Fear the Walking Dead: Cobalt Review

This week's episode of Fear the Walking Dead brought the terror and action. Here is our review!

Editor’s Note: Spoilers ahead…

Fear the Walking Dead seemed like a different animal this week. From the very first minute we meet the mysterious and sinister man in black (Colman Domingo), it felt like there was something way more evil in the air than a zombie apocalypse. For five episodes, this companion piece for The Walking Dead has, on the surface, been about the beginning of the outbreak. Showrunner Dave Erickson and creator Robert Kirkman have teased for months that we’d see how our planet eventually fell and went to the hordes of the undead. But what we eventually got, especially in this dark episode, is something way more interesting. 

A darkness awakens in man and woman in “Cobalt.” The man in black, who might as well be a serial killer, talks Doug into a psychotic breakdown, taunting him for abandoning his family with an allegory about insurance….”I can sell anything,” the man in black says. “Except insurance.” A line that’s perhaps supposed to be a bit funny (I giggled) is in fact the entire thesis of the episode. 

It took five episodes for Fear the Walking Dead to come into its own, but it has. The problem with past episodes, while having a clear thesis different from The Walking Dead, haven’t done enough to differentiate themselves with the main series. Even when the soldiers rolled in and the walls went up, it felt like we were in familiar territory. Re-used set pieces, including Madison’s unnecessary “is someone there?” scene from this week, still sneak in here or there, but it’s all but obvious now that this show is almost completely disinterested in walkers. There isn’t a walker kill of the week or someone mauled on an almost weekly basis. Instead, the show drops its characters in this situation like lab rats in a maze without any clear systems or way out. We’re meant to be the silent observors, waiting for the rats to start eating each other.

Ad – content continues below

It’s the threat of madness that really rules the men and women on this show, and we see quite a bit of that this week. Douchey Lt. Moyers seems more and more like a mini-Governor in this episode, power hungry and cruel to his subordinates. He tries to impress upon the frustratingly ever-neutral Travis that the walkers are no longer people. I believe at some point Moyers even refers to the zombies as “skin bags,” which is fantastic. Moyers orders Travis to shoot a barista zombie that is hobbling around a donut shop. It’s a cruel test, and one that Travis eventually fails. 

It’s great to see a bit more of the soldiers this week. From the moment they rolled in two weeks ago like they were liberating Paris from the Nazis, my head has been spinning with Day of the Dead and 28 Days Later comparisons. But these men aren’t the oppressive goons from those movies. Instead, we feel just as bad for them as we feel for the survivors behind the fences. We see the low morale behind the veil of success. It’s no surprise that their secret operation, Cobalt, is to abandon Los Angeles and its people for good. “I’m getting my ass back to San Diego,” one of the men say, as he jumps back into the humvee after a firefight. Moyers, alas just a red herring, doesn’t make it out of that fight alive.

The continued focus on the slow deterioration of man’s systems and psyche really works here, as Daniel, Ofelia, and Madison are forced to take matters into their own hands. We finally learn the truth behind Daniel, who was a torturer during the Salvadoran Civil War, and Ruben Blades plays it perfectly. He’s calm, as he slices bits off Ofelia’s soldier boyfriend. It’s been fun to watch this guy basically play the anti-Herschel/Dale of this show. He’s much closer to a Shane. I don’t think he’ll live through this season, since karma is always fast-approaching in this universe, but I’ll welcome it if he does. 

We get the first hints of Alicia and Chris hitting it off romantically, as they get drunk, listen to records, play grown-ups, and trash an abandoned house. I usually don’t like watching these two being angsty all day, but it works when coupled with the madness threatening the other characters. Their sudden need to smash things is a revelation. Every generation of teenagers feels that it’s the doomed generation. That all they’re headed towards is a big brick wall, and Alicia and Chris realize that this might actually be true for them. As they dress in silky dresses and shirts and ties, they start to come to terms with the fact that they may never become the adults they hoped to be. 

Next week’s season finale promises us a bit more action. It’s no accident that Daniel runs into that arena full of walkers. I doubt they’ll stay in there much longer. Travis is clearly ready to make a run for it with his family, but first he’ll have to get into that military camp and save Nick and the deceased Griselda. It could be a more conventional episode, one where we’ll finally get a walker kill of the week and at least one gruesome death scene, but those things won’t come close to the dark edge of the penultimate episode, which showed us what this show is really about. 

Walking Points:

Ad – content continues below

– I really like watching zombie apocalypses unfold in hospitals. There’s always something claustrophobic about scenes where doctors and nurses are surrounded by the sick, as if they’re walking inside a ticking time bomb. 

– Anton Chigurh clearly taught Dr. Bethany how to stop dead patients from reanimating. 

– “You’re a heroin addict. That’s the gold standard. Don’t sell yourself short.” Colman Domingo has some great lines.

Don’t forget to listen to our weekly The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead podcast, Den of Geek Presents No Room in Hell:

John Saavedra is an assistant editor at Den of Geek US. Find more of his work on his website. Or just follow him on Twitter.

Ad – content continues below


4 out of 5