Fear the Walking Dead: Captive Review

Fear the Walking Dead still struggles to get its sea legs.

This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers. 

Fear the Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 5

This week’s Fear the Walking Dead was an odd mix of the expected and unexpected, which resulted in an uneven episode overall. So let’s talk about what did and didn’t work in “Captive.”

What worked:

Alex (Michelle Ang) returns. Seeing her in Connor’s camp was a nice surprise, though it does make sense that she’d show up again at some point in the season (perhaps not so soon). She’s a great character, one we were initially introduced to in the Flight 462 minisodes. In Flight 462, Alex was basically the only person on the plane who possessed any kind of apocalypse savvy. She put those new survival skills to the test as the flight was quickly overrun by the undead.

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She also displayed a great deal of empathy for her seatmate Jake, a young boy who was traveling standby like her. Were it not for Alex, one of his parents would have made it onto the doomed flight. It’s because of this happenstance that Alex feels she owes Jake, and does her best to protect him, like we saw in this season’s “Ouroboros.” (I thought Alex was one of the more interesting parts of that episode, too.) Michelle Ang is very likable; she imbues Alex with a kind of wary intelligence that is well-suited to this new world.

So it’s interesting to learn it’s because of her that Travis was taken from the boat. She blames him not only for leaving her and Jake on the raft, but for Jake’s death, too. And it’s here that the episode becomes more philosophical. As Travis and Alex speak through either sides of his cage, the scene is framed almost like Travis is at confession. “We can be more than what we’ve become, can’t we?” he asks Alex. Cliff Curtis definitely conveys Travis’s desperate need for a genuine answer, but theirs is no longer a black-and-white world.

Nick is pretty chill. Yes, Nick is a pretty laid back guy, all things considered. He had no problem braving dangerous waters to make landfall in Mexico in “Blood in the Streets.” He handled himself well against a major zombie beach attack in “Ouroboros.” And in last season’s “The Good Man,” Nick was all but resigned to die in the military base as zombies surrounded him and Strand. And in “Captive,” he’s more than willing to take Reed back to Connor in exchange for Travis and Alicia. Still, I feel like Nick’s being portrayed as unflappable is meant to explain why Strand finds him to be such a valuable asset in this new world—but more on that in a bit in what didn’t work.

Connor’s (Mark Kelly) untimely death. Or maybe it’s timely, based on your feelings about him. I for one don’t mind that this would-be heavy is gone, especially since I thought he was being set up to be some sort of Governor-level villain. Sure, he runs a tight ship (literally), but he’s easily taken out by Reed, who’s already turned. I’m not saying this is the best part of the episode, but taking Connor out early in the season may actually help the show in the long run. The less similarities to The Walking Dead, the better, in my opinion. FTWD still has the chance to take this early part of the apocalypse in a different direction, especially because the show is squandering the novelty of being on the open water.

As for what didn’t work:

Minimal zombie action. I’m all for character development in a show like this. We don’t need constant action to tell a good story. But in the absence of a more compelling narrative, the lack of zombies becomes very obvious. Reed’s turn as a zombie is all well and good (though not particularly gory), but “Captive” veered dangerously into Weekend at Bernie’s territory. Except in this case, instead of someone else animating the corpse, the corpse animated itself.

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Returning to land, again. Seriously, FTWD, you are really squandering the premise of weathering the zombie apocalypse on the high seas. I can understand the need to return to terra firma if that’s where zombies are to be had, yet there was only one zombie this week—and Reed turned while still aboard the yacht.

Strand. He’s not the cool customer I once thought he was. This change in perception has zero to do with his sexuality and everything to do with how boring Strand is this season. Aside from his “This is my goddamned boat” speech a few episodes back, Strand hasn’t had much to do. In “Captive,” he spends a lot of time shivering under a blanket. When I said he was cool, that’s not exactly what I meant. Plus his justification for needing Nick still isn’t holding much water for me. “Nick knows how to move in this world,” he tells Madison, but that’s not convincing enough—especially considering that no one except Strand and Luis will be getting over the border into Mexico.

And finally, what really didn’t work for me was how quickly the Connor storyline is wrapped up. Travis and Alicia are easily rescued, which begs the question: Why introduce this subplot at all if all the characters wind up where they were before the yacht was boarded? It’s not even like they stocked up on any of Connor’s Omaha steaks before leaving.

Some closing thoughts:

I’m on the fence about Chris. I can appreciate that he regrets not shooting Reed and company on sight before they boarded the yacht. But he lets this get the best of him when he kills Reed in what appears to be cold blood—and not because he was turning, as Chris claims. The kid has major issues, but so did TWD’s Carl, and he seems to have turned out all right.

Daniel is suddenly hearing voices. A man’s voice. Is this his guilty conscience speaking up, or something else?

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2.5 out of 5