This Fear the Walking Dead article contains spoilers.
AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead returns this Sunday for its third season, so we’re taking a look back at highlights from the show’s second season. The best moments of season 2 include great zombie kills, tragic losses, a lot of fun under the sun, Nick slathered in zombie guts, and some underwater shenanigans.
Let us know what you think of this list—and share your own best moments in the comments below. Also, be sure to check back every Sunday for our weekly reviews of Fear the Walking Dead season 3.
Episode 1 – “Monster”
Los Angeles is engulfed in flames as gunfire and explosions punctuate the darkness. Amid this chaos, our band of survivors is trying to get offshore to Strand’s yacht. The ever-intrepid Nick uses an outboard motor to puree a zombie’s face. Thoughtful character moments are important to any good drama, but when it comes to a zombie show, creative kills are equally vital—and this one doesn’t disappoint.
Episode 2 – “We All Fall Down”
Our group encounters a survivalist family hunkered down at a remote ranger station. Ranger George and his family are making do, biding their time as the world ends around them. Unfortunately, George’s daughter Willa discovers her father’s secret stash of poison pills. The pill does its job, and Willa quickly turns. Whether intentional or not, it’s a nice homage to the dead little girl in George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead.
Back of the Plane
Episode 3 – “Ouroboros”
Remember the web series Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462? Well, in “Ouroboros,” Chris stumbles across a wounded passenger from that plane’s wreckage. The man is alive, but just barely—his broken spine is protruding from his back. He begs to be put out of his misery. Chris reluctantly complies by bludgeoning the poor man to death twice—first to kill him, then again after he turns. What’s notable about this is how squeamish Chris is about killing someone—even in the name of mercy. He’s just a headstrong kid, after all, rebellious, confused, and teeming with angst. He’s not a zombie-killer, not yet. But this man’s not a zombie when Chris kills him, and it’s this killing of a living person that arguably sets him down the path of becoming a post-apocalyptic psychopath.
Episode 5 – “Captive”
Chris is your usual angsty, disaffected youth, a teen in need of guidance and stability. He’ll find none of that in the zombie apocalypse, of course. One suspects he’s a pretty troubled kid even under the best of circumstances. Now, he longs to be useful and powerful, a contributor to his group’s daily survival. Which is why his being gun-shy in “Blood on the Streets” is so traumatic for him. Had he just acted more decisively, pirates would never have boarded the Abigail—and Travis and Alicia would be safe and sound. The group manages to overpower its captors, gravely wounding Reed in the process. Though injured, he still manages to get under Chris’ (thin) skin, taunting him with dime-store psychoanalysis and preying on his insecurities. Chris puts him down, much to the group’s horror and surprise. His insistence that Reed was about to turn does little to assuage anyone’s fears that Chris is lying. As we know, this is only the beginning of Chris’ journey to the dark side.
Episode 7 – “Shiva”
“What wouldn’t you do for your children?” Celia asks Madison during one of their many strained interactions at the vineyard. Madison, who feels Celia is a threat to Nick, responds by locking her in with the dead she seeks to protect. This is an audacious move, considering the moral high ground Madison believes she is standing on. This is not her home. These are not her dead. These zombies are dead to her, literally and figuratively.
If you think Celia mad, consider TWD‘s patriarchal farmer Hershel Greene, who also gave the dead safe haven on his farm. His motives may have been a bit different—he believed a cure was in the offing, and, as such, sought to protect those in death who he knew and cared for in life. For Celia, she doesn’t view death as the end of the road, but as what lies ahead for everyone. Zombies aren’t an unholy aberration, they’re simply the next stage in humanity’s evolution. Nick and Celia are of the same mind on this, but his mother can only see the undead as monsters. Still, by betraying a person who gave her group safe harbor makes Madison just as monstrous as the woman who poisoned an entire church congregation.
When in Rome
Episode 8 – “Grotesque”
Nick is unfazed by the dead, which eventually leads to a nonchalant encounter with a car-bound zombie. Not only does he casually reach past the zombie to drink the dregs from its water bottle, he reaches in a second time to grab a portable radio from the dashboard. We already know Nick is comfortable being around the dead. He’s just as comfortable camouflaging himself in their blood. But there’s something about his blasé approach to this particular encounter that’s noteworthy. I’m hard-pressed to recall anyone on TWD who’s so laid back around the undead (only Lizzie immediately comes to mind). Even Rick is uneasy around walkers. Nick may not have Rick’s fighting skills or leadership qualities, but his devil-may-care attitude is the exception, not the rule. Strand was right to think Nick was made for this apocalyptic world.
Dog Eat Dog World
Episode 8 – “Grotesque”
During his long trek to Tijuana, Nick is divested of his supplies, leaving him to wander the mostly barren countryside. Weakened from lack of food and water, Nick has a difficult time defending himself against a couple of dogs. It’s interesting that he’s nearly done in by man’s best friend, but he’s soon saved by a walker horde that swoops in and kills both dogs. The fresh meat is hard for Nick to resist, and before long he’s supping hungrily on canine tartar. (Drinking zombie backwash obviously pales in comparison to eating raw dog meat.) To paraphrase the Governor, “In this life now, you eat or you die…or you die and you eat.”
Episode 9 – “Los Muertos”
We all know zombies are drawn to loud sounds. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that Madison and Strand’s drunken ruckus in the hotel bar would attract walkers. That the walkers would plunge into the courtyard from the hotel’s many balconies is a great visual—made even better when they climb to their feet and shamble away.
Episode 10 – “Do Not Disturb”
Who wouldn’t want a destination wedding in a beautiful hotel overlooking the ocean? Jessica and Oscar, the bride and groom, seem happy enough in the nascent moments of their matrimony. But everything quickly goes to hell when the father of the bride collapses before attacking his daughter. It’s powerful to bear witness to how quickly civilization falls away, from the panicked guests (many of them tourists) to how coolly and efficiently the hotel’s staff (all of them locals) deal with the problem.
Was Elena right to lock the guests in the reception hall to prevent the outbreak from spreading? From a moral standpoint, it’s easy to say Elena doomed everyone in that room to die, and perhaps she did. But how many more hotel guests did locking those doors save? And while we’re at it, are Elena’s actions any better or worse than Madison locking Celia in the cellar? This is survival at any cost. In a post-apocalyptic world, we all die a little with every moral compromise, in order that we may live another minute, another hour, another day.
On a related note, I can’t help but wonder what FTWD might have been like were it an anthology series, giving us new characters week after week. It’s easy to imagine an entire episode being devoted to this doomed wedding—or another episode that delved deeper into Celia’s story. Like Black Mirror, all of the stories would be loosely connected but take place in the same universe. I know, this is wishful thinking on my part, but part of FTWD’s early allure was the promise of seeing the zombie outbreak in its earliest days, and we get a hint of that with Oscar and Jessica’s wedding reception.
Out to Pasture
Episode 10 – “Do Not Disturb”
Chris shoots a farmer who is trying to protect his property from intruders. The farmer accidentally shoots Baby James in the leg, ramping up an already tense standoff with the Frat Bros of the Apocalypse. But while Travis is desperately trying to reason with both parties, Chris kills the farmer in cold blood. While Chris may not have been a likable or sympathetic character, his troubles begat some interesting moments—most of which revolve around his appetite for killing people. And I do mean people. The survivor of the plane crash wasn’t turned, nor was Reed (though Chris insisted otherwise). And now Elias the farmer. And let’s not forget he almost let Madison die and also threatened Alicia. Plus, he took a kid hostage a few episodes back. This goes well beyond normal teenage problems. Chris may grate on viewers’ nerves, but he definitely makes for some interesting moments, especially in the latter half of season two.
I Declare a Thumb War
Episode 14 – “Wrath”
Viewers of TWD have seen plenty of inventive ways to kill a zombie, but FTWD really stepped things up in season 2. Nick taking out a zombie with an outboard motor in “Monster” is grisly and quick yes, but he does himself one better in “Wrath” by taking out a walker’s brain by way of its eye sockets. It’s not only slow, it’s personal—much the same way Roy Batty made brutish murder so hands-on and intimate in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Killing a walker this way is also incredibly messy, and Nick quickly recoils in horror from what he’s done. His actions have saved lives, but he’s also harmed the dead—something he’s been reluctant to do since meeting Celia. For all intents and purposes, he considers himself more dead than alive—and I would surmise that he may view the walkers as more alive than dead.
Another One Bites the Dust
Episode 14 – “Wrath”
Whether you liked or loathed Chris, his death is an important one, not only because FTWD loses one of its chief antagonists, but also for how this sudden loss affects his father, which we’ll get to in a second.
Chris was a walking tragedy from the beginning of this season. From unceremoniously dumping his mother’s body into the ocean to lashing out at his father to threatening Alicia, he was very hard to like, much less root for. FTWD‘s writers didn’t shy away from this ugliness, giving us more reasons to hate him with every passing episode. Once he and Travis fell in with the Frat Bros of the Apocalypse, the writing was all but on the wall that Chris’ days were numbered. Still, while Chris’ downfall is in itself not a surprise, the way in which we see his demise is surprising, mostly because his death is revealed in a flashback, as the camera pulls far, far away from him. In the end, we don’t even see his face, don’t see the fear, or the anger, or the confusion he likely experiences as his “friends” turn on him as they did with Baby James. It’s an ignominious end to a controversial character, for sure.
Episode 14 – “Wrath”
Travis has spent the last couple of episodes beating himself up for failing to protect Chris from the evils of the world. This was made considerably more difficult since Chris proved time and again that he himself was one of those very evils. The Frat Bros of the Apocalypse exacerbated the issue by praising what Travis considered Chris’ more dangerous qualities. Knowing that he died at their hands triggers a murderous, blinding rage in Travis, and he literally beats Derek and Brandon to death.
The brutality of their deaths is unlike anything we’ve seen before on FTWD or TWD. Maybe it’s because it’s violence among the living. Or maybe it’s because we understand what is motivating Travis’s abject rage. Or perhaps it’s because, on some level, this is karmic retribution at work. Part of the shock also comes from the fact that Travis has tried so hard to retain his humanity in the face of such wanton violence. And as anyone familiar with TWD knows, honorable people suffer the most in this harsh new world.