grocery-store gang and lead Colonia to the border, it’s hard to feel for most of the travelers when they get gunned down by U.S. troops. I mean, you feel for them because it’s horrible to see any human butchered so systematically (especially with all the ugly remarks about Mexican immigrants in this current election), but feeling for them as individual characters is damn near impossible. How could we? We barely know any of them.
The same goes for when Alejandro, in his final moments after being bitten by a walker (sadly, he’s not actually immune to the lethality of their bite), removes the school bus from the fence. When he unleashes the horde of zombies upon the invaders of the now abandoned town, it’s an empty moment. Maybe if they had ever been fleshed-out as villains, it would be cathartic. Or, on the flip-side, if we had ever seen their more human qualities, maybe it would actually be sickening. But since the show has done neither, they become yet another mob of straw men, just like everyone at Celia’s compound.
Unsurprisingly, the fallout from Travis’ time with the San Diebros ends up being the hardest-hitting storyline since, once again, it’s gotten a lot of screen-time between just a handful of characters. We got to see their vulnerability during that first night around the campfire, and we’ve gotten to see their rotten core in… well, just about everything else they’ve done. When it’s revealed that Chris hasn’t survived his time with them, it’s no shock. They say he died in an accident after flipping their truck, but Travis (who spots them being ushered out of the hotel by Madison) knows better. After they get a couple of the minute details of their story mixed up, he brutally assaults them until they speak the truth: Chris broke his leg and, rather than give him medical attention, they shot him in the head, just like their other buddy.
What follows is one of the most dramatically complex sequences in the show’s history. On one hand, you root for Travis when he takes a note from the interrogation scene in “The Dark Knight” and barricades the door so he can kick the snot out of them. But as the beating progresses and he loses control, you start to realize what this means for him. He’s going to kill them in a slow, punishing fashion (he more or less stomps and bludgeons them to death), thus becoming the very thing he always wanted Chris not to be. Granted, he’s more than justified in his actions, and yet when the San Diebros recoil in horror at his glazed-over eyes and animalistic grunting, they seem more like scared kids than stone-cold killers. The scene manages to be both riveting and squirmy. It asks tough questions.
But those aren’t the only levels working in the episode’s favor. When the others try to intervene, Travis accidentally takes an innocent life, and when someone else comes after him for revenge, Alicia (possibly) becomes a killer as well while trying to protect him. Suddenly, the Clark/Manawa clan don’t seem like such good people. That’s exciting, and the same time, I’m hesitant to get too excited about it. Their increasingly casual attitude towards violence is welcome (besides making them more complicated, it’s almost a necessity in zombie fiction), but it’s also resulted in them having to go on the run once again. Even worse, Strand decides to stay behind at the hotel.
So now, going into season three, we have Nick captured by the military; Madison, Travis, and Alicia on the lam; and, oh yeah, Ofelia at the mercy of another mysterious man with a gun. “Fear the Walking Dead” works best when all of these people are together, not apart. Not only does it make their outside threats more singular and cohesive — it forces them to confront the most awful aspects of themselves. And after the events of “North” and “Wrath,” there’s plenty of inner darkness to go around. Let’s just hope the show’s writers trim down the locations and take enough time to properly examine it.
- Ad Free Browsing
- Over 10,000 Videos!
- All in 1 Access
- Join For Free!