This review contains spoilers.
2.13 Date Of Death
In the real world, decisions can have weight, but they don’t always become a matter of life or death. Picking the kind of car you want to buy is essentially meaningless; sure, there are some differences, but most cars are going to get you back and forth to work without lowering yourself to the indignities of public transportation. However, the kind of car you pick in the world of Fear The Walking Dead can mean the difference between living and dying. Will making bad choices for good reasons be a death sentence? Or will making bad choices for good reasons be a death sentence for someone’s humanity?
Madison, as we’ve seen, is making terrible choices left and right, and the results come home to roost immediately. This episode opens with a cluster of people outside the gates of the hotel, yelling and screaming and rattling them try to get in. Of course, they won’t be able to let anyone in, because there are 43 of them and the hotel only has a finite amount of resources and space. Well, it has space, but it’s caring for a whole mob of people who are in various stages of injury that will get old pretty quickly (at least until they connect with the pharmacist and the junkie).
The most trouble member of the walking wounded at the gates isn’t one of the anonymous survivors, but Travis. He saw the hotel, and he walked to the hotel after abandoning his son to the clutches of his fellow frat boy serial killers. The illogical way Travis gets to the front of a crowd and they let him in without the rest of the crowd throwing the gates open and trampling/killing the people inside makes no sense. Then again, why wouldn’t they? Presumably, once Travis got inside, the rest of them got inside, too, even if we don’t see that play itself out.
What we do spend a lot of time on this episode is the separation of Travis and Chris, yet again. We’ve seen this song and dance before, albeit now it’s a lot less more likely to allude to sexual assault since it’s Chris and his new-found frat buddies versus his father and his father’s sense of decency. The surprising moment in Brian Buckner’s script is that Chris doesn’t take the obvious way out. The show spends a lot of time with Travis trying to recruit Chris (and vice versa, with Chris trying to bring Travis along for the ride). There comes a moment when it looks like Chris is going to go back to his father’s side, but instead, Chris wrestles him to the ground, the frat murderers come in and shoot their wounded friend, and apparently everyone leaves Travis behind to dig graves and yell at his son as he leaves. Chris might not make the kindest decision, but he’s making the best of this new world and making the best of his apparent lack of conscience.
Most of the episode revolves around Chris and Travis, with book-ends at the hotel. There’s not a lot of tension to be found, even when director Christoph Schrewe attempts to make the fate of Sweet Baby James (he’s the frat bro best known for being shot and screaming a lot) into something people care about. Travis is trying to defend the injured, trying to save at least one kid where he’s failed with Nick and is failing with Chris, and yet… it doesn’t hit home at all. Travis’s thousand-yard stare and remorse over his son is kind of meaningless, since they both kind of did the right thing for themselves. Chris went with strength, and Travis went with his heart.
Neither choice is particularly interesting. We’ve seen this debate before, and it’s been done better. Tellingly, it’s not a surprise that the frat-boy killers show up at the gates of Hotel Paradise. There are two hours left in the season, and the wolves are already literally at the gates (with Chris unseen). The good people that were allowed in, thinking they’ve found a safe haven, might have just walked into a death camp, because if Maddie continues to make terrible decisions—as she has been since walking into the hotel—they’re all doomed because two shooters with no conscience are more dangerous to this group than a hotel full of walkers. Especially because those shooters have been making very poor choices and will no doubt start arguing even when it’s time to start shooting people trying to kill you.
Throughout the episode, as Travis kept crying and complaining about his son abandoning him, I was waiting for the boldest stroke this show could have made. Travis kept standing on the balcony, looking like he was ready to jump. He never did. Having a major character opt for suicide rather than living in a world that he cannot withstand morally might have been be too brave a move for a show like this.