Why did I let myself get roped into watching ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ again? I was pretty much done with the show after the last season, but I forgot to delete it from my DVR’s series recording list. When the new premiere showed up, I guess I figured that I ought to at least check in to see if this season offered anything new. Foolishly, the 132-minute recording time didn’t dissuade me.
To be fair, the actual amount of content is considerably less than that once you fast-forward through the commercials. Regardless, I was feeling very generous to sit through it.
Episode 3.01, ‘Eye of the Beholder’
The premiere consists of two back-to-back episodes. The first opens with Maddie, Travis and Alicia in the custody of some guys in military fatigues. Whether they’re actual military or just playing dress-up isn’t clear. Also not addressed is how these three got captured. As I recall, the last we saw them, they were searching for Nick in the remains of the overrun colony. However, we know that Nick got captured at the border, so I suppose we can just assume they followed his trail and wound up in the same boat.
They’re brought to a functioning Army base on the American side of the border and forced to split up. Travis is locked in a room with a bunch of other prisoners, including Nick and his girlfriend Luciana, who’s been shot and is in bad shape. As women of some attractiveness and adequate health, Maddie and Alicia are treated better. The camp leader, a prick named Troy (Daniel Sharman from ‘Teen Wolf’), acts friendly to them, offers them some hot tea, and claims that they’ll be released as soon as they’re “processed.” They are wise to instantly distrust him.
Travis witnesses these supposed soldiers performing so-called “scientific experiments,” in which they murder prisoners and then time how long it takes for them to turn into zombies. Allegedly, the purpose of this is to gain knowledge on the process. Is it affected by gender, race, or body weight? Really, though, it’s clear that they’re sadistic fucks and do this for entertainment, even taking bets on the results. (Since money is worthless in the apocalypse, what the hell are they betting for?)
At the behest of a prisoner named Steven, Travis and Nick attempt to escape with Luciana. Steven gets shot and Travis gets caught. Nick and Luciana race through the sewers, but run into a horde of zombies and have to turn back, where they’re also captured again.
Travis is tossed into a pit with a bunch of zombies and suddenly becomes a macho badass superhero. He punches the brains out of about 50 zombies with his bare hands and hurls cinderblocks at his captors. From out of nowhere, he’s Rick Grimes on steroids.
Maddie and Alicia make their own escape attempt when Maddie jabs a spoon into Troy’s eye socket and threatens to pop out his eye. She holds him hostage until Troy’s more sensible brother, Jake (Sam Underwood from ‘The Following’), negotiates a deal. Maddie releases Troy, and Jake lets Travis out of the pit. The family is reunited. Jake promises to let them all go.
Before that can happen, a dipshit soldier gets his face bitten off by a zombie through a wall. The details of how that happens are utterly ridiculous. This then leads to the base being overrun. Travis, Alicia and Luciana wind up on a helicopter with Jake, while Maddie and Nick have no choice but to board a truck convoy with Troy. They’re told that everyone is heading for the same location, a ranch compound run by the brothers’ dad.
Episode 3.02, ‘The New Frontier’
En route to the ranch, the helicopter is shot at by unknown parties. Travis is hit in the neck. Realizing that he’s done for, and therefore a danger to Alicia, he opts to sacrifice himself by opening the door and leaping out. Alicia watches her stepfather plummet to his presumed death.
The helicopter crashes, but Alicia, Luciana, Jake, and the helicopter pilot (who is Jake’s girlfriend) all survive. They have to make camp for the night in the brush, unsure if they’re being hunted. While on watch, Jake’s girlfriend is attacked and killed by a zombie. Alicia saves Jake from another zombie attack. Jake is forced to shoot his girlfriend in the head before she turns.
The convoy with Maddie and Nick arrives at Brokejaw Ranch without incident. They’re given the bad news that the helicopter never showed up. Maddie is introduced to Jeremiah, the leader at the ranch and the father of Jake and Troy. He seems reasonable and nice enough, but how can someone who raised a psycho like Troy be trusted? Nick is very suspicious of him.
Remember how Luciana was a major character and kind of a tough badass chick last season? She has hardly any lines of dialogue in the premiere and spends all of it half-dead. By morning, she’s unconscious. Jake and Alicia have to carry her the rest of the way to the ranch by foot. When they get to the gate, Troy won’t let Luciana in. He says she’s too far gone and a danger to the living. He insists that ranch rules require him to shoot her in the head. Nick says that he should be the one to do it. Troy stupidly gives him the gun, which Nick of course immediately turns on him. Jeremiah de-escalates the situation and allows Luciana into the infirmary, so long as she’s restrained to the bed.
Maddie is devastated when Alicia tells her about Travis. Jeremiah is concerned that she’ll kill herself out of grief, but she resolves to be strong. As a show of faith, he allows her to keep a handgun that he knows she stole.
Later, Maddie pulls Nick aside. He’s antsy and wants to get out of the place, but she tells him that they’re going to stay and make it their home, even if that means they have to take it over. “It’s our fate,” she insists.
Separately from all these events, Strand remains at the hotel on the beach. An influx of refugees threaten to break down the gates when the other hotel guest survivors (henceforth “Guesties”) refuse to let them in. Strand defuses the conflict by unilaterally agreeing to open the gates. He also pretends to be a doctor to keep everyone calm. Mostly, this amounts to him performing minor triage that he’s capable of handling. However, “Dr. Strand” panics a bit when a pregnant woman goes into labor and he has no idea how to deliver a baby.
Fortunately, nature takes care of itself and the birth goes fine. Nevertheless, the Guesties who know he’s not really a doctor are concerned about what will happen when the refugees find out. They evict him from the hotel. Before he leaves, he’s made to pay a visit to Ilene (Brenda Strong), who has locked herself in a hotel room and gone quite batty, refusing to leave or to eat. Strand tries to talk some sense into her, and opens a stuck patio door to air out the fetid room. Ilene seems to come to her senses and apologizes for treating him so poorly previously. She offers him a gift and then, saying there’s “No hope, no future,” leaps off of the balcony to her death.
On his way out of the hotel, Strand swings by the parking garage. Ilene’s gift was the key to her very fancy car. He thinks he can make do with that.
As far as ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ goes, this is actually a pretty decent season premiere with a minimum of the characters behaving like annoying morons. (The soldier who stupidly gets attacked through a wall being a major exception.) Killing off Travis, one of the main characters of the series, is pretty ballsy – assuming, of course, that he’s actually dead. Allowing him to miraculously survive both his injury and fall from a helicopter would be outrageously absurd, even by this show’s standards.
The new storyline also seems reasonably promising, if repetitive of not just this show but ‘Walking Dead’ prime as well. Watching the characters find a potential sanctuary, fight to control it, and eventually lose it is a pretty rote routine by this point, but what else are they gonna do?
All that said, I’m indecisive about whether I feel like watching again. I just don’t care enough about these characters. If I do relent and continue to watch, I certainly won’t be recapping every episode. That’s just not worth my time.