This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
After last week’s Nick-centric episode, I wondered if Fear the Walking Dead would continue to narrow its focus to individual character arcs in the latter half of its second season. The Walking Dead is fond of doing this, delving deeper into tighter storylines with fewer cast members. The upside of this is we get to learn more about core characters. The obvious downside to that is that, while we may get more Rick or Michonne one week, it also means less Glenn or Daryl screen time. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, especially when you have a big group like TWD does. But it does mean spending less time with your favorite characters.
I don’t think FTWD has to worry about divvying up screen time among favorite characters—mostly because so many of them still lack a lot of depth, even almost two seasons in. Travis was carrying the emotional weight of the apocalypse by the end of last season, but so far it seems to be Nick who’s doing a lot of the emotional heavy lifting this time around. As I said last week in my review of “Grotesque,” this isn’t a bad thing if you like Nick. If you don’t like him, you were likely relieved that “Los Muertos” reunited us with Madison, Alicia, Strand, and Ofelia. As much as I liked some of these characters last season, I can’t say I was really missing them in the midseason finale.
The group decides to head back to The Abigail after two fruitless days of searching for Nick. Madison is hopeful—he always returns home, after all. But that’s usually under the best of circumstances (and I use the term “best” loosely). The zombie apocalypse is pretty much a worst-case scenario, so expecting Nick to show up back at the estate (knowing that it’s been burned to the ground) is a bit farfetched. This is also farfetched, given that Madison has always thought of her son as being born lost. Ironically, it’s Nick who seems to have found himself. He spends little to no time pining after his family. He’s found a new family in his fellow colonists. He may not speak their language per se, but he shares a similar outlook on life—and death. But more on Nick in a bit.
In the meantime, with the Abigail gone and with little gas left in their truck, Madison and company decide to seek shelter in what they assume is an abandoned beach resort. They wisely scope out the hotel from outside, and deem it safe after seeing no movement in any of the windows. They break into the hotel entrance, which is locked and blockaded from the inside. Alicia wisely wonders what happened to the survivors who fortified themselves inside. But from this point on, any intelligence points the group had earned go out the window when they fail to secure the entrance behind them, allowing intruders—dead or alive—to gain access. Were Daniel with them, he surely would have secured those doors. Hell, he might have warned about going inside at all.
The group quickly doubles down on bad ideas by splitting up. A big conceit of the horror genre is the idea that people are prone to making terrible decisions—either because they’re unaware of the danger they’re in, or because of being grossly inexperienced. I think Madison and company are guilty on both counts, which becomes immediately obvious the moment she and Strand decide to get drunk at the bar. They further dig themselves into a deeper hole by smashing barware and banging on a woefully out of tune piano. Yes, they’re under the impression that it’s only the four of them in that large resort, but that wouldn’t mean people outside the hotel wouldn’t be attracted to the ruckus.
As it turns out, the resort is chockablock with zombies, most of which are locked in rooms conveniently marked with DO NOT DISTURB door hangers. (This is not nearly as cool as TWD’s cryptic DON’T OPEN DEAD INSIDE from its pilot episode.) It’s Alicia and Ofelia who make this discovery, as they stock up on bottled water and peanuts. Coming face to face with a shower zombie, Ofelia contemplates the nature (and futility) of survival in a zombie apocalypse. This leads to one of the episode’s greatest moments, in which it appears Ofelia has flung herself out of an upper-floor window. Instead it’s a zombie, drawn to the balcony by the noise in the bar below. Indeed, other zombies are taking similar shortcuts to the courtyard below, before attacking Madison and Strand en masse.
Nick has some interesting moments in this episode himself. He’s new to the colony, so some of their customs immediately strike him as odd—like the girl’s father who seems to sacrifice himself to the zombies just beyond the fence. He’s drawn to the humanity behind the drama—namely to the little girl who tearfully watches her father surrender himself to the dead. He has lots of questions, none of which are truly addressed to his satisfaction. But Nick is the type who goes with the flow. If Luciana wants him to go on a mysterious mission, he’ll go. If the colony is trading drugs for food and water, who is he to question this arrangement? And if he wants to smuggle a piece of cake past a bloodthirsty drug cartel, what’s the big deal? The thing is, trying to pull one over on the cartel is a big deal, and Nick almost loses a hand for his trouble. (Did this make anyone else think of comic book Rick?)
By the end of the episode, we learn two things about Nick. He’s fearless, which allows him to talk his way out of trouble and into a second grocery cart of supplies. But he also has a good heart, since the stolen cake was never meant for him—it was for the little girl who lost her father. As someone who lost his own dad, Nick understands the loss she’s feeling.
Some closing thoughts:
– Did this episode in particular strike anyone else as a fun mash up of the videogames Dead Rising and Dead Island?
– I found it odd that the wedding cake was untouched by any hungry survivors. I also found it odd that the cake hadn’t collapsed in on itself in the heat after two months. Meanwhile, the piano in the bar has somehow gone way out of tune. I know I’m being nitpicky, but these are the sorts of details that TWD usually gets right—lending a great deal of credence to a world collapsing in on itself.
– Something isn’t quite right with the pharmacist Alejandro. Whatever bit him wasn’t a zombie. And he’s definitely slinging some heavy-duty Kool-Aid at his fellow colonists. They’re happily drinking it, Nick included…
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