This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 13
In a world without laws, who would we really become? Would we retain our morality, or brush it aside in the name of survival? These questions are the engines that drive grim post-apocalyptic stories, and FTWD is no exception. What side of the old laws would we suddenly find ourselves, if faced with life-and-death decisions? Characters like Travis cling tenaciously to their principles even at the risk of appearing weak. Characters like Chris, however, are all too eager to embrace their darker side, explaining away social mores as a thing of the past.
Like Nick, Chris is adapting to a harsh reality in which the dead walk among the living. But there’s no wry optimism here, no oddly playful sense of adventure. Instead, Chris has slowly been turned into a villain, someone who has spent the season turning on those who were once closest to him. This transformation has been difficult to watch—first, because it came on too quick, with the way he threatened Alicia. And second, because it became apparent that Chris was determined to continue down this dark path. This was codified in last week’s “Pillar of Salt,” after he killed the farmer. But now, in “Date of Death,” Chris has completely abandoned any semblance of the innocent boy Travis once knew. And that is just heartbreaking.
I hate the person Chris has become, and yet I am strangely drawn to the spectacle, hoping that Travis will somehow get through to him. This doesn’t happen, of course—the allure of Brandon’s company is too much for an impressionable kid like Chris to ignore. I was actually a bit relieved when Travis and Chris finally parted ways. This isn’t because I wanted Travis to fail, but because we’d just watched Chris hit a new low in betraying his own father. Like I said, heartbreaking stuff. And let’s not forget that another person lost their life because Chris wanted to fit in with the cool kids. That’s cold, even for the Walking Dead universe.
The defining moment for father and son is when Chris tells his father, “This whole time you had me thinking I was broken.” He wasn’t broken, he insists, he was adapting. The sad truth is that Chris is just as dangerous as the dead—more dangerous—because he has motives, an agenda. He’s not merely surviving, he’s coming into his own, a burgeoning killing machine laying waste to the old ideals that once held civilization together.
Even so, Madison has Travis beat when it comes to holding one’s children at arm’s length. We’ve seen this a few times already this season with Alicia, though the point is really driven home in “Date.” After being reunited with Travis (more on that in a bit), Madison seems to have an epiphany in which she dashes off to speak with Alicia. Not to tell her how much she loves her, but instead to confess that her father’s death was not an accident, but a suicide.
Such a confession is well and good (and would have played a lot better in “Pillar”), but I came away from this scene with the sense that Madison was trying to clear her conscience more than anything else. There just wasn’t any immediate benefit in telling Alicia about her father—and I very much disliked Madison because of this. I figured her character couldn’t sink much lower after her actions in “Pillar,” especially where Alicia was concerned, but I was sadly mistaken. If not for Madison’s confession, I would have enjoyed this episode a lot more. Yes, she does apologize to Alicia for not being a better parent to her, but it’s a case of too little, too late.
Her unexpected reunion with Travis also didn’t work as well as it might have, if only because their scenes together lacked emotional resonance. Yes, I know they hadn’t left things on the best of terms, but they barely spoke of one another in their time apart. So why should we care that they’re finally together again? Maybe that’s the real point—that as parents they’ve put their kids first, even at the risk of losing what they themselves once shared as a couple. If so, I think this could have been illustrated better throughout the latter half of this season. With only two episodes to go, the real question now for Travis and Madison is who will be reunited with their lost child first?
Some closing thoughts:
Travis burying the farmer was a short but effective scene as we watched any lingering trace of the farmer disappear beneath the freshly turned earth. Travis wasn’t just burying an innocent man, he was burying the very last of Chris’s innocence.
Paul Haslinger’s score is moody and contemplative, calling to mind the original Night of the Living Dead‘s spooky, atmospheric score.
This episode could have easily been called “Dead Weight” (or even “Dead Wait”). Poor Baby James. R.I.P. He was the most humane of the Chill Bros of the Apocalypse.
No Strand in this episode—but TV contributor Daniella Bondar spoke with Fear the Walking Dead‘s own Colman Domingo. You can hear their conversation in this week’s No Room in Hell podcast: