This Fear the Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
Fear The Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 7
“Shiva” was pretty tame, as far as mid-season finales go, especially when it comes to The Walking Dead universe. I’m not saying there has to be a lot of bloodshed or action to keep viewers riveted, but it doesn’t exactly hurt either. And while there were lots of zombies onscreen, they interacted very little with the living. This is a conscious choice by Fear The Walking Dead’s creators, of course, especially given the more philosophical attitude this series has in general toward the undead.
This more humane philosophy has been framed by Nick’s experiences as a drug addict. As he tells Madison in last season’s finale, he feels as if the rest of the world is finally catching up to his own troubled, tumultuous existence. In other words, he’s right at home in a world that’s devouring itself to stay alive. And we’ve seen more of the same from him this season, experiencing an unexpected freedom despite often being coated in zombie blood and guts. Think of this “blood suit” as a costume he dons to become his true self, much the same way Bruce Wayne dons a cape and cowl to become his true self. It’s an interesting idea, and one that affords viewers an alternate take on the undead scourge sweeping the land.
And yes, I realize we’ve seen something similar to this on The Walking Dead, with Lizzie in season four’s excellent “The Grove.” In that episode, a young girl treats the undead as friends, and not as the true threat they really are. In the end (spoiler alert), this misguided view ultimately costs Lizzie her life—and turned “Look at the flowers” into a catchphrase for TWD fans. And let’s not forget that Hershel had a more enlightened view of the undead, too.
But let’s assume for a moment that Fear The Walking Dead is a viewer’s first foray not only into the Walking Dead universe, but into the zombie genre in general. There is a certain kind of logic not only to Nick’s thinking, but to Celia’s point of view, too. In “Shiva,” she tells Nick that she doesn’t see this as the apocalypse. She sees this as a beginning—the end of death itself, as life eternal. “The changed ones are our responsibility,” she explains. And Nick agrees with her. After all, he does return to the yacht to bring Luis back to her.
He may be undead now, but Nick understands a very simple truth about Celia: She just wants her son back. It’s this unexpected act of humanity that allows Nick and the group (minus Strand) to remain at the estate. You think the group would react to this news with gratitude. You’d be wrong, of course.
Which brings us to Madison, the show’s complainer-in-chief. From the very first episode she was presented as tough and unsentimental, tough-loving everyone around her. Madison being unsentimental is not the problem. The issue is that on top of being tough, she’s usually ungrateful, which clearly rubs people the wrong way. Again, not a problem, but in the middle of an apocalypse, you figure she wouldn’t be so keen to look a gift horse in the mouth. They’re lucky enough to be on a luxury yacht, and yet she questions Strand’s every motive and decision (like the man said, it’s his boat). And this same ingratitude continues with Celia.
While I don’t fully trust Celia, she alone decides who stays or leaves. But that doesn’t stop Madison from biting the hand that feeds them. One could argue that she’s trying to protect Nick, but he doesn’t need her help. And this doesn’t sit very well with her—at all.
Chris, on the other hand, needs protection, though mainly from himself. While I appreciate how the writers are steering him into darker territory, it’s happening too quickly. This makes his sudden turn to the dark side feel disingenuous and unbelievable. As a catalyst for cleaving the group in two, Chris’s conflict needed to marinate a bit more. The fact that Travis is blindsided by what his son has become isn’t nearly as heartbreaking as it ought to be. Sure his son needs him, but would Travis really slip away with him in the middle of an apocalypse? And while we’re on the subject of slipping away, would Nick really want to abandon his family?
Chris isn’t the only one who became unhinged this season. Daniel has clearly gone off the deep end, too. He’s plagued by guilt over his violent past, which manifests itself as hallucinations of his dead wife. I understand this was meant to tug at viewers’ heartstrings as well, but just like Chris, this storyline felt crammed in to coincide with the mid-season finale. If not for these hallucinations urging him on, the estate wouldn’t be burned to the ground (and the Walking Dead universe does love its climactic blazes).
So what’s in store for the latter half of the season? Strand’s banishment was of little consequence, given that he and part of the group flee back to the yacht. Nick is left to wander the Mexican countryside as penance for his family’s sins, and Travis and Chris…will also wander the Mexican countryside, I suppose? Whatever the case may be, I predict the group will be reunited after two episodes.
Some closing thoughts:
Seriously, Nick has spent a lot of time covered in zombie blood this season. You think more people would do this on The Walking Dead, but nope. Why this is, I don’t know.
As I watched “Shiva” I was struck by how there are no real badasses in the group. No Ricks, no Daryls, no Michonnes. No one person to carry the group on their back. It’s not a bad thing, but someone in the bunch needs to get a clue. I used to think Daniel fit that bill, but not after this episode.
And speaking of which, we didn’t see Daniel die. We didn’t see Celia die either. And when it comes to TWD, I don’t believe someone is actually dead unless I see a body.