Shane Ryan and Josh Jackson review Fear the Walking Dead each week in a series of letters, just as they’ve done for The Walking Dead.
First let me say that I applaud the use of The Antlers’ “Kettering” as the camera rolls from Travis out to sea. There are few more haunting tracks that you could choose for such a downer ending. Everyone miraculously finds each other among the chaos of the military compound and makes it out alive. Most importantly they’ve picked up Strand (aka Mr. Cufflinks), the coolest head in the apocalypse. And Strand leads them out of the wasteland that is Los Angeles to his beautiful compound on the water. But just when all is well, we learn that Elizabeth was bitten during the escape. And Travis, who wouldn’t let Madison put her neighbor out of her misery, who couldn’t bring himself to shoot a zombie waitress named Kimberly, who let Andrew go rather than risk Daniel killing him does not hesitate. He takes the gun from Madison and shoots his ex-wife in the head.
The biggest storyline of the first six-episode season of Fear the Walking Dead is Travis trying desperately to cling to some kind of civility and finally boiling over. Not only has he lost any sense of things being okay, he’s lost part of his blended family that he was supposed to be protecting. He’s not been a strong character this season—I know you consider him a pretty useless one—but we see now that there’s a strength that’s been building that’s unleashed on Andrew when Andrew shoots Ofelia.
Of course, that’s a story arc that’s not new to this franchise and was partially responsible for Fear getting off to a slow start. But I thought it finished strong last night. A horde of walkers—or infected as they’re known on this show—is the only truly threatening form of walkers. And Daniel’s plan to use the thousands of undead locked up in an arena as a rather ruthless diversion made for some great action at the military base.
And speaking of ruthless, Strand is ice cold. Embracing the insanity, and looking good doing it, he only became more fun to watch on screen in the finale. And Nick had one of the lines of the night talking to his mom from Strand’s luxurious estate: “I never knew where I was going. It’s like I’ve been living this for a long time, and now everyone is catching up with me.” Wherever Nick and Strand go, I’m in. Plus, Frank Dillane is the son of Stannis Baratheon (Stephen Dillane)!
Fear had six episodes to make us care about new characters. It took them the better part of that run to grab me, but I’m ready to head out to sea. Where better to spend the end of the world than a mega-yacht? How about you? What did you think of the finale and are you looking forward to a Season Two?
Agreed, this was all kinds of solid. It even had one of the funnier exchanges in Walking Dead history, just after they break into the compound:
Daniel: The hard part is done.
Ofelia: How do we get out?
Daniel: That will be the harder part.
The compound set piece in general was really strong, and I’m finally starting to come around on Travis. I was actually on his side when he let the soldier go (not even heeding Daniel, who said, “you see what doing the right thing gets you”), but that’s because I didn’t expect the soldier—I refuse to look up his name on principle—to behave in the dumbest way possible. Can we sidetrack for a moment to explore his logic?
A. Your whole platoon (or whatever) is screwed—there’s no safety in the army anymore.
B. You have a group of people that might be helpful, and you have a connection to the daughter because you might be in love or something.
C. The guy tortured you, but let’s be real, it was pretty mild in torture terms, and there’s literally no reason for him to kill you now. These people are your only hope.
D. You managed to find them in a parking garage.
What do you do now, Josh? Do you beg them to take you along, explaining how valuable you can be in a post-apocalyptic world? That would be one choice. That might be a choice I’d take. OR. OR. You could come out menacing them with your gun, and then when you get nervous, shoot the daughter in the arm for some reason.
Up to you, Josh. Totally your call.
Anyway, it was fun watching Travis beat the hell out of him, and it was a moment that needed to happen, because I think if he didn’t go crazy, Daniel might have killed him just on principle. However, I couldn’t help but notice that we didn’t get any closure with soldier boy—not even the usual distance shot of the zombies setting upon him—so maybe he’ll be the mangled super-villain that chases them across the dystopia. Maybe we’ll even get a high-speed boat chase at some point, and he’ll board the Abigail and say, “I’m the captain now.”
As for Mr. Cufflinks, he’s such a fascinating character that I know he’ll be with us for a while, so I’m going to call Mr. Cufflinks for old time’s sake for one last review before the second season starts. For one, I want to say that I’m thrilled that Mr. Cufflinks got his cufflinks back. I also love watching him in action, because he embodies a certain kind of heartlessness that is pretty damn cold in real life but pretty useful in the new world. “No value added,” he says quickly, explaining to Nick why they won’t let the other detainees out of their cells. And of course, the second-best line: “You can keep the watch.” And the best:
Soldier: Kill me.
Mr. Cufflinks: You’re well on your way.
Mr. Cufflinks looks like their savior right now, and he is, but you have to wonder the price you pay for hanging around a guy like that too long. He’s wolfish at his core, completely selfish, and he’s a good guy to have on your side only as long as he finds you useful. I have a feeling we’re about to embark on a very complicated relationship.
Two last things. First, how cold is it for Liza to ask Travis to kill her without saying a real goodbye to her son? I mean, there was time for closure before the infection got her, Josh! Can you imagine being Chris right now? You just hugged your mom, smiled because things felt okay, and then they went ahead with a secret execution before you could say a proper goodbye! We’ve seen some poor parenting in six episodes, but this really takes the cake. Anything less than a lifelong resentment of his father will seem hugely forgiving from Chris at this point.
Second, even though I enjoyed Nick’s line like you did, I wish they would have used him a little bit better after the first episode. He seemed like the best character going at first, but now he’s minimized, and I want the old Nick back for season two—I want it more than Nick wants heroin.
Back to you with a question: Initial impressions, where does Mr. Cufflinks rank in the hierarchy of the characters we know and love so well from The Walking Dead? I know it’s early, but I’m high on this guy. Does anyone else crack the zombie-TV-industrial-complex top ten? Daniel? Nick? Madison?
I’m glad you brought up how terrible it was for Liza and Travis not give Chris the chance to say goodbye to his mom. Or to just let him find his mom with a bullet through her head without any explanation. We see the two people left who knew why she was dead wallowing in self-pity on the beach when the person this is going to hit the hardest is scrambling down to find his mother executed. How is that okay parenting on any level?
So while Travis may have been redeemed as zombie survivalist, he kinda sucks as a dad.
But Strand, two episodes in, has definitely cracked the franchise’s Top 10 best characters. He’s obviously been living in a different world from the rest of us mundane humans for a while now, and the cold, selfish, probably sociopathic tendencies which made him a good capitalist are serving him well in the apocalypse. To date, we’ve had flawed protagonists and charismatic antagonists in The Walking Dead, but Strand promises to be our first true anti-hero—on the right team but so, so wrong. So far, he’s really the only one in that top 10. Nick is a great character, but here’s my Top 10 Walking Dead franchise characters so far:
3. The Governor
Nick would have sneaked in at #10 ahead of Eugene if it wasn’t for Mr. Cufflinks. And yes, I’m so glad he got his cufflinks back. The fact that he calmly walked over to the man who took them—WHILE THAT MAN WAS BEING EATEN BY A ZOMBIE!!—puts him at least at #6 on the all-time list.
But the character I’m hoping to see more of from Season One is Tobias. He seems like the kind of kid who might realize that going inland is a mistake and head for the docks.
So we agreed that we liked this finale, even liked it a lot. But to continue on with the comparisons, we’ve had five Walking Dead season finales so far. Was this better than any of them?
And how cool is it that the show is headed out to sea? We talked about wanting something different from Fear than we’ve been getting in Georgia. I thought that would mean more time spent during the apocalypse and then more of an urban setting. But it looks like they’re headed out to sea. And I can’t imagine that the boat is unoccupied. Do you think that’s going to make for good television or will that take zombies too much out of the equation to make for an interesting show?
To answer one question, no, this wasn’t better than any Walking Dead finale, and it also wasn’t better than any Walking Dead season. Even though it went from “bad” to “pretty okay!” after the rough second and third episodes, I still say this is a poor man’s TWD at best. Which doesn’t mean I don’t like it, just that it will probably never have the impact of the original.
I do enjoy the fact that they’re headed into the wild blue sea, and my hope is that they become benevolent pirates. I guess that’s one question I never thought to ask—did any national navy vessels or coast guard units escape to the high seas? People in house boats must have gotten away, right? Man, there’s a whole WORLD of nautical comings-and-goings I never thought about. Plus, they could probably make their way to unoccupied islands to start life anew. (Then again, can’t the zombies walk on the ocean floor in the comic books?) In any case, I hope we get at least some water time, and that it’s not a total cop-out. I also agree that the boat is likely occupied, for the record.
I like your rankings, but Carol at no. 5??? She lost me when she started killing anyone with a flu at the prison. Mr. Cufflinks and Daniel are already ahead of her for me. I’d go:
1. The Governor
5. Mr. Cufflinks
Last thing: I one hundred percent agree on Tobias. Where the hell is he??? I thought for sure we’d get one last glimpse. I hope he’s on the boat—that’d be such a CLASSIC Tobias move. In fact, as much as I like Mr. Cufflinks and Daniel and Nick, let’s give the kid some positive mojo as we close out the first season:
Please don’t (have) die(d), Tobias.
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