This review contains spoilers.
2.14 Wrath & 2.15 North
A couple of seasons ago, my wife stopped watching The Walking Dead and thus, she’s never bothered with Fear The Walking Dead. While I was watching the so-called two-hour season finale (really, just two episodes back to back, but I’ll get to that later), she turned to me and apologised. She said, “I’m really sorry that you have to watch this for work.” Two weeks ago, she came into the room and asked me if I even liked watching the show, to which I could only manage a shrug.
It’s not that Fear The Walking Dead doesn’t have some great moments, because it does. It also has great characters, at least part of the time, and a much better cast of actors than the parent show began with. There are a lot of positives, like Nick and Strand, and then, there are a lot of negatives, specifically Travis and Maddie as characters. Once again, the Manwana-Clark family is spreading disaster and ruining paradise, without any real repercussions on a personal level, and their inability to accept the consequences of their actions is starting to become grating.
In Wrath, the chickens of Chris’s trip north with the Frat Boy Killers come home to roost. Injured after a car crash that killed the driver, the two complain enough about “mexcrement” to catch the attention of Madison, who is able to Miss Marple out the mystery of just what happened to Chris. They use their names, and Travis has described them to a tee, so all the good work Maddie has done putting together a community goes out the window, because while she’s trying to throw them out—for no reason, as they hadn’t violated the rules—she creates an upheaval among the poor people living in the parking garage and a whole mob of people end up following Maddie and the frats to the gate.
This, of course, gets Travis’s attention, because there’s not a lot of rabble-rousing going on these days for obvious reasons. Travis, whose ability to part mobs by yelling English at Mexicans is some kind of super power, immediately runs downstairs leaving a hilariously injured Strand behind. Throughout the episode thus far, writer Kate Barnow had been constructing a moral dilemma for Maddie. Does she tell Travis about Chris’s death? Does she take away the only little bit of hope he has for his Night Stalker son?
That’s tossed out immediately, because Travis has super comprehension powers and Maddie is a middle-aged teenage detective; between the two, the frat boy’s story about Chris dying in a car crash is deconstructed Rashomon-style and reconstructed by Travis’s imagination (and shown in its entirety) as the real story comes out. So much for actual dramatic weight.
Instead, director Stefan Schwartz gets to put together a really good fight scene in which Travis somehow runs everyone out of the room, locks the door, and beats the crap out of two men to the point of stomping one of the fratters to death in an American History X tap-dance routine and throwing the other through a plate glass window. He also smashes Oscar’s head in the door when Oscar tries to come in and stop the violence, thereby killing an innocent man (I don’t care how many years of med school Andres has, you don’t do brain surgery with a bore drill and a box cutter and expect it to work, unless you’re a veterinarian farmer, and even on TV, a closed-head brain injury may as well be instant death).
This mistake is compounded because Maddie, who made the rules, wants to break them for her family-abandoning second husband, who chose a sociopath quasi-rapist over his wife and the one functional member of the Manwana-Clark family. She also cashes in a favor with Elena to bend the rules to give them one night under the roof before leaving. This goes badly, as Andres goes to kill the person who killed his brother, and the hotel’s only doctor ends up getting stabbed to death. For good measure, the Manwana-Clarks leave Strand behind to deal with the fall-out AND smash the hotel gates on their way out, no doubt letting zombies go in directly to kill and eat their friend.
Unlike most season finale specials featuring two episodes back to back rather than one extended episode, this one seems to be put together a little better. The two episodes are split between two story lines, plus a smidgen of Ofelia getting captured by some sort of militia. Travis and the gang fleeing the hotel, and Nick and his new friends fleeing the Colonia to allow the drug dealers to take it over (and Alejandro to let the gates down and allow the zombies in to finish them off).
The action sequence, specifically the escape from the hotel and the invasion of the drug dealers into the Colonia, are both expertly crafted by Andrew Bernstein. The Colonia invasion is especially good, because it makes the small town feel like an uncanny ghost town of sorts, too good to be true. Unfortunately, unlike the burning Abigail compound of director Andrew Bernstein’s previous episode Shiva, we don’t get any sort of satisfying gangsters versus zombies fight like expected; they all die off screen, unsatisfying, and we only see them later when Maddie’s detective skills guide her to the Colony after Nick and company have fled for greener pastures on the other side of the border.
Or, what are supposed to be greener pastures, but become a brutal gunfight which ends badly for our Mexican friends. Nick, who has seen a working camp with a helicopter of some sort across the border, thought he was leading people to the promised land and safety, but it was just a slaughter. No doubt they’re related to the man who captured Ofelia after she crossed the border. His conflict, between surviving and staying with people who depend on him, isn’t anything new for the character, but it’s written well enough by Dave Erickson, particularly in North and his conversations with Alejandro.
Nick’s story works, because it has stakes. The Manwana-Clark issues aren’t nearly as interesting, because these people have proven that they can survive out in the world without hot water and ice cubes, so getting kicked out of a hotel isn’t nearly as interesting as, say, guiding a bunch of innocent people to safety, only to have that safety fire hundreds of bullets at them. The fact that Maddie continues to chase after Nick, routinely leaving Alicia in dangerous situations, is pretty amusing.
Since he left, Nick has become his own man, and a leader. The character has grown. With Madison, one step forward is followed by two steps back. Kind of like the show itself.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan is not surprised by the flashbacks or talking, but he was surprised by a guy getting his nose bitten off. That was pretty cool. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.